“I wish I had your will power,” people often tell me when they see me at the gym or read my writing. “So, what’s the problem?” I ask. They list a multitude of excuses for why they lack motivation. “I’m lazy,” “I put things off,” “I have adult ADD,” “I’m too busy,” “I’ll do it when I’m on vacation and not stressed,” or “I’ll start after vacation.” I wish I were as inventive as some of the excuses I have heard. All these responses started me thinking. What is will power anyway? Apparently, it is the vast wasteland between I will and I won’t.
There is great truth to the phrase the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak
. People always associate will power with the mind, the powerful mind. This is the heart of the problem because will power is driven from both the mind and the body. When the body is stressed, positive, proactive thinking is undermined. You feel tired, hungry, anxious, tense, achy or sad. How can you have will power at this time? However, you will find that when you eat nutritious food and rest a bit, your perception changes and you are willing and able to take a sustainable action toward your goal. Once your body feels stronger and you are not emotionally depleted, you are in a better frame of mind to stay focused and in charge of what you want to accomplish.
While a sound body will support a sound mind, and is an important first step, you need to strengthen your spirit to seal the deal. The next step is to create resonance
. Whatever you desire to achieve whether it is weight loss, quitting smoking, exercising, pursuing a higher degree or dating again, you need to reflect if what you wish is in harmony with your inner self.
Do you really want to achieve this goal? Or is this a goal that:
- You believe you “should” pursue
- Your parents always wanted for you
- You feel pressured to achieve because of competition with friends and neighbors
When you are in harmony with yourself, you will be eager to complete any goal which you genuinely want because it is your heart’s desire. On the other hand, you lack will power because subconsciously you really don’t want to change the status quo. You might be getting some reward even from a bad habit. For example, some of us pity ourselves and enjoy playing the sympathy card. “Poor me, I can’t meet any good men as they all seem to be taken. I’ll just have to fill my empty heart with this rich, creamy ice cream.”
Ultimately, where there is a (real) will, there is a (flexible) way which is not postponed. You must put one foot in front of the other to achieve reasonable goals. “Wow, I lost a pound in two weeks by taking a fifteen minute walk every day. This is terrific. I can do this. Not only did I lose a pound, but also, I didn’t gain any weight!” “I didn’t sit home alone this weekend. I went to a café and watched people come and go the way they do in Europe. An interesting man sitting at a nearby table started talking to me and we had so much in common. We are going to meet at the café next Sunday afternoon.”
Whether you will or you won’t, doesn’t depend on picking the petals off a daisy and seeing if the last remaining petal corresponds to the positive or negative version of your intention. You possess the power to answer Hamlet’s timeless question: To be or not to be? For most of the play Hamlet wavered and couldn’t commit. As a result, he over-reacted, exploded and lost the love of his life. You don’t want to end up like Hamlet! Choose a different story.
Debbie Mandel, MA is the author of Changing Habits: The Caregivers' Total Workout
and Turn On Your Inner Light: Fitness for Body, Mind and Soul,
a stress-reduction specialist, motivational speaker, a personal trainer and mind/body lecturer. She is the host of the weekly Turn On Your Inner Light Show on WGBB AM1240 in New York City , produces a weekly wellness newsletter, and has been featured on radio/ TV and print media. To learn more visit: www.turnonyourinnerlight.com