In this episode, Jonathan discusses the limitations of relying solely on willpower to make lasting changes in our lives. He emphasizes the importance of planning and intentionality as key strategies for sustainable change. Jonathan provides examples of how planning ahead can help us make better decisions and overcome challenges. He also highlights the benefits of planning for both tangible goals and the kind of person we want to be. Ultimately, he encourages listeners to live intentionally and go after a story of significance.


  • Willpower alone is not enough to make lasting changes in our lives.
  • Planning and intentionality are crucial for sustainable change.
  • By planning ahead, we can anticipate challenges and set ourselves up for success.
  • Planning applies not only to tangible goals but also to the kind of person we want to be.
  • Living intentionally and with purpose leads to a story of significance.



Welcome back to the Intentional Man Podcast. As always, thank you for being here with me. Today, I'm going to be talking about how willpower is not always the greatest strategy. It's not always the thing that we can rely on, and I'm excited to talk about this today because honestly, it's something I've been reflecting on a lot lately and just trying to get better at implementing myself. In the previous episode with Jeffrey Jewett, we touched on the importance of living a disciplined life.

Things really turned a corner for him when he started implementing good habits and disciplines in his life. And I don't know about you, but when I hear someone say they want to live a more disciplined life, I typically think about forcing myself to do things that I don't feel like doing. I think about having willpower. I think about gritting my teeth and working hard and continuously choosing the difficult option over the easy option if it's going to be a better decision in the long run.

And I absolutely believe that having great self-discipline is a very valuable trait. It's something that we all need, but in my experience, it can't be the only thing that we rely on, at least on a consistent basis. So think about the times in your life when you wanted to make a change. Maybe you wanted to start working out more. Maybe you wanted to eat healthier or wake up earlier or spend less time on your phone.

If you're like me, you most likely thought about making this change when you got some fresh dose of inspiration. Maybe you heard an awesome podcast that got you excited to make a change. You read a great book. You saw your friend get great results, and you wanted to get something similar. Or maybe you watched an inspirational movie. Some of my favorite movies are the Creed movies. It's a spinoff of the Rocky series. And every time I watch one of these, I always come away super motivated to hit the gym harder. Maybe it's something like that.

And, yeah, watch those Creed movies and I'm sure you'll feel the same if you want a little gym inspiration. But maybe you just experienced some sort of pain, and that's now kicking you into gear. Whatever it is, we usually have some sort of trigger that gets us motivated to make a change. And then what is the next step? Usually, you have some sort of internal conversation with yourself about.

How you're going to work harder or you're going to wake up earlier. You feel motivated, and so you feel like you can make the change just purely based on motivation and determination. And now this is great, like these are great triggers in order to make some sort of change. But if you're like me and so many other people, what probably happened after a few weeks? You lose that motivation, that willpower runs out, that self-discipline reverts back to a lack of self-discipline, and you don't end up making a lasting change. You get caught up in the busyness of life and that change you wanted to make now just becomes an afterthought. Or maybe you just start to get tired or stressed out from work and all that willpower and determination that you had at the beginning is now gone. The last thing that you want to do after a long workday is grit your teeth and do something hard.

Like it's much easier to come back home, turn on the TV, and relax for the evening. And so this is what I mean by willpower alone being a poor strategy. It is a necessary step and a key ingredient to have. But if there's no other game plan or strategy, it will typically not sustain you in the long run. I'm totally speaking to myself right now as well. Every time I realize that I need to make a change, my natural instinct is to think that I can just take it on by myself. I can just power through.

And if I'm motivated enough, I can usually do that pretty well, but eventually that willpower runs dry. And I think this is especially natural for us men. We think that we can just work harder, we can work longer, we can be more disciplined, we can just do things by ourselves and get the lasting results that we want. But if you want to make a lasting change in your life, you cannot just hope to pull it off by willpower alone. You need a plan. You need to be intentional.

And you need support. And I've quoted this many times on the show, but if you fail to plan, you ultimately are planning to fail. Proper planning and intentionality are the keys to making sustainable long-term changes. These are things that you can fall back on even when you don't feel motivated, or even when you are feeling tired or stressed. When life gets busy, you can always fall back on your planning and your intentionality and your habits. Your success is ultimately going to rise or fall to the level of your habits and to the level of your planning. So let's just take an example here. Maybe you want to start eating healthier. Let's say you just had a doctor's appointment and it didn't go so well, and so you're feeling extra motivated to start eating healthier. The next day you wake up, you head off to work like normal. When you get there, maybe a coworker offers you some donuts when you arrive. But you're motivated to eat healthier because of that doctor's appointment. So you're able to say no to the donuts. Then you go out to lunch with coworkers that day. Everyone else is there, and they order maybe a burger and some fries and a soda for lunch. But because again, you have the willpower and the determination, you end up ordering the salad.

