According to a recent article in Psychology Today, “Willpower is an essential ingredient in achieving, overcoming, and becoming…” That works for me with an immediate follow-up question – “Why does it often elude me, fail me, abandon me?” Keep reading to learn what scientists have discovered about willpower, why willpower alone isn’t enough – and what we can do about it.
Myth: Willpower is available upon demand.
Truth: Willpower is one of our essential fuels that serve us well in moderation.
Our willpower can get burned out, used up, overloaded, just like the power plug in your bathroom. Turn on the ceiling fan, makeup mirror, blow dryer and curling iron all at the same time, and you’re likely to blow a fuse. To ensure an uninterrupted supply of power, tap into the power source in small amounts. When we access our willpower with this knowledge, it becomes a sustainable fuel that will always be accessible.
Myth: Willpower is an all or nothing occurrence.
Truth: Willpower is a game of balance.
Our brain is not always our best friend, and this is a great example. When we overestimate our willpower, we set ourselves up for failure. The moment we think we’ve mastered the temptation, compulsion or condition is the very moment when we are most susceptible to giving in to what we are trying to avoid. Picture a scale – when willpower and temptation are evenly balanced, the amount of willpower required to maintain the balance is minimal.
Myth: Willpower is all I need.
Truth: Willpower is one component.
Imagine yourself running up a down escalator. You might get to the top – eventually; you might keep running and stay in the same place; or you might get fatigued and begin losing ground. Our behavior patterns – habits – are the escalator. Trying to run up a down escalator is trying to run against our habits. We have to adjust our habits (the elevator) in order to get it going UP along with us. Before we can overcome the habit,it’s helpful to get to the root of the behavior. With that understanding, it’s easier to break the bonds that keep us trapped or hold us back. Then, we can tap into the power of our will to overcome the behavior or belief and create a new behavior that is in keeping with what we are desirous of achieving. This also allows us to invite other resources – self-control, self-understanding – to assist our willpower.
Myth: Willpower is a tool.
Truth: Willpower is a combination of tool and technique.
Practice, practice, practice. Willpower resides in each of us . . . the key is knowing the access points. There is not just one way that is effective 100 percent of the time. We have various access points and, with practice, we can find the right combination. An example is looking at the success of Weight Watchers. Some people are successful at maintaining a healthy eating plan on their own, while others benefit from being part of a group where they gain support, encouragement and inspiration. Some other examples of technique are asking for help and being receptive to the suggestions, reading a book or studying with someone who has achieved what you want to achieve so you can benefit from their knowledge, journaling, meditating, exercise . . . what can you add to this list?
My intention for sharing this with you is to help you find the courage to keep looking when it feels like your willpower has abandoned you. Many options and avenues are available to you – keep looking until you find the combination that works for you. I love this quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson: “What lies behind you and what lies in front of you, pales in comparison to what lies inside of you.”
Go for it! Yes, you can, because you’re worth it!
“Most of life’s actions are within our reach, but decisions take willpower.” Robert McKee
Question to Ponder: How can more effectively tap into your willpower?
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