Willpower is an amazing thing to have. It helps us get through situations where the high road isn’t what we want to take, but we know it’s for the best so we exert to align everything in us to make that happen.  Willpower is usually a skill of the mind as in mind over matter, but can also be emotional.  The will may be mighty but the power comes from that emotional core so we can lead with the heart instead of the mind and still get there.

However, willpower, like most things, is not the remedy for all things.  If the issue we’re working through is clearly defined, if it’s one single unit like getting through a difficult business project or boring out that one last post hole or getting through one more meal without blowing your diet, then willpower will get the job done.  If the issue isn’t clearly defined, if it’s a symptom of something deeper, something larger or more core, then willpower will only get you so far.

How can you tell the difference?  Well, if willpower has failed you so far, if you have tried and tried and tried and your willpower seems to disappear right at the critical moment, then there’s something deeper going on.  For example, overweight people have some of the strongest wills I’ve ever seen.  If you think going on some of these crazy diets and sticking with them is easy, you try it for a week/month and see how you do.  They are hella strong-willed and yet they struggle with the weight.  Usually this is because the issue is something deeper.  One client I worked with recently felt that anger and frustration and rage were negative emotions that a good person didn’t feel and so she stuffed them down automatically.  Not with food, but by shame and blame habit she knew intimately but hadn’t acknowledged.  However, they have to go somewhere and her body was holding onto them and to the pounds even though she ate healthy and worked out.

When willpower seemingly fails us we can start berating ourselves for being weak, for being lazy or incapable or even incompetent. But it’s doubtful that any of these are true. In reality we’re using aspirin to dull the pain of a knife wound and blaming ourselves for getting blood on the furniture.  Nice people just don’t do that!  If willpower isn’t working for you, don’t despair. Be glad because now you know what isn’t the problem. Check that off your list and start looking deeper.  The real issue is closer to your core and you’re one step further towards resolving it.