A Word about Willpower
We have Limited Willpower
This year, if you are an average person, you either didn’t make a New Year’s resolution, or by now, you have broken that resolution. Have you ever wondered why that is?
Why is it that no matter how resolved we are to change, we keep doing the same things over and over again and getting exactly the same results as we’ve always had? The answer is “willpower”. It is not that we don’t use our willpower, or that we don’t have willpower. Every one of us has willpower. The problem is that we don’t know how to use that willpower properly.
Have you ever noticed that after a particularly productive day or week, all you want to do afterwards is lounge around doing nothing? More and more research indicates that willpower is a muscle that gets fatigued from overwork. Resisting taking the easier path takes a mental toll on each of us until we can’t take it any longer. It is much easier to veg out in front of the television than it is to work on cleaning out the garage or writing the next chapter in your inspired tome. It’s easier to give into temptation than it is to fight those cravings.
What Studies Teach Us About Willpower
According to some studies, we have a certain amount of willpower every day. Once our willpower is used up, we don’t have it to do complicated things. I personally find that if I don’t write new material first thing in the morning, I have a more difficult time writing it later in the day. If I get up, resolve to write at least 375 words before breakfast, I can get into the flow quicker and more easily and be done with it.
Other studies have shown, however, this is not always the case. These studies tell us that there are other factors that may be involved. For instance, if someone is dieting is likely to be calorie deprived so when the willpower to not eat their favorite junk food these people have no control over what they put into their mouths.
The overriding discovery in the final analysis is that stress related to willpower seems to be the primary factor in failure, but altruistic desires seems to be keeps us going no matter what the stresses. I write in the morning because I have a deep personal desire to write every day. I don’t resist sweets because I want the sweets more than I want to feel deprived of those sweets. I don’t exercise because I don’t like the discomfort I feel after exercising, and that seems more important to me than having a lean body.
We want the final results, but we don’t want the side effects of getting to those results. So how do we better utilize the willpower that we have to do the things that we want to do, but at the same time we don’t want to do?
First we need to recognize (as I did above with eating and exercise) what it is that we want to accomplish and why it is that we are not doing it. By knowing why we don’t think we are likely to continue doing something is as important as knowing what we want to accomplish.
Determine How We Can Best Utilize Our Willpower
Next we look at how we can best utilize willpower to accomplish the goal we want to accomplish.
Here are some examples on how I can personally better utilize my willpower to accomplish my goals:
• To ensure that I write every day, I write first thing in the morning at the same time and in the same place.
• If I wanted to start to exercise more, I could determine that I will do exercise that is not going to make me uncomfortably sore.
• In order to help keep me from eating sweets, I can create a rewards system. If I go without eating any sweets for the next two weeks, I will reward myself with a hot fudge sundae.
• In order to become a full time writer, I need to determine every day what I should do toward that goal. Perhaps at the end of each work day, week, month, quarter, I should determine what it is that I need to do the next day that will help me reach that goal.
Depleted Willpower is Not Failure
If you ran out of milk, would you berate yourself for having to get more? Of course not! If you have the money and time you would simply get more. If you don’t, you likely would buy the milk when you did have the available time and resources to get it. Why then should you beat yourself up over having run out of willpower? You should stop looking at failure as part of who you are and looking at failure as an opportunity for self-discovery. We all fail. The difference between those who succeed and those who fail are those who get back up from a fall and learns from that fall keeps trying.
A Marathon, Not a Sprint
Will power is simply a measure of whether whatever you are doing it is is worth it to you or me. It also tells us that perhaps we should slow down and be easier on ourselves. It doesn’t matter whether it is losing weight, getting fit, quitting smoking or drinking, writing a book, or even writing for a living. I determine whether or not I will be successful in the long run. What is important is how I do to utilize my willpower and what I do when it gives out. If my willpower runs out today, soon it will return and rather than beating myself up for having failed, I have learned that I should understand how I allowed my willpower to become depleted and learn how to utilize it better.
Donna Brown is pastor at Faith in God Church 1 1/2 miles south of Brandsville, Missouri on Hwy 63. Sunday services are at 10 am and Wednesday night Bible Study at 6:30 pm. As Author Cygnet Brown, she has recently published her first nonfiction book: Simply Vegetable Gardening: Simple Organic Gardening Tips for the Beginning Gardener
She is also the author of historical fiction series The Locket Saga. which includes When God Turned His Head and Soldiers Don’t Cry, the Locket Saga Continues, and most recently, A Coward’s Solace, Book III of the Locket Saga.For more information about Cygnet Brown and her book, check out her website at http://www.cygnetbrow.com .
I prefer to think of myself as determined and not willful. 🙂 Sounds much better.
Perhaps its just semantics. Anyway, I hope that the article was somewhat beneficial to you.