Say No to Will Power

My Aunt Tess constantly talks about her lack of will power in her efforts to alter her eating habits. “I’ve got no will power,” is her mantra. Over and over she reminds herself that she doesn’t have what it takes to lose weight. She repeats this phrase so many times, that even if she had a moment of “will power” she wouldn’t recognize it.

People usually describe will power in terms of their not having it. For instance, most people can go on about how they can’t see to get themselves to do something. But ask someone how they got themselves to stop procrastinating and take action, and they are hard pressed to describe it. Most people say, “I just made up my mind and did it,” or “I got sick of the way things were.”

Do this yourself. Try to describe what you feel like the instant you make the decision to move on something rather than put it off. What’s it like? What makes you move? What conditions have to be right? How long does it last? When it faces, where does it go?

One of the main problems with the concept of “will power” is that we think of it as magic, a quality we can’t direct ourselves. What we call “will power” seems to come and go on it’s own. And then we’re always losing it. By nature, will power doesn’t stay. “Will power” doesn’t take into consideration that motivation naturally ebbs and flows. We must learn how to inspire and reinforce ourselves, and then respect the natural rhythms of our intentions and actions. Expecting a constant stream of energy and incentive is unrealistic.

So here is the truth about “will power.” It doesn’t exist and you can’t get it by wishing for it. You can, however, exercise your will in any given moment. A teacher of mine used to say “Doing it, does it.” Nike says “Just do it.” Alcoholics Anonymous says “One day at a time.”

You exercise your will all the time — every time you apply a conscious intention toward an action that creates a desired result. For example, you wake up and start preparing breakfast. If you stay conscious, you notice yourself making choices at every turn. Buttered toast or dry? Egg whites or yolks, too? Go to the gym or lunch? Each choice a negotiation with yourself. Each choice its own opportunity to exercise will in one direction or another. Each choice a crossroads.

And that’s it. There is no will power magic that some people have and some don’t. Just a series of decisions from one moment to the next. At each juncture, you get the chance to move yourself in a direction, like turning the wheel of your car to make it go where you want.

So here’s some advice: kill your expectation for will power to appear. Start applying your will and take action one situation at a time. You’ll get results.

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