Let’s Talk About Willpower

Willpower – something that stops us from lying in bed all day with our laptops, right?

It is no secret that the majority of people have certain mandatory responsibilities, whether it be work, university, school, children or even just grocery shopping. It is also no secret that the majority of people tend to feel lazy – some more than others. This is why humans are equipped with this mysterious magic weapon by the name of “willpower”.

Since willpower is intangible, it cannot be observed by the naked eye. Nonetheless, its consequences are always visible; the university student sighs, hits the off button on their alarm clock, gets up, makes coffee, gets into the shower and proceeds to crawl to their morning lecture. Although they don’t always want to hear about Macroeconomics at 9 am, they know it’s mandatory, so they gather all of their remaining willpower and go.

Based on the slightly odd description above, it can be concluded that willpower forces us to do the things we don’t want to do and stops us from doing the things we do want to do (Google seems to agree with me). However, I personally did not require any background analysis to understand the concept since I’ve been in an unstable relationship with my own willpower for the majority of my life.

They say that willpower is like a muscle – it can be trained. At first, it seems strange to refer to something intangible as a “muscle”, but this statement actually makes perfect sense. Let’s think about it; although the majority of people seem to have the basic level of willpower that forces them to complete mandatory tasks (except for that kid who has more fails than passes, or that one friend googling how much strippers make because “I’m done, I just can’t get up for work in the morning!”), there seem to be several levels to  this “invisible muscle”:

1) Willpower Base – forces us to do the most mandatory tasks, such as survival, education, work, looking after our children etc.

2) Trained Willpower – forces us to do the tasks that are not mandatory, but improve quality of life, such as exercising, following a (more or less) healthy diet, maintaining a good social circle, working on self-development through hobbies and interests etc.

3) Higher-Level Willpower – forces us to be in control of our feelings and emotions; gives us the ability to rule our minds by (almost instantly) dismissing negative thoughts and encouraging positive ones, allows us to drastically change what we don’t like about our personalities through repeated mental training.

Now, these three levels shouldn’t be taken as a confirmed theory; these are just my suggestions, and how I visualize the concept. What concerns my position; I suppose I’m still working on the second level. Although the third level is the most challenging, I believe it is easier to successfully transition from the second to the third rather than from the first to the second.

Last night, I decided to do that activity where you write down a list of your problems and then include a rational solution under each one. And you know what? I was somewhat amazed to see that all of my problems could be solved via stronger willpower. Don’t get me wrong; the concept itself isn’t going to eliminate all possible issues in one day, but it is a crucial element to completing the required steps of every solution. Since I don’t want this post to be personal, let’s consider a hypothetical example:

Jane weighs 95 kilograms (not a pseudonym – I’m 55). Although she is pretty heavy, she is not suffering from any health issues and her doctor told her that as long as she doesn’t gain any more weight, it is unlikely that any issues will arise in the near future. Therefore, it is not mandatory for her to lose weight. However, Jane is still unhappy; she feels unconfident in her skin, suffers from fatigue on a daily basis, and finds herself unable to walk up a flight of stairs without losing her breath. Now, if my hypothetical woman only possesses the first level of willpower, she will stay at her current weight, since all of the current problems related to it are not completely detrimental to her existence. However, if Jane masters the second level, it is likely that she will find herself 30 kilograms lighter by this time next year. Why? Because she will use that willpower to improve her diet, take part in regular exercises, make healthier choices and so on.

And you know what the funniest thing is? Getting to the second level isn’t hard. We’ve convinced ourselves into thinking that training our willpower is unpleasant and difficult, but it really shouldn’t be when considered from a step-by-step perspective. Going back to my example, it seems much harder to make lifestyle changes that will allow one to dr

I don’t know about you, but this seems pretty mind-blowing. I mean, think about how many people would achieve their goals via stronger willpower by taking it one step at a time instead of considering them on a grander scale. Doing a bit of extra math every day instead of constantly reminding yourself that you need an A by the end of the semester is more likely to get you that A, because now you are less overwhelmed. Willpower training is just like a good work-out: if you view it as a chore, yet expect outstanding results, you’re not going to get anywhere. I know it sounds cliché, but (for the most part), we are in control of achieving whatever we want; the only thing to remember is that we should learn how to channel our willpower in the right way.

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