And then after work, you come home. There are cookies on your counter. You ignore those and you grab an apple instead, and after dinner, you decide to skip desserts. And when it comes time for the late-night snack that you usually have, you ignore all the unhealthy foods in your pantry and decide to go to bed now. This sounds like an incredibly successful day and it really was. There are a lot of decisions that you made that were great decisions throughout the day. And your willpower your determination, everything was extremely strong. You were able to say no to a lot of things. So in this example, this is just off the top of my head, but you faced four or five tough situations, I just said, where you had to have a lot of willpower to succeed. And I'm sure throughout a normal day, you'd probably actually face way more than four or five. But these are situations where if your willpower wasn't that strong, you could have caved in.

And if you continue to approach things this way, there's going to come a time when that willpower is not going to be there as strongly. Like, okay, what if you got to work and you get yelled at by your boss or a client? If that happens, you're most likely not gonna be in the best frame of mind. So when that opportunity arises to eat the donut or go get some junk food for lunch, you're less likely to actually have the willpower and determination to say no to those things.

Or maybe you work at the office and it goes late and you're burned out and you're tired from the day. So you stop and you get fast food on the way home, or maybe you didn't do that, but you're feeling exhausted and you get home. And so now that pantry that's full of all those unhealthy snacks and desserts is calling your name. I think we can all relate to this. And I think, you know, where I'm going with this, the same willpower that was able to sustain you that first day is now drained from these circumstances that are out of your control.

And this is totally a human thing. Like I know personally that I'm extremely weak when I'm tired, when I'm hungry, and when I'm stressed. I know that I'm most likely not going to make consistently good decisions in those scenarios. And so the antidote to this is to plan ahead of time. In a time when I am in my best state of mind, when I am motivated, like I can plan and make the decisions ahead of time to ensure that my future tired, stressed out self makes good decisions. So let's continue with my example earlier about eating healthier. So if you're being intentional and you're planning ahead, this is what it could look like. So you go to that doctor's appointment and you get motivated to start eating healthier. So when you get home from that appointment, you immediately go to your pantry. You throw out all the snacks and the desserts that might trip you up at a later time. If they aren't in your house at all, you can't eat them when you're tired and lacking self-discipline.

If you know you don't want to eat them, there's no point in them even being in your house. So after you do that, you clear out your pantry. You sit down, you make a grocery list of some healthier alternatives. Then you go to the grocery store and you only buy the items that are on your list. And preferably do your grocery shopping on a full stomach so you aren't tempted to buy things you don't need when you're super hungry. Everything's going to look good at a grocery store when you're really hungry. So then after you go grocery shopping, you come home, you prepare the food. Maybe you pack it in Tupperwares a few lunches at work. So there you go, you did a lot of planning, you did a lot of steps. The night before your day or first thing in the morning, you sit down, you give yourself time to review your upcoming day, and you look for the situations that might trip you up. So maybe it's Wednesday and you know that Wednesdays are the day where your coworkers bring in donuts. So then you can actually think through how you want to handle this situation.

So maybe you pack something else that you're going to eat instead, or you eat breakfast at home so you're not even hungry at all. Or maybe you just go straight into your office to start work instead of going to the break room. You get the point, it can be anything. But the point is that you're taking time to think through these scenarios that may trip you up. As you look at the rest of your day, and you're planning out what meals and snacks you're going to have, and when you're going to have them, then going into that day, you know exactly what you're going to do.

And so then when you go to lunch, when your coworkers go to lunch, you can either eat the food that you packed, or if you're thinking ahead of time and you do want to go to lunch, totally fine. Maybe you look at the menu ahead of time and make your decision before you get there and you're tempted to change it out based on what everybody else ordered. You can kinda get what I'm saying. Like the few seconds, the minutes that it takes to just kinda plan ahead of time is ultimately what's gonna set you up for success. And then like if...

If you finish the day and you go home and your pantry is clean of all the junk food because you already threw it away, like you've already gotten rid of a big temptation that you may fall into later in the night. So I know if I'm tired and I got some Oreos or something in my pantry and I'm just, I don't have anything prepped, I'm probably just going to go for those. It's a natural human thing. So if you can plan for those scenarios ahead of time and get rid of them and make things easier for you, then in the times where you're lacking willpower you can make a good decision. So between scenario one, where you're reacting to everything and scenario two, who do you think is going to be more successful? Obviously it's scenario two. And all of that success just came from a little bit of thought and a little bit of planning beforehand. And the same applies to any other change that you want to make. If you want to be more productive at work, don't just rely on willpower alone. That might get you through a couple of weeks, but ultimately you're going to fall back on the old habits if you don't have a good game plan to change them. Like instead of waking up and going into work and first thing just answering emails and then letting those emails dictate what you're going to be working on, take some time the night before or in the morning to plan out what are the most important things that you need to do that day. Then look at your schedule, anticipate the meetings and the different commitments that you have and plan out blocks of times to do those important tasks.

