Willpower vs Wontpower

If you are trying to affect change through sheer willpower, chances are you will either a) not succeed, or b) not find the fulfillment you expected to find when you white-knuckle your way to “success”. From this perspective, willpower might as well be called “wontpower” because it won’t lead to fulfillment.

A triumph over willpower is no win at all.  Willpower is our ally. Rather than trying to triumph over willpower, align with it and learn from it. Willpower is not keeping you from experiencing fulfillment.  Willpower is guiding you to the true source of fulfillment. Be grateful for obstinate willpower.

For example: Let’s say I want to exercise more this year. Why do I want that? “Because I believe that if I exercise more I will be healthier and I will feel healthier.” Why is that important? “Because I believe if I am healthier and I feel healthier I will have a richer experience of life. I’ll have more energy, I’ll be able to do more, and perhaps I will even meet people who are also interested in having a richer experience of life.”

These are all good reasons. But I ask again: What is my current experience that prompts me to want these things in the first place? “I don’t feel like I have enough energy, I don’t feel like I am doing all the things I want to do, and I don’t feel like I have the people in my life who actually enrich my experience.” Okay: Now we are getting somewhere.

This last reason reveals a structural perspective of “lack”: “I don’t feel this, and I want to feel this, so I’m going to try doing that.”  Extracting the key italicized words reveals a provocative insight: Willpower is telling us “don’t want that.” If we are unable to hear willpower’s wisdom, we will have to figure it out the hard way by trying (and failing) hundreds of times to affect positive change in pursuit of fulfillment.

The structure of “want” is most often a symptom of blindness to wealth. Having more, and doing more, never results in experiencing more fulfillment. Until we address the structural perspective of “lack”, even if we get the experiences we want, the structural perspective of “lack” will still be intact and will preclude us from experiencing the fulfillment we believed that experience would hold for us.

Most likely, however, we will never end up making it to that new experience. Established patterns of thoughts and behaviors will win out, and we will blame our defunct willpower as the obstacle to our fulfillment.  As we have just seen, though, even if we get what we want we will not experience fulfillment. Willpower is not the obstacle to fulfillment: our idea of what fulfillment looks like is the obstacle to fulfillment.

What if instead of trying to change what we do in attempt to experience fulfillment, we instead clear up a fundamental misconception of fulfillment. Fulfillment does not come from any particular experience: pleasure and pain do. Fulfillment precedes experience, and when our understanding of fulfillment changes, we experience more pleasure even if at times there is also pain.

I hear what you’re saying: “How can I possibly be fulfilled in my current situation?!” I get that, really.  Remember, though, that your current situation is in a constant state of flux:  you are always changing, as is the world around you, without you having to do anything.  Anything that changes is not real, and what is real radiates fulfillment.

By short-circuiting that structural perspective of “lack”, we begin to experience our intrinsic wealth. As we focus more on the irrefutable evidence of wealth, we inevitably find more evidence of it. We feel alive and engaged in a way we never have when we were trying to force our life to look like what we think it should look like. We see the beauty in the child rather than the handicap.

In Plain English“: Willpower is telling us to want what we have instead of wanting what we do not have.  Willpower will not budge on this point, so our only real option is to learn from it. When we do that, we naturally find more of what we want. Anything in our life that no longer serves us will either fall away of its own accord or will reveal the tools necessary to easily and compassionately extricate it.

Just my two cents, for what it is worth.  I encourage you to experiment with the insights I share and discover for yourself what is true in your own experience. When you do, I would love to learn from your discovery! Please email me, or leave a comment, and let me know what you found.

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