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In the Ring Tonight....Willpower vs Motivation



Someone said to me the other day “oh you have so much willpower – I wish I did”. This was said as though it was a honed pervasive talent that I take with me everywhere I go – and one that they just don’t have. It got me thinking……I just don’t like the word willpower – it implies battle and resistance – like a tug of war. It implies difficultly and deprivation – battling against something you really want but just know you shouldn’t have. Fighting the urge – the little demon that we all know will eventually win! I know that if this were the case and if willpower meant constant battling and sacrifice I would give up – it just sounds awful and a hell of a lot of hard horrible work. Clearly I have no willpower after all.


So I looked it up, this willpower word – the first definition I came across was “energetic determination” – I like that. To me that implies motivation which I like far better. Motivation means we are working towards something we want. We can be motivated to move away from something though – like not dying young or not shouting at your kids all day. And we can be motivated towards something – being happy or bringing up happy children. Or both. I think that when you are motivated to get what you want then the behaviours come naturally. Maybe then you don’t have to rely so much on your willpower.


So why do we sometimes lack motivation? We know we “should” do something and can say that we want it but also don’t feel motivation to do it. Take exercise for example….that old chestnut. You might be someone that says “oh I need to exercise more” and it may even be a new year’s resolution? What happens when it’s cold outside or when you are feeling a bit lazy? Is willpower enough? I say no – bring on the motivation! Whatever it is that you need motivation for try these steps and see what happens…..


1. Write down what you want to achieve and all the benefits of doing it. Then write down some more benefits. How will it benefit you and also how will it benefit those around you? Keep going – double your list if you can.

2. Write down why things need to change – what are the negative consequences of things staying the way they are (this is your away from motivation). Keep going on this one – warts and all. Be honest with yourself.

3. What is the downside of changing? There will be something otherwise you wouldn’t be stuck. What will you lose if you change?

4. What could you do instead that would still satisfy #3.

5. Close your eyes and imagine that you are doing whatever it is you want to do – imagine it vividly and enjoy. Notice what it is you notice. Sometimes we notice something about the imagined experience that is different or that gives us that extra motivation. The more we imagine it the more it becomes a potential reality.


One last thing – don’t expect motivation to be available 24/7. Maybe that is when the willpower hits the ring.

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