(and Other Truths About Stress Management)
Well, the title got your attention I bet. Maybe because you know it’s true: willpower does suck.
I used to respond eagerly when a book or a seminar speaker insisted I use my willpower to change something in my life. I jumped right in and ignored my discomfort and kept assuring myself, “This is going to work this time!” But as I worked to change something, whether it was stress, weight loss, or dealing with conflict, I found over and over again that willpower didn’t work.
I’ve met too many people in my stress management practice who are disillusioned and feeling like failures because they didn’t have “the willpower.” I believe that anyone reading this article is doing so because they are hoping that there is some component they missed or some key to unlocking this thing commonly called “willpower.” But you didn’t miss anything and I am not going to be providing you with this “key.”
Because I do not find willpower to be a useful force---just a stress-producing one. So what do I consider useful when I want to make changes in my life? Simply and truthfully put: Wanting it.
If I want to create a fabulous new website, or write an article, or even just workout, there is no laziness, no resistance, no procrastination. I can’t wait to get started, in fact. So whenever I come up against an activity or task that I don’t want to do, I don’t force myself through “will” or “power”, but find a way to change my mind about it until I want to do it. If I can’t find a way to change my mind, then I come to terms with the reality that the avoided activity may not be for me…despite its current popularity or scientific validity.
This changing of my mind is not a superficial thing or just going through the motions or even mental scolding. It is what Dr. Stephen Covey of 'The Seven Habits'
fame calls a “paradigm shift.” It’s an internal communication with myself about the beliefs, information, or values that I hold that may be blocking my true desires.
If I’ve decided in one part of my mind (the conscious part) that this task is important to do, but another part of my mind (the subconscious part) is hating the idea, then I’m going to have a situation that produces procrastination, guilt, worry, and is generally not a lot of fun. So what I need to do is take the time to look at what my beliefs are that keep me from doing what my intellect/conscious mind says is a good thing.
For instance, if I don’t want to workout, what could possibly be keeping me from doing so? With all the compelling and downright convincing information available on working out, why would I inwardly groan and fight it? And this is exactly what I ask myself, “Why don’t you want to run?” And then I sit a minute and wait. Not for the first answer, but for the second--and even the third answer.
The first answer may be, “Because it’s not fun” or “It’s gonna hurt and I’m going to get all sweaty.” But the second and third answers are more like: “You are going to lose weight and then have to buy new clothes” and then “You are going to look kinda cute if you keep up this jogging business. Are you ready for that?”
So once I reconcile these different voices, I see where my conflicting beliefs are and I can change my mind. The only way to do this is by getting quiet, asking myself what the conflict is, and then listening to my thoughts as answers.
What If That Doesn't Work?
And if I choose not to run after all? I don’t create stress by beating myself up if I choose not to go. I just accept it as part of the process of getting my intellect and my impulses reconciled. My conscious and my subconscious are at odds again. And neither is wrong. I just don’t want it more then I do want it at the moment. This can change too. It’s up to me and only up to me.
When I want it, it will happen. How do I know I don’t want it? Because it’s not happening. A lack of willpower has nothing to do with it.
Desires Are Life’s Clues
If we take this thing called lack of willpower a step further, we see that what’s really there is a lack of desire. And with this lack, wouldn’t it be worth a little of your time and effort to examine WHY there is no true desire? With desire comes the want to act. Without it, we exert our heads (or our egos, our need for approval) over many other equally-strong factors. No wonder stress is produced.
But, uh oh, here comes more stress, for we are not supposed to honor our desires. This is selfish. This is hedonism. This will lead to destructiveness. And the stress just keeps on comin’ as we battle ourselves mentally over “should I or shouldn’t I?” throughout the day. We see ourselves never getting out of bed again or perhaps quitting our jobs and watching our families slide into financial ruin.
But these behaviors aren’t anyone’s truest desire. We are misguided in thinking that these actions would give us what we really want. The problem isn’t our desires, it’s that we have shoved our real desires and thoughts way back onto a mental shelf that has created strong impulses that look nothing like our original and truest heartfelt wishes.
In the “Yoga of Eating” Charles Einstein says of dieting, “The problem is not desire, it is desire denied….just as television does not actually bring us into intimate relationship with the characters on screen, neither can food ever satisfy our deep need for self-love, for excitement, or to live a life we care about passionately. All it can do is to numb the hurting that the unmet need or unfulfilled desire generates. That is why willpower eventually fails when we try to hold ourselves to a diet. It fails because underneath the cravings there is a real, unmet need.”
The need for willpower is a statement that we are trying to meet a need incorrectly. That is why we must force ourselves. Willpower is brute force placed on us by us. To suggest willpower as a method for reaching our desires asks us to act as mindless oxen against ourselves. Strap on the workout shoes (yoke) and force our heads downward and run, run, run that stress away!
Admittedly, we are training ourselves effectively enough to withstand more punishment with this regime brought on by “willpower”, but is it any wonder that we lack the natural desire to get up every day and REPEAT it? That we must force ourselves to move our bodies in a way that our entire self does not embrace?
If I am sure on one level--my conscious mind--that I want to do something like exercise more, then I must ask what part of me does not want it (if it isn’t coming easily and joyfully). If “will” is lacking, I ask the question “Why don’t I really want this?” instead of forcing myself to do it anyway. I try another way: sitting, asking and listening.
This was not always easy for me. I found that I just hurried about and kept very busy, so I wouldn’t hear myself thinking. If I kept things frantic and complicated, then I wouldn’t need to slow down and figure out what was going on with me. I know many people reading this article are having a little “a-ha” moment as they recognize themselves in these words. Many people do this their entire lives without any awareness of this process.
You don’t need willpower. You just need to find a way to figure out what you really want. And the way I did that, was by learning to slow it down, ask, and then listen. And Holosync provided that ability. It's called instant meditation. I don’t know any other way to give you the answers except to relay my own experience. This is what worked for me, and I have no intention of keeping this information to myself. I don’t want some advantage over others. I want everyone to enjoy their lives. And for that to be even a remote possibility, I hope people start to learn more about Holosync. Read more about this on the Binaural Beats page on this site for more information, and some freebies, for this truly remarkable technology.
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