What do we need to get from A to B, from here to where we want to be? Two forces drive us toward achieving our goals and tasks in life: motivation and willpower. 

What is the difference between these? Well, the concepts are closely connected but different. Understanding what differs can help us achieve our goals better and live more intentionally. So let’s look into it. 

What is motivation?

It can be described as our inner drive, we all have it as we all want to achieve something in life. Why do we eat healthily, take a break from work, help a friend in need, do a workout? Because we are motivated to do so for one reason or another. In every decision we make, motivation is present. Based on our motivation we take certain actions and show certain behaviours. 

What is willpower? 

It can be described as the ability to control our emotions, thoughts, and urges to resist our cravings and temptations. By resisting instant gratification, we are more likely to achieve long-term goals. Willpower is a limited resource. 

As an example, we have a motivation to eat fruits and vegetables based on the idea of staying healthy long-term. Willpower comes in when we choose a salad over fries instead of following our urge to have a high-carb meal that would make us happy at that moment for a short time. 

The differences between motivation and willpower 

As mentioned earlier, motivation fuels an endless drive, while willpower can fluctuate based on various factors. The research likens willpower to a muscle that demands consistent training to maintain strength, emphasizing the necessity for continuous effort 

Our motivation propels us forward, compelling us to pursue specific actions and take decisive steps in our lives, while our willpower drives us onward with a sense of obligation to accomplish tasks.

Whilst motivation depends on our priorities and values, willpower depends on our circumstances. 

In life, our motivation revolves around the question, “Why do I want this?” Meanwhile, our willpower focuses on the question, “How do I initiate the steps to achieve my goal?” Furthermore, we need both forces to be able to reach our long-term goals and overcome the obstacles on the way. 

How are motivation and willpower connected? 

A goal sparks motivation, and the key to achieving it lies in harnessing willpower. Passion and inner inspiration fuel our motivation, empowering our willpower. Once we muster the willpower to initiate progress toward our goals, we subsequently enhance our ability to concentrate motivation and persevere without succumbing to distractions.

Motivation and willpower collaborate in a continuous loop: We motivate ourselves to attain a goal, initiate necessary actions with our willpower, observe progress from these actions, which in turn nourishes our motivation and energizes our willpower. Any decrease in motivation or willpower will lead to a decrease in progress. 

Therefore, keeping up both motivation and willpower is important to get from A to B. 

What if I cannot find any motivation and willpower to achieve my goal(s)?

We often think “I am not motivated to do this or that”, this is when we have lost touch with our values and purpose in life – we do not see any reason to keep going. It feels like the driving force is missing. 

Counselling can help you understand your values better and gain a deeper understanding of what your goals are and which actions and behaviours need to happen to achieve these. Your motivation could stem from a desire to build meaningful relationships, to help someone else, to improve yourself or to achieve a certain success. If you struggle to find your “why?”, reach out for support. 

If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach out here.

Franziska Richter is a transcultural counsellor with the Willingness Team, offering counselling sessions to individuals and couples. She is particularly interested in sexuality, relationship issues, trauma and general mental health.