When people think about willpower, they usually imagine forcing themselves to do what they don’t want to do.
“I don’t want to get up early to exercise, but I guess I should.”
“I’d really like another glass of wine, but I’m going to force myself to say no.”
“I friggin’ hate my job, but I have to make myself do it, otherwise I won’t be able to pay the bills.”
Sigh. It’s depressing, isn’t it?
But what if I told you that willpower has nothing to do with force or unpleasantness? What if willpower’s best-kept secret is to go after whatever you want?
I don’t mean going after the 3 big O’s: Doritos, Fritos, and Cheetos. I don’t mean going after sloth or gluttony or any of those habits that hurt our health and get us into trouble.
I’m talking about going for the things in life that your heart wants and that your soul yearns for.
What? What my heart wants? What my soul yearns for? What kind of mumbo-jumbo new-age garbage is this?
That’s what our ego says. Our egos really, really, really care what people think of us. Our egos want us to play safe. Our egos want us to stay in the parent-approved career. Our egos want us to dress to fit in. Our egos want us to stay small and inconspicuous so that we can’t be judged or criticized.
The ego is the enemy of your heart and soul. The ego keeps you from getting to know who you really are, because what if who you really are is risky or unpopular or loud and daring, or what if who you really are is something you aren’t right now? What if you listened to your heart, and you had to turn your life upside down in order to grant your heart’s wishes?
It’s not convenient to listen to your heart. It feels downright dangerous to your ego to shake up the status quo and potentially go against the grain.
But your heart is going to rebel if you don’t listen. You wake up one day and realize that you’re living a life of quiet desperation. You realize that you don’t know who you really are or what would actually make you happy, and worse, you’re afraid it might be too late to find out.
You try to stuff down these feelings of dissatisfaction and inadequacy with chips or TV or beers or Facebook, and endless internet surfing and media consumption and hanging out and making small talk, anything to shut off those feelings that something isn’t quite right.
Then you wrestle with concerns about your health: “Gotta get in shape, gotta get back on the diet, gotta go back to the gym, gotta stop sitting around so much,” but all that talk is just another way to ignore your heart.
The number one secret to willpower that no one ever talks about? Listen to your heart. Figure out who you are. Learn what it is you love to do. No, no, I don’t mean what shows you like to watch. I mean, what do you like to do with yourself. What do you like to create? What activities do you yearn to immerse yourself in?
Maybe it’s painting, but you think, Ain’t no one got time for that mess! Nothing will come of it!
Maybe you like to cook, but you think, I’m too tired from work. Who wants to scrub all those pans when I’m done?
That’s your ego’s job, to offer those excuses to avoid doing what you love and to keep you from actually living a fulfilled life.
I don’t know what you like to do. It’s possible even you don’t know what you like to do. But if you listen to heart and soul, and try a few things out while you shut down your ego’s excuses, you’ll get closer and closer.
It’s by listening to your inner yearnings first and then by doing—by experiencing life, really getting out there and trying a few things—that we start to understand who we are and what it is that makes us feel happy and alive. And when that happens, you start to realize, willpower who? I’m just doing what I love. I don’t have time to force myself to do things. I want to take care of my body because I enjoy being here on this Earth. I want to live, and I want to live well, and so I’m going to stop ignoring myself and my inner most desires.
And to other people, that looks like willpower. To you, it’s just doing what you know makes you happy.