Some say that willpower is everything and I tend to agree with this to a large degree. If you read (or have read) Carlos Castaneda’s books ‘The Teachings of Don Juan’ or ‘The Art of Dreaming,’ he makes a beautiful reference to willpower.
Willpower, Don Juan explains to his apprentice Castaneda, is the force that bends reality. It is that thing that makes the impossible possible. Intention, then, is like an arrow that is shot out towards its target from the crossbow of willpower. Willpower can exist without intention but intention has to be coupled with willpower to come forth. Willpower in this sense presupposes intention.
History is rife with clear examples of men and women who have faced incredible challenges and succeeded against all odds because of the sheer power of their will. The title of this article refers to how to ‘build’ or develop your willpower but this is not entirely accurate. In reality, willpower is accessible to everyone and what is built are the right conditions for it to come forth.
How does one build willpower?
Like most other things in personal development and self-actualization, a lot has to do with cleaning the path—with shedding off stuff and realigning with your core authentic beliefs. It has also got to do with shifting your perspective and building a new framework through which you can interpret your reality. We shall see this in the following points below.
1. Understanding you always have a choice
In our most difficult moments and biggest life challenges, we tend to forget one very important thing: that no matter what, we always have a choice. We have a choice between
- being stuck or moving forward;
- between love or fear;
- between living life to the fullest or letting ourselves be trampled over by our (or others’) fears and doubts.
Understanding this basic freedom of choice we have is paramount to strengthening our will and gives us the keys and codes in order to shape and create our destiny. The opposite is also true. The will is weakened or not given the opportunity to operate when we are blind to this basic freedom (when we don’t feel it or presuppose it). Spend some time to remember this freedom of choice.
I say ‘remember’ because your soul already knows it; it’s only your mind that tricks you into believing that this is not so. Take time every day or every morning to contemplate this. Feel your basic instinct of a creator—having the power to choose your destiny if you put your mind and heart to anything you do.
2. Be clear in your heart
Your power to will something into being does not lie in your mind or conscious thought. It lies deep within your heart space. When you heart is clear of fears and doubts and it is free to move, it is free to will your authentic desires into existence. I choose to use the keyword ‘authentic’ in many occasions because it has a valuable meaning.
It means being led by those things and aspirations that resonate with our deepest part of our being. They are not wants or desires that were formed through ideas and beliefs that were ‘given’ to us by society. They came from your soul. They are those things that make you shine, happy and enthusiastic about life when doing them.
The more you pay attention and hear the subtle messages that your heart is sending you (while dispelling all the noise and distractions coming from your mind), the more you are creating fertile ground for your will to flourish. Why? Because this is where your will operates. When you are listening and in tune with your authentic desires, you naturally find the will to bring those desires into the world.
3. Aligning your fragmented selves
This is a bit of a difficult concept at first but you can at the same time easily grasp it if you sit and contemplate it for a while. The idea is that sometimes we do not work like one body-mind-spirit. We become fragmented and our energy gets dissipated in different directions. The analogy is a board of directors. Instead of there being only one director giving directions, there is a group of directors who are not always on the same page.
When they sit around the boardroom table (your mind), they often fail to move in line with the same directive. Sometimes there is bickering and strong disagreement. One of the directors is perhaps more skeptical and driven only by facts, the other is creative but impulsive and another perhaps more inclined to leave things as they are . . . and so on.A strong will is one where all the directors are behind the same vision. They act as a whole. There is no internal bickering or fragmentation. So the first thing is to identify whether you have this fragmentation. Let yourself sit with the thought for a while.
A strong will is one where all the directors are behind the same vision. They act as a whole. There is no internal bickering or fragmentation.
So the first thing is to identify whether you have this fragmentation. Let yourself sit with the thought for a while. Send a conscious message to yourself that you are resolute to change this and get ‘everyone’ on board and behind the same goal and vision. Do it a couple of times every day. This will ‘program’ your subconscious to start working on it.
4. Be flexible: Don’t let things get in your way
The muscle of the will can be very strong yet needs to be flexible at the same time. This doesn’t mean that the will should be bent or weakened according to life circumstances. On the contrary, it means to navigate through changing life circumstances with constancy. So your mind needs to be flexible enough to change perspective according to the situation.
When the mind is inflexible, it becomes obtuse (in the negative sense) and fixated on a problem thus losing perspective and consequently weakening the will. In this sense, the mind has to serve our will by steering our attention and perspective in a way that life situations do not affect our will but, on the contrary, assist our will to remain firm despite the change and chaos happening around us.
5. Be perseverant
Perseverance is the hallmark of a strong will. To persevere goes hand in hand with your willpower—they are mutually affected.
In order to practice perseverance you need to apply the will, and in turn, the more you persevere, the more you strengthen the muscle of the will. They run in a virtuous circle—a kind of a chicken and egg story. However which comes first is irrelevant, what is important is that you need to persevere more in whatever you do.
Always try to push it a little bit harder and this will make your willpower come out even more strongly. By persevering more in your endeavors you are inviting your will to be applied even if it wasn’t really there initially.
6. Keep your inner vision alive
As we saw above, perseverance is married to willpower but vision is the in-law. When we don’t have a clear vision of where we want to go, we cannot call upon the will to help us get there. The lack of vision makes it extremely hard to muster enough energy to move forward because you don’t have a clear path of action and as we saw, the will is not invited in.
Hence, we come to see why it is so important to maintain a vision and keep it alive. A vision is clearly what the word says it is: a projection of an object, situation or action in our mind’s inner eye—an image or visualization but also a feeling or a clear concept of a desired outcome.
Visualization can be a powerful tool to keep this inner vision alive through the use of creative imagination. The reason for this is that projecting a visualization on the mind’s inner theater is the same thing as experiencing that visualization.
The subconscious does not care about the veracity of the content in our consciousness, but what it cares for is the emotional energy that is created by that content. So it’s like watching a movie and experiencing it as if you were there. Your mind and body will react as if you were really in it. You will be as energized, motivated and incentivized as if the story were real.
Keeping an inner vision alive and present will fuel the will to move towards that desired outcome or situation.
7. Motivate yourself: See the positive sides
The last ingredient that binds everything together is motivation and positivity. These are topics that personal development authors have written extensively about and for good reason. Lack of motivation is one of the most widely experienced problems. We all would like to be more motivated about doing or achieving something. Staying motivated will also help us maintain a strong will in our endeavors.
But what is the key to staying motivated? Well let’s be plainly honest: it’s harder to stay motivated on something that really doesn’t chime with your real aspirations and passion. If you are doing something completely off your path, the first recommendation would be to drop it at some point and if that is not possible for some reason or another then try to support it with other things that you are enthusiastic about.
Whatever the case, one of the keys to staying motivated is to always try to find a positive angle even if a given situation is really problematic. Positive people are excellent self-motivators because they have this amazing habit to try to find a positive angle to anything and then cherish it and allow themselves to lift up their own spirits and energies.
Looking at the positive sides of things will keep your will empowered and going strong. So my suggestion to you is to try to form the habit of finding the positive angle on things and allow this to keep your spirits high. Yes, willpower needs to be also bathed in spirit so it is crucial to keep yourself energized, positive and motivated by always finding the positive edge to things.
Do this even if it has to be initially ‘faked.’ It doesn’t matter because this will overcome the initial inertia and then things start flowing more naturally as you go along.