Increasing Willpower to Improve Mortgage/RE Performance

Having a hard time picking up the phone to make another proactive Sales Call, and you’d rather check your Twitter feed instead? Is your willpower to make these important calls waning? Situations like this help us to see that willpower exists, and that more personal willpower is desirable. As we will see, the cultivation of willpower plus the removal of barriers that prevent success, equates to more productivity, profit and well-being for any Mortgage or Real Estate professional.

The first step to unlocking more willpower is making sure you have a firm grasp of what it is – and – why willpower seemingly abandons us when we need it most.

Defining Willpower

In the field of psychology, willpower often is thought of as “the ability to exert self-control.” However, the opposite of willpower might be a better frame of reference for today’s discussion. Merriam-Webster provides a lengthy list of antonyms, including two words that might strike a chord with you: indulgence and overindulgence.

For many, these familiar words manifest themselves over and over again in our lives, from mealtime, social media and exercise, to gossip and even sleep. Anything — even activities that normally are very beneficial — can become a drain on your life when overindulgence begins to outweigh willpower.

How Willpower Becomes Depleted

Much like when your car runs low on fuel, you can run low on willpower as you continuously strive to do what’s prudent. When you grow weary of the struggle, that’s when you’re most susceptible to slip-ups.

However, we are not innocent bystanders. Imagine a child who’s been told “no more cookies,” yet he sits himself in front of the cookie jar and stares at it intently. This child has put himself in a situation where A) his willpower “muscle” is being overworked, leading to B) his odds of success are now greatly diminished.

Translation: Little Jimmy’s going to eat those cookies. If the cookies had been removed, the temptation to disobey mom would have been gone, too.

In the same vein, imagine a Loan Officer or RE Agent who is struggling for diligence with that list of phone calls that need to be placed, email drip campaign that needs to be built, or hand-written cards that are waiting to be penned.  There’s no way to completely avoid distractions, but there’s also no sense in actively placing potential pitfalls in your path.

For instance, if you’re trying to buckle down at your desk, you’re not doing yourself any favors by having Facebook, YouTube and a national news web site open in your web browser. That 24/7 talk radio channel might not be a good idea, either.

Ways to Strengthen Willpower

Rather than depleting our self-control reserves, we need to look for ways to strengthen them, including:

Remove barriers. — Discarding things that weaken your willpower is beneficial, but so is removing barriers that might prevent you from engaging in positive activities. The easier it is to fulfill your goals, the faster your actions will transform into habits.

For example: Mortgage and RE professionals often desire to adopt the process of writing handwritten notes to past-clients and referral partners.  For many, this seems like a simple task, but one that is often avoided.  Other “urgent” responsibilities stack up, and soon thought of writing the notes can seem overwhelming.  However, if the envelopes are already stamped, return addresses labels applied, a stack of blank cards sit on your desk, along with a short list of names and address of five referral partners are sitting in front of you, the job now feels simple.

When we remove barriers, we make the task easier, and less willpower is then required.

Do the opposite. — Another technique is to simply do the opposite of what hasn’t been working. Social psychologist Heidi Grant Halvorson theorizes that any time you modify your routine you develop more self-control.

This is a great idea rooted in basic logic. If your standard way of exerting willpower isn’t working, shake things up. Do something different. Keep your goals but revise your tactics.

Don’t be a hero. — Whether you’re a teacher, a janitor or an RE professional, at times you likely wear those long hours and that jam-packed day planner like a badge of honor. While hard work is fantastic, so is rest. It’s easier to stay vigilant with your work if each completed step within a larger process is rewarded.

Maybe give yourself a 10-minute break to phone a friend, or a small snack from the vending machine. Whatever it is, appreciate the treat, then move on with vigor.

Reflect. — Whether prayer, meditation or simple quite time, consider the benefits of genuine reflection. If you can deepen your understanding of the challenges in front of you and zero in on the task at hand, you will be well on your way to more consistent success.

Think about others. — Your lack of willpower might seem like a victimless situation, but usually that’s not the case. Think beyond the surface; consider the secondary, ripple-like ramifications of choosing overindulgence. At home, it’s your family and friends that feel the effects of your missteps. At work, it’s your co-workers and the organization as a whole.

Training yourself to stop and think about the collective impact of your willpower — or lack thereof — can provide just enough of a pause to get your mind back on track.

Eat something. — Various experts say that because exerting willpower uses up glucose that the brain needs, eating after a particularly taxing instance of willpower is a good way to help prepare for the next battle.

Action Items for Strengthening Your Willpower

Every single person has room to improve his or her willpower. To begin boosting your self-control, I encourage you to put the tips listed above to the test this week, starting with “think about others.” It’s a good idea to begin any day with by asking yourself, “How can I help those around me today?”

Next week we’ll discuss why willpower is often insufficient for lasting change; watch for the post on Habit Formation.