Want Power – How to Tap Into Your True Potential

It was 10 hours into the Ironman Triathlon. Kara, a first-time Ironman Triathlete, felt so close to the finish yet she still had so far to go.

She had completed the 2.4 miles of swimming, the 112 miles of biking and half of the 26.2 miles of running. So much done, but she still had another 13.1 miles of pavement in front of her.

It was then that the physical toll of the event hit her. Her shoulders were aching, the blisters on her feet were excruciating, and her legs felt completely hollow. She felt like there was no way she could make it through the last 13.1 miles.

Yet, she kept running. She kept putting one foot in front of the other. Every time an idea popped into her head that she just couldn’t do this. She would immediately tell herself, “You are doing this”.

As she continued to run she began to imagine crossing the finish line.

She imagined the people cheering. She imagined the happiness that would come from embracing her family when she was done. And she imagined the sense of pride that she was going to feel knowing that she had completed one of the hardest tests of physical fitness on the planet.

With those thoughts in her mind, despite all of the physical pain she was feeling, Kara made it all the way to the finish line. [1


Kara’s body was completely fatigued. She ached from head to toe, her muscles felt hollow and it seemed as if she had no energy left.

Yet she continued to push on. Not for a short stretch, but for an entire 13.1 miles! For over 2 full hours she had to tell her body to keep going – despite every physical instinct telling her “for the love of God stop!”

So how did she do it?

Kara was able to tap into the most powerful type of willpower available. She used the same willpower that a civil rights leader used to peacefully protest.  The same willpower that J.K Rolling used to go to a 13th publisher after being rejected by 12 who said her book was worthless.

And this is the willpower that you can use to truly reach your full potential. This type of willpower is known as “Want Power”. [1


To understand where Want Power comes from, let’s look at what happened in Kara’s brain during those last 13.1 miles.

The most primitive part of Kara’s brain is wired for survival. It will motivate her to eat, stay safe from potential dangers and, at this moment, “STOP RUNNING AND REST”!

This part of the brain still believes that Kara is living in the Stone Age. It does not know where her next meal is coming from, or whether she’s going to need to escape a lion lurking around the corner.

So this primitive brain will begin sending messages to Kara to rest and refuel as soon as she begins to get low on energy. That way she will have enough left to survive in case she can’t find food anytime soon or needs the energy to make a daring escape. [2]

So when Kara reached the point where she had 13.1 miles to go, her primitive brain wanted her to feel as if she had no energy left. But in reality, she had probably only burned through about 50% of what her muscles were actually capable of. [3]

This primitive part of the brain is a powerful motivator, but it does not call the shots.

Kara has a more modernly developed part of her brain that allows her to think, plan and, yes, exert willpower.

This part of the brain is the final decision-maker on all of Kara’s actions. It has the ability to “override” the primitive brain’s motivation to stop and rest. It has the power to endure pain and say that she “is doing this.” [4]


Despite the fact that the modern brain has the ability to override the primitive brain’s motivations, that does not mean doing so is easy. And the lower Kara gets on energy, the harder it is to ignore her impulse to stop.

That is, unless she uses her Want Power.

Imagine Kara is back in the Stone Age. She is in the same situation with only about 50% of her energy left. She is starving and her primitive brain is motivating her to rest.

But then Kara sees a gazelle in the distance. She sees a potential meal and she needs energy to hunt it down!

When this happens, her brain will immediately stop sending her messages to rest. Instead, it will give her the energy and motivation that she needs to successfully hunt down that gazelle.

Her brain will tap into her remaining 50% of energy if it believes that doing so will be worth it. [5]

Back at the Ironman, this is exactly what happened when Kara started imagining crossing the finish line. When she began to imagine the fans’ cheers, her family’s joy, and her own sense of pride; she started sending the message that “this is worth it.”

She was able to convince her mind that the pride and joy was worth as much to her as a meal would have been back in the Stone Age. So the primitive brain stopped sending messages of fatigue and gave her the motivation to keep going. [1


You have probably experienced the feeling of want power before in your life. It may have come from a motivational speech, an inspirational story or maybe even reading this blog :D.

Want Power does not just apply to exercise. It applies just as much to studying, dieting or summoning the willpower to make yourself vulnerable.

Here are some simple ways you can create Want Power in your life:


On the night of May 26th I came home from a long day of traveling and opened up my email inbox.

