The Power of Will-Power

“I am not going to eat that cookie!”

“I am not going to skip my workout!”

How often have you found yourself saying something similar, followed by actions that were the exact opposite? It doesn’t make sense, does it? Actually, at a subconscious level, it does.  

Research reveals that our subconscious most strongly remembers the last few words we tell it. When we say “I am not going to eat that cookie,” our subconscious locks in on eat that cookie. When we say “I am not going to skip my workout,” our mind locks in on skip my workout.  

To change the game, send yourself messages that focus on what you will do. For example, rather than “I am not going to eat that cookie,” switch to “I am going to skip that cookie.” Rather than “I am not going to skip my workout,” switch to “I am going to do my workout.”

I learned this from a psychologist who, after observing a competitive high school athlete practice, said to her, “I notice when you are talking to yourself, you are reminding yourself what not to do—which mistakes to avoid. If you turn those messages into what you will do, you’ll have your mindset working for you rather than against you.”

True story: The athlete took his advice and a month later won the state championship that had eluded her the two previous years. She gave full credit to shifting her mindset from won’t-power to will-power. It was a small change, but a big difference.  In fact, this concept is often used with professional and olympic athletes who invest as significantly in their mental training as their physical training.

When it comes to your wellness journey, which areas could use a mindset makeover from won’t-power to will-power? What will you eat? What exercise will you do? What lifestyle changes will you make? It will help turn you into the person you strive to be!

Sue Stanek, Ph.D., has an extensive background in leadership development, currently focusing on helping others gain the mindset and motivation to stick with challenging wellness goals. Contact her at or

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