You can specifically plan in a time to respond to emails as well, but just give yourself a time limit and make it a specific time that you're gonna do it in the day. If you wanna start doing more date nights with your wife or if you wanna have more family time, take a look at your calendar a month out and plan in the days which you're gonna do those things in advance. Because I guarantee those kinds of things are gonna be the first things to go when your schedule gets busy if you don't actually plan them in. And guys, intentional men know what's important in their lives.

Take the time to plan in those things in advance if you go through each day Reacting to life you're going to let other people dictate your life You're gonna let things that aren't that important dictate your life You're gonna end up spending half the day on your phone scrolling through Social media because you didn't actually plan and what you wanted to do and what you wanted to accomplish and what you wanted to be About that day if you're proactive and you tell your schedule what's important you're gonna have a much higher likelihood of sticking with it. And when I talk to people about planning, I often hear things like, I don't wanna be so rigid, I wanna be spontaneous. And honestly, I'm the same way. Like I like to be spontaneous. But I actually have found that the more that I plan, the more I can actually be spontaneous and have time to do things that I really enjoy. So what I mean by this is I'm an entrepreneur, so I get to dictate and set my own schedule.

It's one of the perks, but it's also one of the challenges. And the days where I don't plan, I find myself wasting a lot of time, either figuring out what needs to be done next, responding to emails, responding to texts, wasting time looking at sports articles or being on social media, wherever it is. And because I wasted that time, then I find myself working late into the evening and I'm not freed up to actually go do the things that I enjoy.

But if I had planned well, I probably honestly could have knocked it all out by like three or four p.m. And then I have the rest of the evening blocked out to do whatever I want, and I don't even have to feel guilty about it. So you can even plan in your schedule blocks for rest, for fun, and for spontaneity. And because you were productive and dialed into the plan earlier in the day, you can enjoy that time totally guilt-free, and you're gonna have more time actually to do what you love. And also,

The cool thing about planning is planning also applies to the kind of person that you want to be. So I was just talking about very tangible goals like eating healthier, being more productive, but it also applies to the kind of person you want to be. You can plan this in as well. And most of the times we don't even really think about this, but if you want to be a more encouraging person, you can take the time the evening before or in the morning to look at your schedule and see what meetings you have and then think through how you want to show up in those meetings.

You can think about the people that you're gonna see after work and how you wanna encourage them. You can take a minute when you pull into your garage to think about the kind of husband or the kind of father that you wanna be when you walk through those doors. That's living an intentional lifestyle. That is living in alignment with the kind of person that you want to be. It's not being fake, but it's about taking the time to get your mind right and to get focused on how you can impact other people in a positive way.

I want to be an inspiring person. I want when you sit down with me that you're going to be inspired to dream big. That's truly what I want. And so the times where I just show up and just kind of like show up to a meeting, not don't even really think about that. I usually, I might do that decently, but I'm not going to do it great. But if I take time before I get out of my car to think about how can I inspire this person in this meeting, then I'm actually going into it in a way where I'm living in congruence with the person that I want to be.

And that's the power of planning. And what's so cool is that if you could put in the habits of planning on a consistent basis and taking the time to look ahead, you can consistently live in a way that you wanna live. And we're not always gonna do it perfect, I definitely don't. And honestly, I don't plan as well as I should, and so I'm totally speaking to myself. But this is the power of planning. If you want to make lasting changes, you must anticipate the challenges ahead of time plan accordingly. You must set yourself up for success ahead of time. You must eliminate the moments where you're going to be at your weakest and just relying on willpower alone. The time it takes to plan out your week on a Sunday, the time it takes to plan out your day the night before, I promise you is well worth it. Ultimately it's gonna save you time in the long run and it's gonna set you up for success. So that's it for today. I hope this episode was encouraging to you.

If it was helpful, please share it with somebody else that might need it. Feel free to reach out to me with any additional thoughts or questions about the episode. I'd love to hear from you. So as always, thank you for being here and go live a story of significance by living intentionally and I'll see you next time.

Get Your Free Habit Score!

See how intentional you are living
Gain instant access to the Intentional Man Habit Assessment by entering your email below.