How to Build Your Power

By Steve Pavlina in Management on September 24th, 2008 / 2 Comments

Just like your muscle tissue, power weakens from lack of use and grows stronger when exercised. The more you train your power, the more powerful you become.

Everyone has some power, but not everyone develops it to the same degree. Here are some methods to train yourself to become more powerful.


Progressive Training

A good way to build power and especially self-discipline is to progressively train yourself to tackle bigger challenges. When you train your muscles, you lift weights that are within your ability. You push your muscles until they fail, and then you rest. Similarly, you can develop your power by taking on challenges that you can successfully accomplish but that push you close to your limits. This doesn’t mean trying something that’s beyond your strength and failing at it repeatedly, nor does it mean playing it safe and staying within your comfort zone. You must tackle challenges that are within your current ability to handle but which are close to your limit.

Progressive training requires that once you succeed, you must increase the challenge. If you keep working at the same level, you won’t get much stronger.

It’s a mistake to push yourself too hard when trying to build your power. If you attempt to transform your entire life overnight by setting dozens of new goals for yourself, you’re almost certain to fail. This is like a person who goes to the gym for the first time ever and packs 300 pounds on the bench press. You’ll only look silly. Accept your current starting point without judging yourself harshly.

If you’re starting from a very low point in your life, you may find it extremely challenging just to get yourself out of bed before noon and pay your bills on time. Later, you may progress to making dietary improvements, starting an exercise program, and breaking harmful addictions. As you gain more power over your life, you can take on bigger goals, such as building the career of your dreams and attracting a fulfilling relationship.

Don’t compare yourself to other people. If you think you’re weak, everyone else will seem strong. If you think you’re strong, everyone else will seem weak. There’s no point in doing this. Simply look at where you are now, and aim to get stronger as you go forward.

Suppose you want to develop the ability to complete eight solid hours of work each weekday. Perhaps you try to work a solid eight-hour day without succumbing to distractions, and you only manage to do it once. The next day you fail utterly. That’s perfectly fine. You did one rep of eight hours. Two is too much for you, so cut back a little. Could you work with high concentration for one hour a day, five days in a row? If you can’t do that, cut back to 30 minutes or whatever you can do. If you succeed, increase the challenge. Once you’ve mastered a week at one level, take it up a notch the next week. Continue with this progressive training until you’ve reached your goal.

By raising the bar just a little each week, you stay within your capabilities and grow stronger over time. When doing actual weight training, the work you do doesn’t mean anything. There’s no intrinsic value in lifting a piece of metal up and down. The value comes from the resulting muscle growth. However, when building your power and self-discipline, you also gain the benefit of the work you’ve done along the way, so that’s even better. It’s great when your training produces something of value and makes you stronger at the same time. That’s a double win.

Master the First Hour
It’s been said that the first hour is the rudder of the day, meaning that the way you start your day will tend to set the tone for the rest of it. If you adopt a disciplined routine for your first waking hour, you’ll probably enjoy a highly productive day. But if you squander that first hour, it’s likely the rest of the day will be equally unspectacular. Conquer that first hour by exercising, reading, cleaning, writing, or doing other productive tasks.

Many people have told me that whenever they complete an important task first thing in the morning, they gain a tremendous feeling of well-being and energy that lasts for hours. I’ve experienced this as well. Finishing an important task early in the day is motivating and energizing. When you conquer that first hour, you feel that no matter what else happens, your day is already a success.

Personal Quotas
Just as a salesperson might have a monthly sales quota to meet, you can use the concept of quotas to improve your performance in any endeavor. Establish a daily minimum output goal for yourself in some area of your life. This ensures constant forward progress and is a fantastic way to develop your self-discipline.

You can use any metric you want as long as it works for you. A writer could set a daily quota of words, paragraphs, or pages to write each day. If you’re organizing your finances, you could set a quota of processing a certain number of transactions or receipts per day.

I’ve experimented with both action-based and outcome-based quotas. At first I preferred the former because the targets were more controllable. It’s easier for me to commit to writing for two hours per day versus writing 2,000 words per day. Unfortunately, I found that when I used action-based quotas, my results were weaker. I’d put in the time, but I wouldn’t maintain the same compulsion to closure. Today I prefer outcome-based quotas, such as completing a new article, because I find them more effective and motivating.

I encourage you to experiment with daily quotas to see what works best for you. Start with small ones that you can easily achieve, and gradually increase them to keep yourself in the sweet spot of challenge.

This excerpt is taken from the book Personal Development for Smart People: The Conscious Pursuit of Personal Growth by Steve Pavlina. It is published by Hay House and is available at all bookstores or online at: www.hayhouse.com

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2 Responses to “How to Build Your Power”

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