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  • Writer's pictureChristian Elliot

Reason #6 Why You're Stuck: You Rely on Willpower, Not Why Power

Updated: Jan 8, 2021

“Willpower is an exhaustible resource.”

That was one of the best lines I picked up from the excellent book Switch: How to Change When Change is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath.

Trying to use willpower is an episode of logic, fighting with emotion.

Logic is rarely ever going to win that battle.


The Heath brothers use the brilliant analogy of an elephant (emotions) and a rider (logic) to describe the internal tug of war we all go through when, for example, we try to force ourselves to go to the gym when we’d rather sleep, or to not fall prey to the allure of the television or ice cream instead of going to bed.

In moments of clarity, both the elephant and the rider are in agreement and working toward the same course of action.

Yet, when there is a battle of wills, an imbalance of perspectives, the elephant always wins.

The point is, unless we are well prepared, the willpower battle will eventually be lost.

But what if we could tap into a higher source of motivation and make willpower less and less relevant?

While I’ve already talked about using logic to prepare for emotions in Reason #1 of this series, what I want to unpack for you in this post is how to positively empower the elephant with emotional motivation from a deeper part of who you are--where the long game of what you really want stays front and center.

The way to do that is with “why power.”


As far as I can tell, one of the most important questions to ask before working through the change process is simply “Why do I really care about this goal in the first place?”

At first blush, it seems like an easy question to answer, and the initial reaction I often get is some version of “…because it will make my life better.”

While not a bad answer, that response focuses on a surface, or pragmatic reason for accomplishing the goal.

Making your life better is focused on how your life will look different…but it doesn’t talk about what it will mean to you or why the difference is worth the sacrifice.

So let’s go a layer deeper.


The real "you" daydreams about a better life.

It's those daydreams where you'll find why power.

It's those daydreams that present the life we really want--the big, juicy, emotional hot-button, "YES!" that calls to us.

THAT future vision is where we begin to tap into a fuel for change that in inexhaustible.


Another mentor of mine, Darren Hardy, helped me see there are four places you can find your why power to add the emotional fuel you’ll need to accomplish your big goals.

Darren mentions four places to look for your why power—why, what, who, and how.

  • Why. In this instance a “why” is a great (read "important," not necessarily large) cause you believe in that compels you and makes any sacrifice worth it. It's missional, purpose-drive and legacy focused. It's the difference you want to make in this world.

  • What. There are some people who genuinely love what they do. Like an accountant who loves crunching numbers, these people are the fortunate ones who draw deep satisfaction from some amount of the tasks that go with how they earn a living.

  • Who. A “who” is often a significant other, children, or people you can’t let down. Remembering whom you’re fighting, and what it will mean to those people can power you through just about anything.

  • How. Sometimes it’s our reputation and being known for excellence that is a significant driver of sustained good habits that produce big changes over time. How we are perceived by others can be a powerful source of why power.


Of the four types of why power mentioned above, different ones speak to me at different times. I'd say currently my biggest is who.

The “who” in my life comes from answering the call I believe was placed on me to take what I’ve learned and pass it on.

Closest to home is my five kids and second, is a sacred duty to help people who would otherwise suffer a life of poor health without my help.

The other source of why power that speaks to me lately is "what" I get paid for.

Not every task of running a business if fun, but 1-1 coaching is awesome. I get so much fuel to fight through challenges when I'm in my element coaching people to win their fight.

I love helping people shift their mindset, and thereby their results.

I learn so much from clients and am usually buzzed for hours after a great coaching call.

There is something special about ending the day knowing your work mattered deeply to someone who needed it.

It’s a why power like the above that drives me to stay up late writing blog posts, find new ways to market what I do, and to put in those extra reps when I'd rather quit.

It’s my wife and kids faces, and my clients challenges that help stay disciplined when the couch is calling.

Those who have entrusted to me to care, guide, and protect their precious hopes and dreams, fuel me to be better.

That, is my why power. What's yours?


As I conceive of it, answering “why” is akin to explaining what it will do for your soul to accomplish this goal.

By “soul” I simply mean that deep part of you that finds a genuine rest or a difficult-to-articulate feeling of centeredness and satisfaction in knowing you accomplished something.

Whatever that is…it's way more powerful than simply fitting into smaller jeans, or being less winded taking the stairs. Those are just the benefits.

Whatever your why is, it always has something to do with you contributing to the lives of others.


Try finishing these sentences:

  • “I’m doing this because I believe ___________ is important and worth the sacrifice.

  • ___________ brings me a deep feeling of satisfaction and helps me feel like I have a life worth living.”

How would you fill out those sentences? No really, go back and fill them out…then keep reading.


What is so compelling about your goal that you’ll stop at nothing to make it happen? When you find that, remind the elephant what he or she is fighting for.

Find the best guide(s) you can to help instruct the rider and you will be darn near unstoppable.

If I can help you find your why, or be a guide to help you through the process, I would be honored.

Want some help? You can check out our Whole Human Coaching by clicking here.

Here's to you living life on mission,


PS. Ready to crack the code on your path to sustainable health? Reach out.

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