Willpower- definition:  Control of one’s impulses and actions; self control.

One of my great clients just shared this with me- I don’t have a name to attribute it to, but it really made me think, again, about this subject of willpower that I have conversing with a few others about.

It went like this “You can’t say yes to life, until you say no to yourself.”

OOOOH.  How many times do we set out with a goal, wish, dream, project only to derail OURSELVES?

I have loved the thought for years- give something up now for something better later.  These thoughts are really appealing to me, yet I can see how I  struggle with the execution at times!

Everyone I talk to seems to have their own thoughts about willpower that vary greatly from one to the next.  I have had people tell me there is no such thing, and I have had people swear they live by it as one of their greatest strengths.

I decided to do a little research- both with personal observing in my life, and by consulting a book called, aptly:  Willpower- Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength by Baumeister and Tierney.  Though the book reads a little like a text book, I was able to realize a lot of what I feel are really important thoughts.

Some of the interesting things this book points out are the connection between physiology, blood sugar and the ability to use self control.  They discuss the role PMS plays, and how eating and sleep affects the picture. One of the most important things I read was that your willpower can be strengthened- they even discuss willpower workouts! I like the hopefulness of this!   As I read the book I was struck by the number of thoughts and ideas that caused me to think “aha, now that makes sense why I….”,  “Okay, NOW I understand….”  It truly is eye opening.

A quote from the book : “Willpower enables us to get along with others and override impulses that are based on personal short-term interests.”  Self-control is not selfish.

Personally, I have to mention that all of my thoughts on willpower are my own and that I honor the thoughts of others as their truth.  I feel that willpower is within everyone of us, incubating, waiting.  I feel that you have to have a reason for willpower to surface.  You have to have something that is important to you, bubbling within you, to ignite this strength.  Otherwise there is no reason for it to appear.  Willpower surfaces to help you in times when what you are up to gets hard, boring, obstacles appear or you feel like giving up.It shows up when something in the short term like say, an ice cream sundae or a sale at your favorite store shows up and threatens to steal your focus.

Think of a time that you set you do start and finish a project.  Think about the process you went through to actually make it happen- can you spot the places where your willpower helped you to stay on the path, or to maybe get back on the path to finishing and realizing the result you wanted?  Chances are you have used willpower over and over in your life and have just not recognized it.

Observing willpower(and lack of) in my own life I noticed myself being swayed to do something else that seemed fun in the moment instead of doing my work- thus delaying the result I was looking for by even a week.  I watched an aquaintance who says she is wanting to not eat sweets do just the opposite because something yummy was there in front of her, I noticed another person spending money to buy things he did not need because he was feeling a little down that day.

I also saw my son Joe Joe run and beat me in a 5k race that was harder than any other he had ever done purely because he wanted to beat me- and he did!  I was able to see one of my clients go for a big and difficult goal and because the reason for reaching it was so important to her, no obstacle could shake her focus.  I heard my friend tell how she finished a big project in such a strong way- as she described the energy just kept building as she moved forward- and she knew others were counting on her, too- so she just made it happen.

There are examples everywhere around of- examples of people employing their willpower and those who are not.  Which side do you usually fall on?  Start doing your own personal research, reading and study to see what you can find out about yourself.  If you want to, you can give yourself a big boost by strengthening your willpower!