Elements of our drive for success can seem more innate than the strongest of minds would suggest. But in our quest to maximize our productivity, we might quickly lose sight of the fact that willpower is a dynamic, holistic resource with infinite balance in its governing framework. For example, many of us already know that willpower is limited. When I'm in a short temper or the urge to lose weight beckons, there's no denying that the urge is powerfully strong. But just when the urge stops, so does the strength of willpower.
As powerful as impulsivity may be, other sources of willpower also play vital roles. Emotions such as happiness, sadness, and surprise all activate willpower and motivate our actions. Undoubtedly, most of us can more easily deal with frustration than depression. A study by Professor Robert Sapolsky from Stanford University found that a person can be "checked out" of the accomplishment of a long-term goal only when they have felt at least a moment of pleasure (rather than pure boredom). They see the work as a temporary experience. Just as an emotional experience is transient, so too is a moment of willpower. Even sitting on the edge of a cliff has its own power.
We make use of our will all the time, even if we realize it to be mostly ineffectual. When working with clients, we don't always promote the power of will with specific strategies. Yet in times of extreme tension, weakness, and depletion, it is our physical presence that sets the tone, giving us a measure of control. This is not the same as exhibiting willpower in a toned-down fashion or being depressed. This is the difference between a temporary deficiency and actual mental deficiency.
Emotions such as happiness, sadness, and surprise all activate willpower and motivate our actions.
Even willpower fatigue can play a role in our energy performance. Experts refer to a slow decline in stamina, which can occur between 10% and 20% in each of the first two weeks of a demanding exercise program. The drop in endurance can be as much as 70%. With willpower, the decreases aren't nearly as sharp. You may feel ready for a walk after a few months, but without effort, in only a few weeks you're out the door on the treadmill and will miss your first class. Given this subtle effect, certain tactics can be as effective as very hard-hitting training regimens.
If it's all seems so difficult, it can be difficult not to strive. But whatever we accomplish, we must exercise all sides of our will power: smooth, successful, and productive, as well as efficient and effective. We gain the ability to choose from these with the same vigor we would choose from muscles.
Most of the sources of willpower can be used efficiently and effectively.
What is the most valuable aspect of your willpower? Is it your body? Is it your mind? Are you more disciplined in a high-stress situation than in a lower-stress one? No doubt you can draw upon and utilize these powers when you find that the stress levels have risen. When this happens, it will be important to channel your will power to pump up your will power and strive to survive rather than to survive and then rise up again. With consistent effort, you might reach a point where you no longer need your will power. In fact, there could be little point in maintaining it.
We often find our will power using resources like willpower with limited or no bandwidth. In my research on energy, energy depletion, and willpower, I learned that we can tap into more of our source by utilizing a wider range of useable resources. The secret is in harnessing these energy supplies in such a way that they become relatively self-consistent as well as unbreakable.
Indeed, in the end, willpower doesn't always matter. It depends on what your use and misuse of willpower look like. The more time you take to use it, the more powerful and sustainable its use becomes. Ultimately, without willpower we can never overcome the choices that stand between us and our goals.