Training Your Success Muscle

Your self-control “muscle” is just like the other muscles in your body – when it doesn’t get much exercise, it becomes weaker over time. But when you give it regular workouts by putting it to good use, it will grow stronger and stronger, and better able to help you successfully reach your goals.

Imagine this scenario: You make plans to meet a friend at a restaurant. You wait for an hour and he doesn’t show. You call his cell phone and there is no answer. Eventually, you give up and leave. A week later, you make dinner plans again. He apologizes for the last incident and promises he’ll be there. You arrive, wait for an hour and he doesn’t show… again. Let me ask you a question; how much faith do you have in your friend’s word the next time he promises something? Probably not much.

What do you think happens when you promise yourself to do something and you don’t follow through? Think about it. When you promise yourself something it’s just like promising it to someone else. The answer is that you lose faith in your own ability to follow through. You weaken the power of your own word. The trick is that this happens even with small stuff. If you make plans to do the laundry when you get home and you don’t do it, then the next time you make that plan, you subconsciously suspect that you won’t follow through (since you didn’t last time). It gives you an easy out in the short term, but completely saps your willpower muscles of their strength. The cycle then easily repeats itself again and again and eventually you have almost no power over your own life.

The good news is that this works in the opposite direction as well. When you promise yourself something and you follow through, even on small things, you are exercising those same muscles. Those muscles will grow and grow, as long as you exercise them, and eventually when you promise yourself something, you have complete confidence it’s going to happen. So, if you want to succeed in any area of your life, then you need to build up those success muscles.

At some point along your path things are going to get difficult and if you don’t already have the willpower and confidence to see things through then you’re easily going to be thrown off your game. Starting today I suggest that you do two things. First, be more selective in what you commit to doing. NEVER “commit” to something that you aren’t prepared to achieve. Saying the words will not make it so. False commitments achieve nothing and only make it more difficult to build your muscles. Second, when you commit to something, even if it’s something really small, YOU DO IT. Do not accept your own excuses. Do not listen to your own stories. With strong success muscles, when you commit to something it gets done. With strong success muscles like that, you’ll be unstoppable.

Info on the author: Chris Cowan is an executive coach and an expert in adult and organizational learning. He is currently working as a consultant with the Federal government. He has previously worked for the Department of Health and Human Services’ Center for Leadership Development and the George Washington University’s Graduate School of Education and Human Development. Previous consulting clients include, Fannie Mae, Samsung USA, the United States Air Force, and Microsoft. He has written or co-authored 13 articles on adult learning and is a certified action learning coach and training evaluator. Chris received his Masters from Harvard in 2005 and is currently writing his dissertation on transformational leadership at the George Washington University. He currently drives a 2008 Dodge Viper. Feel free to contact him with questions at