Will Power and Way Power

Hi!!! And Welcome Back to Motivated Mondays! 

We’re talking about well-being. 

A quick recap of last week before we continue.

Last week, we continued to explore the final element of PERMA - Accomplishment (1). Knowing that self-efficacy can motivate action, help us persist in the face of challenge, and impact our personal well-being, we continued to search for other ways to set ourselves up for success (2), and we discovered that maintaining a growth mindset and setting SMART goals can also facilitate accomplishment.

The “Power of YET” that comes from a growth mindset (or the belief that our intelligence is malleable) releases us from the “Tyranny of NOW” (a trap that comes alongside a fixed mindset), which doesn’t allow room for development (3, 4). Our mindsets impact our capacity to learn and achieve as they shape our motivation, behavior, learning style, and ultimately, our performance (3, 4). A growth mindset impacts our willingness to take risks, be curious, and exert effort. It even makes us are more likely to persevere and succeed in the face of challenges!

While a growth mindset and self-efficacy are both important and provide fertile soil for accomplishment, they are not enough by themselves. We also need to direct our actions and exert effort to achieve. Goals stimulate planning and aim our actions through awareness (5). Research reveals that goals that are both difficult and specific lead to the highest level of achievement (5).

We have the ability to change our mindsets and direct actions through goals. So, last week I invited you to think about an area in your life where you typically encounter a fixed mindset and write down a small SMART goal or a worthwhile step towards a larger goal of your choosing. This was in effort to practice goal setting, cultivate a growth mindset, and build self-efficacy. 

If you accepted my invitation, how did it go? Were you able to accomplish the small goal you set for yourself? If not, what obstacles stood in your way? Did something pop up that you didn’t expect? Were you able to adjust on the fly and progress? Or did you find it difficult to move forward?

How do we continue to pursue our goals in the face of challenges?

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This week, I want to look at self-regulation or the process by which we exert personal control over our feelings, thoughts, and behavior (6). Self-regulation allows us to change our responses in a given situation and is therefore highly adaptive, but requires a certain amount of effort to occur. This intentional effort effectively trumps personal obstacles in the moment and can affect positive change, but it comes at a cost (6). 

Self-regulation requires the use of a limited resource - personal energy. Expending this energy results in ego depletion or a temporary state that results in decreased control over behavior (6). So after exerting self-regulation, you will find it more difficult to do so again in quick succession as you will be fatigued. Imagine you’re at a party and your goal is to not eat any dessert even though you really want a piece of that beautiful cake on display…

Your host asks: Would you like some dessert?
You respond: No, thank you, but it looks great!
Your friend asks: Would you like some dessert?
You respond: No, I’ve had plenty thanks. 
You partner asks: Would you like some dessert?
You respond: No, love, I couldn't possibly.
A waiter asks: Would you like some dessert?
You respond: Ok, YES! I’ll take an entire cake! Thank you very much. -- And you proceed to eat a giant piece of cake. This results in complex emotions: some satisfaction while perhaps feeling slightly ill and like you failed to do what you set out to do. Ugh...

I exaggerate in jest, but we’ve all been there. We’ve all resisted and held out to a point of weakness and then succumb to the desire at hand. Well, the good news is that, through practice, the muscle of self-regulation can be strengthened to protect against ego-depletion and this strength increases both desired action and outcomes (6). Additionally, in the example above there were three successes and a step back. That’s still progress. We often don’t acknowledge the resisting we did to reach fatigue, so I encourage you to look at the whole picture and allow yourself the space to be human when we set goals. 

Align your goal to a value as we did a few weeks back in the Wanting What You Want to Want Exercise or give yourself a strong pathway through hope.

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Hope Theory develops goals, creates strategies to attain goals, and sparks and supports motivation to strive towards a goal through hope (7). It gives you both the will and the way. Hope is defined as the belief that one can create meaningful change, and, like self-efficacy, hope provides an internal locus of control for change. The four-step method of hope theory includes: hope finding, hope bonding, hope enhancing, and hope reminding. 

The first step, hope finding, requires internal awareness. Hope then begins an upward spiral of positive emotion. If we share our goals within supportive relationships, hope can bond us and provide the mental energy necessary to continue striving towards our goals (7). This also serves to create accountability. Again, self-efficacy is key because, as hope increases the belief that meaningful change is possible, both performance and psychological well-being increase. Awareness is the critical first step to finding hope and cultivating total well-being - both mentally and physically.

