Cultivating Willpower

Humans are their desires. The world you are living in has been created by the accumulation of your desires. You desire a house, you end up with a job that allows you to buy a house. UNLESS you have another desire that is interfering with your desire to have a house. For example, you may have a desire to live close to your parents or the opposite, far from your parents, and because you chose to live in the area you chose to live, you are struggling to find the work that will allow you the financial freedom to buy a house.

We are made up of thousands of desires and some are conflicting with others, some support some desires. Then we get into relationships with people and become influenced by their desires. Ughhh! It becomes a tangled web that can leave us travelling on autopilot, complaining about our circumstances rather than trying to disentangle the knots and actually discover freedom.

Autopilot is our habits. We get up in the morning and rather than consider what we really desire, we usually go for what we usually have. And then we continue this pattern of taking the path of less resistance all day and the next and then we wonder in disgust why our circumstances never seem to be changing.

You cannot keep doing the same thing and expect a different outcome.

It takes power to change the direction we have been going for quite a while. We cannot be in a relationship of discontent and complaining and suddenly expect it to be a great relationship without taking the Herculean effort of thinking about our partnership with gratitude and love… even when they annoy us. We cannot change the shape of our body without the effort of getting up and moving more or eating less — two things we do not desire.

Willpower is the force applied to do the things we do not desire to do.

To cultivate willpower, you have to practice by doing things you dislike .If you create the space to do that thing at the same time every day, for the same duration, it gets easier to do. Not because you have more willpower, but because you no longer waste your energy DECIDING if you should or shouldn’t, considering all the other things you could be doing. You Just Do It as Nike would say.

To have the will and determination to do something then is a choice, a mental choice. There are many things that influence our mind, but predominant is desire. The desire for the new choice must be greater than the memory or desire for the old choice.

Let’s use smoking or drug use as an example. The desire for the high is often greater than the desire to be clean. At least in the beginning. Gradually if the person can stay away from the substance long enough, the memory of the high has less power or pull on them and the memories of being happy and clean begin to measure up to the high experience. But at any time that the addict returns to the substance, they often then have to again cultivate a great deal of will to stop again.

Now I will use another example. During this COVID lockdown, I have created a strong relationship with Netflix shows. Right now, as I type this, I would rather be watching one of the many Netflix series I have devoured and enjoyed rather than writing this piece. In other words, I have a desire pulling me away from writing. In fact, I have gotten up numerous times with little things to do, like let the dog out, get something to snack on, get something to drink. My desire to STOP writing is driving my desire for a distraction.

But here I am still writing because I also have a desire to get back to writing something meaningful and helpful to others. I cannot write something helpful and meaningful by spending my time watching Netflix. Right now it is late afternoon, this is when my workday typically ends and I can switch on Netflix, or an audiobook if I am on the move. I have a habit of writing in the morning. I get up, make a cup of coffee and write for about 30 minutes or more each morning. I am not looking for distractions then, because I have been doing it long enough it is a habit.

So this is just an introduction to willpower. I will cover more about willpower in future pieces, including, the biggest killer of our will… ourselves.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store