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The Power of Will

June 27, 2011

In my work as a life coach, the topic of willpower comes up a lot.  Everyone wants more of it.  Most people feel they lack it.  It is often blamed for many of the failings in our lives.  We think – if I just had more willpower, I could….

Finally lose that weight
Exercise more
Eat healthier
Stop spending money I don’t have
Quit smoking

Willpower becomes the scapegoat for all our shoulds, coulds, and mighthavebeens.  It is treated as some external source of motivation, inspiration, or call to action, separate from us and yet a part of how we judge ourselves and other people.  But what it really is, at the end of the day, is a way to assign blame for our shortcomings and to make excuses for the things we want to do or feel obligated to do that we never actually choose to do.

We are all waiting around for willpower to magically grace us with its presence, to come into our lives and help us be committed and motivated and inspired to do things.  Recent life events have helped me to see the difference between willpower and the power of will.  One leaves us empty and wanting and one fills us up and helps us on our journey to becoming whole.

Several months ago, I signed up to participate with my son in his school’s charity walk-a-thon.  It was a 5 mile course and my three-months-ago mind said, sure, sign me up!  It isn’t like it was tomorrow, I have months and having to walk 5 miles would definitely help me find the willpower to start walking and getting some exercise.  I filled out the form, wrote it on the calendar, thought about making sure I started walking everyday….and then, life got in the way.

The night before the walk, I found myself coming up with reason after reason supporting my panicked thought that overweight, out-of-shape me should definitely not be walking 5 miles, I mean it was practically a health risk.  It was supposed to be really hot.  I hadn’t slept well that week and was really just too tired.  I needed to spend that time working to make up for lost time earlier in the week.  I didn’t have any shorts that fit and it was simply too hot for pants.  The pollen was really getting to me and I didn’t want to risk aggravating my allergies.  The “reasons” went on and on.

When I broke the news to my son, offering up all the perfectly justifiable reasons I was choosing not to go, he just looked at me and said “Mom, you have to go, you signed up which means you are a chaperone and if we don’t have enough chaperones, we won’t be able to do the walk and the charity won’t get the money.”

With his words, all my reasons fell away.


About a mile into the walk, somewhere along the path through the woods between Little Fenway and JP China, I started to understand why willpower always let me down.  I found that what I really needed was the power of will.

This is the power that allows you to stand at the base of an impossible mountain, say “I will climb this mountain!”, and then actually climb the mountain.  You are not climbing to gain some prize at the summit.  You are not climbing because it is what you should do.  Neither of those will keep you going when things get hard.  You are climbing it because you made the decision to climb that mountain and then you decided to take that first step.  And with every step, every breath, every ache, you decided again.  When those moments came when it felt like you could not possibly keep going, when breath and strength and willpower had all abandoned you, you pushed aside pain and discomfort, quieted your mind, and decided again.  That is the power of will.

In that moment, I understood.  Maybe for the first time in my life, I understood why willpower will never help me shed the extra pounds, save more money in the emergency fund, and why it was never enough to help me quit smoking.

Willpower, is for wanters and wishers who are waiting around for the hard things to be easy.

Stop waiting.  Stop wishing.  Stop wanting.

For a free consultation on how I can help, call today or email me.

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