“Purpose, energy, power to do, and all strong thoughts cease when doubt and fear creep in. The will to do springs from the knowledge that we can do. Doubt and fear are the great enemies of knowledge, and he who encourages them, who does not slay them, thwarts himself at every step. He who has conquered doubt and fear has conquered failure. His every thought is allied with power, and all difficulties are bravely met and wisely overcome. His purposes are seasonably planted, and they bloom and bring forth fruit which does not fall prematurely to the ground.” As A Man Thinketh, 1902, James Allen
I have had the honor of witnessing many people make great changes in life over the last few years. I have seen numerous individuals lose significant amounts of weight and keep it off, others overcome addictions, depression, and anxiety; and still others grow into confident, fulfilled, and truly happy individuals with purpose in life. It is always beautiful and I know how hard significant change can be. Fear and doubt still crept in but each individual who made significant change were able to stop the “encouragement of doubt” and slay any belief that the goal could not be attained. They did not use willpower to resist the lifelong desire to place barriers in the way of goals but rather began a mission of moving toward something to improve all aspects of life. They did not fight against the temptations with willpower because it does not work.
No More Willpower
If you search “willpower is a limited resource” on the internet you will find many articles and journals that show this to be true, including an article from the American Psychological Association (APA). From my earliest memories I have been told to “have the willpower” to resist things that were not in my best interests and I failed miserably at that. I liked some of the things (too much) I hoped to have the willpower to resist. It was when I and the others who have made significant change realized that “moving toward” a goal with ALL OF OUR ENERGY works so much better than “fighting against a temptation.” I used to get told by family that I love that I “did not have enough willpower” to resist the temptations that led to unhealthy outcomes. AND THEY WERE RIGHT! They were being critical but I know now that they were also being scientific. Many of us who struggle to make the best health choices on a consistent basis may have experienced a lack of willpower when faced with an unhealthy temptation. So how does someone reach significant goals and not use traditional willpower? There are things that I have seen both in research and in person that people who have made significant changes in life do:
- They give full energy to the goal. When doubt, fear, unhealthy distractions, or other “failure based” things creep into an over-comers mind, they are quick to refocus on how change is possible. “Giving energy” to how I am going to be successful today will lead to success. Do not fight against but instead move towards. It is a better use of willpower.
- They take full responsibility. Each person no longer places blame on environments, genetics, or physical limitations due to age or ailment. They learn to lessen exterior controls and strengthen interior controls. This does not mean they use willpower. Instead each person becomes more present in the way they respond to exterior events in life. “It does not matter what happens to us in a day. Only how we respond matters. Respond by moving toward good health!”
- They are open to feedback from qualified people. Many of us have felt shame from others because of a lack of willpower. We also have shamed ourselves when we could not resist a temptation or reach a personal goal. We have developed an exterior sensitivity to the feedback of others because of this that has led to defensiveness and impulsive reactions. FORGIVE YOURSELF AND OTHERS! It is so important to receive feedback from people who can help you in the area of growth you are seeking. Be open to the feedback even if it is a constructive criticism. Learn to learn from those before you. Use interior sensitivity to manage the way you respond. Stay calm, listen, and let your ego go.
- Each has learned how to fail. This may sound crazy but the people who have made significant changes learn how to manage failure differently than in the past. While many of us have been taught that failure is bad, a lack of willpower is bad, and we should always get straight A’s, people who make significant change often see failure as something that is beneficial. They learn from experience, keep moving toward the goal they are seeking, and every time they fall off of the wagon they GET RIGHT BACK ON! Instead of giving up after a couple of tries, they continue to fight for the life they are seeking. KEEP MOVING FORWARD!
Most of us have seen children as they are learning how to walk. Often the children will fall down as they perfect the art of placing one foot in front of the other. All children are different but the ones that I have seen for the most part did not give up on walking. They continued to move forward with the goal of walking. They wanted to walk and nothing could have stopped them. We all have that from the time we are born. Please use your will to move toward the goal you are seeking. Keep your reason for the goal in the forefront of your mind. Have people in your life that will give you nonjudgmental feedback. Stay resilient. BE YOUR OWN MIRACLE!