Willpower 101

All week this week I had multiple discussions in the groups that I do about making changes in life and making sure to meet those unmet needs so that you don’t return to old behaviors or addictions.  In this discussion somewhere around the 2nd out of 8 groups the magic word ((WILLPOWER)) *read that with a huge echo in your head* came into play.  Aha!  I thought some of them are getting it!  They have figured out a concept that relates to making change.  The catch is this, how do I get it if I don’t got it???????

The discussion ensued about how they felt they had no willpower and that is why they couldn’t overcome this hurdle and make change.  To which I threw the question out, is willpower something one is born with something that is innate (from within you) or learned?  The collective brainpower we had and the discussions led us to believe that the answer was a resounding yes.  In fact we have some amount of willpower in us, that is how we are able to not make all of our choices bad choices, we may make a fair share of bad choices, but I have not met anyone who has made every single decision a bad one.  The other half of the coin is that we also (hopefully) learn some willpower as we grow.

For instance as a kid we might have been the kid that got a ton of candy and downed it all in one sitting, leading us to get sick.  Now depending on how mature you are you say to yourself, I feel awful and don’t want to do that again and you learn.  This is the beginning of willpower, because willpower is that ability learned and innate to tell yourself no when you need to.  That’s all it is…as the adults around kids we know they don’t have it figured out yet so we hopefully step in and tell them no in an effort to help them learn.  Sometimes we might choose to let natural consequences teach them willpower So how do we learn willpower as an adult?

  • Practice saying no to yourself– it will not kill you to say no to yourself on occasion, I promise.  If you find that you want to say get on Facespace all the time, practice willpower by choosing to not get on it for at least one night.  Something pretty painless that you can tell yourself no about.
  • Focus on the motivation– take a look at what you will gain if you start exercising willpower.  I don’t just mean fitting into your skinny jeans, but the true power that comes from being able to not be controlled by an object or a habit.  If you want to loose weight or stop smoking the true motivation should be the way you will feel when you achieve that goal.  The freedom and independence that might come from it (i.e. I choose to eat healthier so that my body will keep me alive, active, and healthy for years to come; I choose to stop smoking so that I can walk and breathe without using oxygen).
  • Weigh the pros and cons– if you are uncertain weigh the pros for doing something and the cons for it.  Pros for ice cream it tastes great and I enjoy it; cons for it I can’t stop at one scoop, it affects my blood sugar, and I regret and mentally beat myself up afterwards for doing it.
  • Remember it’s only uncomfortable for a little bit– making a habit change and learning to say no to yourself is really only uncomfortable for awhile.  As you go along you start to realize that that substance/habit wasn’t all it was cracked up to be and life NOW is much better than it was before.

Whether you realize it or not most people have an area where they are able to exercise willpower so when you feel like you can’t and you are powerless remember this: you are not powerless you are practicing and in your practice you will develop true strength.  The real POWER lies in setting that food, cigarette, habit, or other substance down and not picking it back up again.

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