127 new emails from subscribers. 

That morning I had sent out one of my most popular articles – 10 Things People With Extraordinary Willpower Do Differently – and subscribers had sent me some long emails giving me their thoughts about it.

It was 10pm. I was exhausted. And, to be honest, I was starting to wonder whether or not I should remove the “I read and respond to every message!” part of my newsletter.

But then I thought about my purpose: To strengthen the willpower of the world – one person at a time.

That’s when I remembered why I wrote those words. Every person has the ability to change the world – if they have the willpower. So I found my Want Power. I sat down and I answered every single one of those emails to the best of my ability. It took hours, but it was worth it. As long as I can answer every email, I will. 

Finding and remembering your purpose is the best way to tap into your Want Power. You must convince your mind that expending your willpower in this moment is worth it. And if you are fighting for something truly worthwhile you will find it much easier to do so.


I am not a particularly large believer in the “power of positive thinking”. I have seen it hurt as many people as it helps because they start losing sight of the details and become overly optimistic.

However, in order to tap into your Want Power and reach your goal, your brain must genuinely believe that attaining the goal is possible.

Let’s go back to the Stone Age where you are starving and see a gazelle. If that gazelle was in the distance and running away from you, with no realistic chance of you catching it, your brain did not want you to waste precious energy trying to hunt it down. [6]

So in order to tap into your Want Power to achieve great things, you must genuinely believe that achieving great things is possible. This belief can come from thinking positively, or it can from chunking.


When people come up with a goal, they usually envision the end result - and they love what they see.

They see themselves with a better job.

They see themselves with a better body.

They see themselves with that huge project finally completed.

But then it comes time to get to work and they get completely overwhelmed. Where they are right now is so far away from that end result that they want. So they start to lose the belief that it is possible - therefore never being able to use their Want Power.

Chunking is the process of breaking up your huge goal into short-term, manageable chunks. [7]

If your goal is to follow a 12-week exercise plan, it can be overwhelming when you’re tired on day 4 and thinking about the fact that you have 80 more days of this. When you start thinking like that, you begin to lose your Want Power.

However, if you shift your focus to simply accomplishing the workout plan today, your brain knows that it's possible. Then, before you know it, 20, 40, 60 days have passed and you are more confident than ever that we can make it to the end.


Your brain will try to convince you that you are completely out of energy long before you actually are. It will make you feel pain, fear and exhaustion because it believes that it must help you survive the Stone Age.

The best way to override these motivations is through Want Power. Want Power comes when you convince the brain that what you are using your energy for right now is worth it. When this happens, you can tap into the energy that your brain is trying to save for survival and achieve extraordinary results.

You can tap into this potential by remembering your purpose, truly believing that the task is achievable and breaking up your huge goals into smaller chunks. Kara used this to make it through over 2 hours of pain and anguish. And you can use it to achieve the same extraordinary results in your life.


  1. McGonigal, K. (2012) The Willpower Instinct: How Self-control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It. New York: Avery.

  2. Hill, A. V., C. N. H. Long, and H. Lupton. "Muscular Exercise, Lactic Acid, and the Supply and Utilisation of Oxygen." Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 96.679 (1924): 438-75. Web.

  3. Noakes, T. D. "From Catastrophe to Complexity: A Novel Model of Integrative Central Neural Regulation of Effort and Fatigue during Exercise in Humans: Summary and Conclusions." British Journal of Sports Medicine 39.2 (2005): 120-24. Web.

  4. Irwin, Louis N. Comparative Neuroscience and Neurobiology. Boston: Birkhäuser, 1988. Print

  5. Segerstrom, Suzanne C.; Hardy, Jaime K.; Evans, Daniel R.; Winters, Natalie F. Wright, Rex A. (Ed); Gendolla, Guido H. E. (Ed), (2012). How motivation affects cardiovascular response: Mechanisms and applications. , (pp. 181-198). Washington, DC, US: American Psychological Association, xiv, 424

  6. Dunbar, R.i.m. "TSB: Mind, Language, and Society in Evolutionary Perspective." Annual Review of Anthropology 32.1 (2003): 163-81.
  7. Bandura, A., & Schunk, D. (1981). Cultivating Competence, Self-efficacy, And Intrinsic Interest Through Proximal Self-motivation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,586-598.