The PAW Method (Step 3)

Linked lessons: Step 1, Step 2.

To live in harmony with your goals, you sometimes need to apply willpower. But you cannot use your willpower without awareness, and you cannot be aware if you are too busy to pause. 

Therefore, you need to pause, then be aware, then apply your willpower. This is what I call the PAW Method.

Imagine that you are facing a moment of temptation, distraction, procrastination, fear—or any other self-discipline obstacle. You then remember to practice the PAW Method. First you pause, to slow things down. Next, you bring in more awareness, and begin to see clearly what’s going on inside you—your options and your drives. And now you may need to do something about it. You may need to use your willpower to shift your state.

Willpower is a very broad concept. We’ve defined it as “your ability to control your attention, emotions, and actions, despite the presence of competing stimuli” and “your capacity to delay gratification, override unwanted thought and feelings, and shift your internal state”. It is the action element of PAW.

Awareness is Seeing. Willpower is Doing. 

If we compare the PAW Method to crossing a busy intersection on the road, then:

  • Pause is stopping your car at the intersection
  • Awareness is looking around and seeing if it’s safe to proceed
  • Willpower is about deciding what to do next, and doing it

The last step of PAW is to shift your state by using one of the three main techniques explained in the Awareness Pillar in the book: Shift Your Focus, Shift Your Perception, and Embrace Your Pain. It’s good to learn all these three, but you don’t necessarily need to practice them all. You may find that one of the techniques works better for you every time, or that you need to use different techniques for different self-discipline challenges.

The willpower step is extremely versatile, and many different techniques are covered in the book, beyond the three basic ones. In summary, any approach that you use to shift your state of mind, your moods or your emotions, in order to keep you on track with your aspirations, is an expression of the willpower step of PAW.

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