But how do we sustain it?

We all encounter set backs, challenges, and obstacles. Hope enhancing can help us realign in these moments and sustaining motivation (7). When we hear stories that spark hope or share stories of hopes with others we are hope enhancing. Hope reminding is the feedback loop that encourages solution-focused thinking and empowers you to become your own hope-enhancing agent (7). It is looking back to notice progress, and resisting the reasons for your hope in the first place. It closes the loop and allows the cycle of hope to continue.

Can you always be goal driven, align your actions with values and hope, and continue to thrive in the face of obstacles? The truth is sometimes you can’t. Sometime an environment may prove to be too large an obstacle for the goal, hope or desire you hold at the moment. In other words, it may not be realistic given your strengths, skills, and assets.

One way of engaging and strengthening self-control with realism that I have found helpful, is to WOOP it.* That is to identify a wish, potential positive outcome(s), potential obstacle(s), and a clear and detailed plan of action. This process is yet another way of supporting your goals and developing your muscle of self-regulation. So, let’s try it!

What do you wish or hope for?

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This week, I invite you discover a hope and WOOP it! Start by identifying a wish for yourself. Be as specific as you can. Then ask yourself, what positive outcomes would occur if you achieved this wish? Really picture it, and write it all down. What does it look like? How does it feel? Then, play a mental movie of this positive outcome in your mind. 

Next, identify the obstacles you see to achieving this wish. Once again, write them all down. Now that you have awareness around those potential obstacles, you can plan and accommodate them. Be really specific! When will this happen? Where will you be? What will it look like? If you aren’t able to generate a realistic, specific and actionable plan in this step, the WOOP process may be helping you to realign your wish with your world. Go back to the top and start again. Perhaps you need a smaller first step or another pathway?

I hope you enjoy exploring accomplishment by "WOOPing" a goal this week, and developing your muscle of self-regulation. 

Next Monday is Christmas, and I will be taking the week to connect with family and enjoy the holiday. So, I invite you to use next week to continue exploring your goals as you we spring forward to the New Year by asking yourself:

What is success? 

Is it a destination that we never seem to reach? Is it an end point that constantly moves further in the distance? What if our personal definition of success was: 

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With this definition, we have the space to develop a personal definitions of success, harness growth, feel capable and worthy, and see accomplishment as progression. And we get to do it NOW - not after some future accomplishment or ever moving destination of “success”. You are already enough in this very moment regardless of where you are on the path to your goals. You are worthy, and you are growing. So take a moment to pat yourself on the back. You deserve it!

Finally, I am also going to take a moment to pat myself on the back. This week marks my 52nd blog here on Motivated Mondays. An entire year of exploration and discovery towards well-being. I hope you have found our journey together insightful and that some of my invitations have been useful to you.

Perhaps some of what we have explored together over these past few weeks on accomplishment will help you grow into 2018, redefine success for yourself, harness your strengths, and set intention into motion through actionable goals that are well designed to support your personal well-being.

I am going to take some time to redefine my own goals forthis blog and look forward to joining you again in the New Year! In the meantime, take good care and be well.

As always, gratitude for the expertise of the following resources.


1. Seligman M. Authentic happiness. New York: Free Press; 2002.

2. Maddux J. Self-efficacy: The power of believing you can. In C. R. Snyder & S. J. Lopez (Eds.), Oxford handbook of positive psychology, 2nd ed. (pp. 335-343). New York: Oxford University Press; 2009.

3. Dweck C. Self-Theories: Their Role in Motivation, Personality, and Development. New York: Taylor and Francis Group Psychology Press; 2000.

4. Dweck C. Mindset: the New Psychology of Success: New York: Random House; 2006.

5. Locke E. Motivation through conscious goal-setting. Applied & Preventive Psychology, 5, 117-124; 1996. 

6. Baumeister R, Gailliot M, DeWall C, Oaten M. Self-regulation and personality: How interventions increase regulatory success, an how depletion moderates the effects of traits on behavior. Journal of Personality, 74(6), 1773-1801; 2006.

7. Lopez S, Snyder C, Magyar-Moe J, Edwards L, Pedrotti J, Janowski K,Turner J, Pressgrove C. Strategies for accentuating hope. In P.A. Linley & S. Joseph (Eds.), Positive psychology in practice (pp. 388-404). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley; 2004.