Willpower is the Wrong Word

What is Willpower?

The definition of willpower is “control exerted to do something or restrain impulses”. At SCHC, we believe that we are the authors of our own lives. It’s just a matter of finding our purpose and taking control over the story. But how does one do this? And why are some people able to find this power while others keep losing sight?

When thinking of addiction people tend to think of a lack of willpower. This makes me think about when I tried to quit smoking cigarettes for the hundredth time and I said “I can do this! I won’t smoke. I don’t want to smoke. I have the willpower to get through this!” Then I wouldn’t smoke for a little while. I’d distract myself. Then I would crave one so bad or give in when I was with friends who smoke, and I’d say “Just one. It’ll be fine, it won’t kill me.” Then that was it. I was buying cigarettes again and felt so guilty and blamed myself for my lack of willpower – I was a bad person for giving in. I let my addiction have control.

Bringing Your Will to Meaning

Addiction, however, is a change in the brain. It’s something that we cannot control if we do not understand why we are addicted in the first place. However, we can control our will to meaning, and give ourselves something that gives us greater pleasure.

When I finally looked at my addiction from a different perspective, things changed. I had a discussion with my seven-year-old daughter about smoking, about how it can cause cancer and other health problems and is very hard to stop. The look of worry on her face when she made the connection that I might get sick and die from smoking changed the game for me. My reason to quit smoking and to keep on living had a purpose that wasn’t just for me. But it wasn’t just willpower. No, willpower is the wrong word. It was bringing my will to meaning.

Finding Your “Why”

I’ve learned along the way that willpower doesn’t work if you don’t know why you are doing what you’re doing. Someone can say “I’m going to quit smoking because I know it’s bad for me”, but if they don’t understand why they are doing it in the first place, then it’s hard to tell your brain and yourself that this thing that makes you feel good, even if it’s only temporary and even if there are consequences, is worth giving up.

When you can find your reasons, your purpose, your meaning, for why you do the drugs, drink the alcohol, smoke the cigarettes, and you can get down to the brass tacks of it and fix the real, underlying issues, then get through the tough part of actually becoming sober becomes a lot easier. But it’s not totally easy. It’s never a free ride, and it can sometimes really suck.

Willpower vs. Authorship

Willpower is the wrong word because willpower only works if you do. Discovering the purpose behind your actions and allowing yourself to be vulnerable with yourself enough to give meaning to your life makes your will stronger. Strong enough to inspire you to do better and strong enough to get through any addiction.

So, how can we change our thinking? How can we find our meaning, our purpose in life that keeps us going each day? It’s not about finding out the “meaning of life”, but about living a more meaningful life. We have discussed meaning as a way of living before on the blog, but here is a list of things that we all can do to live more meaningfully:

  1. Do things for a purpose and not merely to keep busy
  2. Do things based on what you truly want out of life, not on your fears
  3. Try new things simply for the experience
  4. Remember: “To thine own self be true.”
  5. Care for others
  6. Live from the inside out
  7. Love and be loved
  8. Attach your life to something bigger than you
  9. Recognize that all people are imperfect, including you
  10. Ask for help when you need it
  11. Learn that negative emotions can be very useful if you choose to use them for your benefit
  12. Remember Rule 62: “Don’t take yourself so seriously.”
  13. Get rid of any thoughts that include “If only….”
  14. Take responsibility only for yourself (except if you have kids, of course)
  15. “Live life on life’s terms.” (Viktor Frankl’s version: “What does Life demand of you?”)
  16. Don’t “should” on yourself.
  17. If you don’t know what to do, do the next right thing

It’s more than just thinking about the things in your life you don’t like or wishing for life/things/situations to be better. “The key is to act. Not merely to think about it.” Bring your own “willpower” to meaning, make the choice to change the things you can and work towards your goal. You got this!

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