Three Problems With Relying On Will-Power

“We may think there is willpower involved, but more likely… change is due to want power. Wanting the new addiction more than the old one. Wanting the new me in preference to the person I am now” (George A. Sheehan).

For a lot of people – at a time, myself included – willpower seems like a great part of our personalities and like a trustworthy resource to help us achieve our goals.

It feels like our desire to achieve something is our willpower acting up keeping us motivated to feel success and accomplishment.

In truth, willpower doesn’t act in the way we want it to or believe it does.


Willpower Is Miscredited

Willpower is considered how much we indulge ourselves and how strong our drive to achieve something is when in reality, that’s not willpower at all.

We can credit our want to change and our motivation to better ourselves to… ourselves. Willpower isn’t some force getting us to keep on our best intentions and keeping our minds open to new possibilities.

If we wanted to do something, we pushed ourselves to do that thing, willpower is only the feeling that we want to do something.

Willpower is the energy behind us when we wake up and want to tackle the day.

It’s necessary and it’s a good thing to have willpower, but it can’t be the thing attributed to your success. It’s only the non-lasting effect of getting you to feel energized that you, as someone who wants to see results, decides to put it in the spot you believe it matters most.

Crediting willpower to success is like saying, I couldn’t have finished that paper without Starbucks. Yea, that sounds funny and to some essence, feels truthful. But did coffee and caffeine really write the paper?


Willpower Isn’t Infinite

Willpower is essentially our fuel tank. It’s our drive to do something, but to do anything doesn’t mean it’s always good in intention.

“According to psychological research, your willpower is like a muscle. It’s a finite resource that depletes with us. As a result, by the end of your strenuous days, your willpower muscles are exhausted and you’re left to your naked and defenseless self” (Benjamin P. Hardy).

Hardy’s fully article on Inc.

I really recommend reading the article above because Hardy talks about how willpower works; if it shapes what we want, shapes how we do things, and how it is overall misconceived in it’s relation to ourselves.

Considering willpower is a deplete-able resource, something in our minds that we do physically and mentally run out of, how can that be attributed to our success? We have to work to satisfy willpower by using it sparingly to our advantage before it runs out.

In relation to this, willpower doesn’t refresh just by hoping it will while we are using it. Knowing there’s an amount of it makes it a lot clearer as to why willpower can be almost limiting to our success.

Its misleading name and relation to motivation make willpower feel like a wonderful asset, when in reality it has been what holds us back because of the limitations inside of itself.

Another way to imagine this, is if you had an idea for a great website. You start working on it the moment you wake up and continue to do so for a couple days. Your willpower starts to run out, so even after it’s been made and looks great, you’re tired from focusing your energy on something. You may want to keep working, and even have ideas to further the website, but you have run out of mental strength and energy to keep working.

Willpower is limiting in this view because it may fuel productivity, but that doesn’t mean it will endlessly fuel it.


Focusing On Willpower Doesn’t Improve Conflict Resolution

“Successful weight loss takes programming, not willpower” (Phil McGraw).

Willpower isn’t developed or part of our personality, it’s simply the feeling of wanting to accomplish something.

Even though we may think it, we don’t actually rely on willpower to get something done. It’s just what can give us the energy to do it.

It’s good for it’s purpose, but relying on it doesn’t get us anywhere further than where we already are.

Because willpower is essentially energy, and having more energy doesn’t lead us to learn anything, it doesn’t always benefit us in a positive way.

Our willpower builds up and nags at us to bring it out. If we waste the chance to put it somewhere useful, it will deplete again and result in wasted potential energy.

We are the ones that overcome our obstacles, not through sheer willpower, but through thought and conflict resolution within ourselves.

It’s interesting to think about. How willpower is seen as some sort of force for how we improve upon ourselves, when in truth, we are the optimistic ones creating our own path following what we believe is right with willpower acting as our fuel.


3 thoughts on “Three Problems With Relying On Will-Power

Add yours

    1. No, I haven’t heard of that actually. Though reading the descriptions on amazon, it definitely seems like something I’d be interested in! I think acknowledging that “Willpower is a mind-body response, not a virtue.” is really insightful and important.

      Liked by 1 person

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