By now some of the new goals we nobly aspired to reach may have melted away. “I wish I had your will power,” people often tell me when they see me at the gym or read my writing. “So, what’s the problem?” They list a multitude of excuses for why they can’t stay on track. “I’m lazy,” “I procrastinate,” “I have adult ADHD,” “I’m too busy.” I wish I were as inventive as all these excuses. At the first sign of stress, we relapse into our old habits. But why can’t we implement? Is it because at the root of our goals lies the need to impress others?
What is will power anyway? Apparently, it is the vast wasteland between I will and I won’t.
There is great truth to the phrase the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. People always associate will power with the mind, the powerful mind. This is the problem right here because will power is driven from both the mind and the body. When the body is stressed, positive, proactive thinking is undermined. You feel tired, hungry, tense, or achy. How can you have will power at this time? However, you will find that when you eat nutritious food and rest a bit, your perception changes and you are willing and able to take a sustainable action toward your goal.
While a sound body will support a sound mind, an important first step, you need to strengthen your spirit to seal the deal. The next step is to create resonance. Whatever you desire to achieve whether it is weight loss, quitting smoking, exercising, pursuing a higher degree or dating again, you need to reflect if what you wish is in harmony with your inner self.
Do you really want to achieve this goal? Or is this a goal that you:
- Believe you “should” pursue
- Feel pressured to achieve for status
Most people need accountability and cheer leaders for a change to take hold. How about becoming accountable to yourself? This means you are not losing weight because the media makes you feel fat or doing volunteer work to make impress others with your kindness.
Interesting, when your goal is internally driven, the accompanying perk is better health. For example, many women are self-silencers. They do not speak up during a marital spat or ask the boss for a raise. Instead, at the first sign of conflict they tiptoe around the house or the office trying to keep the peace, suppressing their feelings and thoughts. Now if a self-silencer commits to expressing her true feelings, she will improve her health at the same time. The famous ten-year Framingham research study on cardiovascular health discovered this striking fact: Women who kept their feelings to themselves during conflicts had a four times greater risk of dying. At the very least they were more likely to suffer from depression and irritable bowel syndrome as summarized in the Harvard Women’s Health Watch (Jan., 2008). So, if you are a self-silencer, by making a commitment to expressing your truth, you will create better health for both your mind and body as a bonus benefit.
When you are in harmony with yourself, you will be eager to complete any goal which you genuinely want because it is your heart’s desire. On the other hand, you lack will power because subconsciously you really don’t want to change the status quo. You might be getting some reward from a bad habit. For example, some of us pity ourselves and enjoy playing the sympathy card. “Poor me, I can’t meet any good men; they’re all taken. I’ll just have to fill my empty heart with this rich, creamy ice cream.”
Ultimately, where there is a (real) will, there is a (flexible) way which is not postponed. You just put one foot in front of the other toward reasonable goals. “Wow, I lost a pound in two weeks by taking a fifteen minute walk every day. I can do this. “I didn’t sit home alone this weekend. I went to a café and watched people come and go the way they do in Europe. An interesting man sitting at a nearby table started talking to me - we had so much in common. We are going to meet at the café next Sunday afternoon.” Does anyone need a life coach, a nutritionist, a personal trainer or a therapist to take a vacation in Tuscany? I rest my case.
To make sure that you stay committed to your new goal take a weekly inventory to evaluate what is working for you and what isn’t. This way you are avoiding the huge gap of January to January. Sunday night is a great time for evaluation and tweaking as you are planning out your new week which gives you a weekly opportunity for a fresh start: Happy New Week!
Whether you will or you won’t, doesn’t depend on picking the petals off a daisy and seeing if the last remaining petal corresponds to the positive or negative version of your intention. You possess the power to answer Hamlet’s timeless question: To be or not to be? For most of the play Hamlet wavered and couldn’t commit. As a result, he over-reacted, exploded and lost the love of his life. You don’t want to end up like Hamlet! Choose a different story.
Debbie Mandel, MA is the author of Addicted to Stress: A Woman’s 7 Step Program to Reclaim Joy and Spontaneity in Life and a stress-management specialist. She is the host of the weekly Turn On Your Inner Light Show on WGBB AM1240 in New York City, produces a weekly wellness newsletter and has been featured on radio/ TV and print media. To learn more please visit: www.turnonyourinnerlight.com.