6 Practical Tips for Sticking with Your Goals Even When Your Willpower is Gone

Have you ever felt that sometimes you just don’t seem to have the willpower to do what you are supposed to do for your goal?

We all have. That’s quite normal, especially if the goal is out of your comfort zone. Or it’s something you have to really exert yourself to make it happen. We do need willpower to make meaningful progress, but that doesn’t mean it’s entirely hopeless if all our willpower is gone.

Here are six strategies you can apply in your goal pursuit when you are empty on willpower.

1. Change your environment

Here is the first thing you can try to rely less on willpower to take meaningful action. Design and setup your environment in a way that’s working for you, instead of against you.

This works because our environment can affect our behaviour a lot. There are studies showing that by changing the way food is displayed can get people to eat healthier. You may also hear that retailers routinely arrange their merchandise in special ways to make customers to make more impulse buys.

You can use the same strategy to achieve your goals. For example, you can place healthy food choices more out in the open and hide those less healthy ones. You can buy 2 or 3 copies of same book and place them at different areas in your home or office so that you get more chance to read it. You can buy a super fancy and comfy chair and only sit in it when you work on your most important project.

The key is to make your goal activity something you’ll more likely to enjoy than to avoid.

2. Learn to do things you don’t like to do

Nobody likes to be forced into doing anything, especially by other people. We all wish we could just do whatever we feel like all day long. But that’s actually pretty childish. If you live long enough, you surely know that doing only what we feel like doing is a quick path to endless failures and life of frustration.

The truth is that you don’t have to feel like it or motivated to do something. Sometimes it’s good to do something that you normally hate to do. The more you learn to force yourself to do things, the more you will become mentally tough. Whatever you procrastinate on or avoid doing will seem less difficult and easier to tackle. Soon you will acquire the action habit that is crucial for achieving any goal.

3. Read or watch something inspiring daily

One reason we tend to fall by the wayside with our goal is simply because things will start to get boring and we feel less and less motivated day in and day out. This is especially common when we are in the middle of goal journey.

What you can do to get out of that state of mind is to read or watch something inspirational on a daily or consistent basis. It can be a great self-help book, or a motivational speech, or an inspiring video, or whatever you feel inspired and encouraged that you are exposed to.

I have a few books to read on a daily basis and I always have a personal development or motivational related book on my list. This really helps me stay positive and hopeful with my goals.

4. Take mini steps

You usually need some willpower to tackle a big task or to spend a chunk of time focusing on something important for your goal. But when your willpower is low, or even empty, you don’t have to give up your action entirely.

You can simply take a mini step and just complete a small task, or even a tiny part of a small task. It won’t need much willpower to do it. What often happens is that once you complete some tiny action, your willpower tends to restore a little. Then you go on and take another small step, and you get a little more willpower. Soon you will build up your willpower while still making progress on your goal.

5. Create a When & Where plan

There is another way to increase your chance of sticking to your goal without relying on pure motivation or willpower.

There was a research study published in British Journal of Health Psychology. It’s been found that simply by writing down a plan that said exactly when and where they intended to exercise, the research participants were much more likely to actually follow through.

You can adopt a similar plan. If you want to stick to your exercise goal, don’t just set the goal to work out 3 times per week. Instead, make it more concrete, such as “I’ll go to the gym on my way home after work every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.” If you want to write a book, set a time and place, such as “I’ll write for 30 minutes at my office desk every work day morning.”

According to the study, such plans often are more conducive to consistent and habitual action, which is exactly what you want to have when your willpower is low or absent.

6. Go do some exercises

Physical exercises not only benefit our health, but also our emotional and mental wellbeing.

In a 2006 study, free gym memberships and training were given to participants. And those who regularly exercised all reported decreases in stress, emotional distress, smoking, engagement in bad habits, and increases in healthy eating, emotional control, maintenance of household chores, attendance to commitments, etc.

When you feel that your willpower is low and just can’t bring yourself to do anything for your goal, try stepping away from your goal and go out and do some exercises. Be it walking, or running, swimming, or simply stretching at home, as long as you physically move for a while, you will restore some willpower when you are done with the activity.


Willpower and determination are important factors in successfully reaching any meaningful goals. But these factors alone are often not reliable if you want to stick to your goal no matter what. Instead, you can put into good use the above mentioned strategies so that you will stick to your goal not only when you are motivated and full of energy, but also persevere and make steady progress when the willpower is gone.


This article was written by Harry Che, founder and creator of GoalsOnTrack, an online goal achievement software program to help you set, track and accomplish both personal and professional goals.

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