Willpower Vs. Willingness

Willpower vs. willingness, which one is more significant. In my early days of self-development, one of my mentors asked us a very important question. He asked… “What is the difference between WILLPOWER and WILLINGNESS?” We all thought for a moment. Up until that point, we had been taught that will power was a good thing. An opportunity to test what you were made of and barrel through temporary discomfort until you attained your goal.

willpower-vs.-willingnessHe then went on by explaining why he asked that question. He had pointed out that pretty much all of us were there because we were looking for drastic transformation in some difficult area of our life. Money, Romance, Emotional Well-Being, Health, or some other emotionally charged area of life. He explained that the reason we often fall short is because we run out of fuel before we complete the journey to a full transformation.

The Problem With Willpower…..

Our teacher explained willpower like this. He said willpower is like a mental adrenaline. It’s useful for short bursts of effort to drive through short term obstacles. However, when you tap into willpower, it’s extremely draining on an emotional level. And it’s not a particularly useful tool when the destination you’re trying to reach requires a long-term change in every day behavior.
He then painted a vivid picture of how we predictably fail in the same way over and over again. Let’s take dieting for example. We get fat because we like to eat good food. Tasty, filling, craving indulging food. Many of us feel short-term emotional comfort when our cravings are satisfied or we eat heaping amounts of our favorite food. Dieting is the act of depriving ourselves of all the foods that reward the emotional centers of our mind. In order to practice such behavior, we have experience yearning, suffering, and frustration as long as we can to get as far as we can…….and eventually the adrenaline runs out. And shortly after, we relapse to what we wanted the whole time.
In short, willpower is not actually useful for creating long term change in one’s life. And the reason it’s not useful is because it exhausts itself before any sort of actual change happens on a habitual basis.


Then our teacher asked what it means to “experience a state of willingness?” Again we thought hard about it. And then he went on to saying that willingness is not an act of will, but an attitude of motivation, anticipation, and excitement about reaching your goal. I recalled how I often experienced states of willingness when I knew a fishing trip was coming up. The though of getting out on the water, and bending the rod ran in mind over and over again. And the more I thought about it, the more my natural default behaviors gravitated towards planning for that trip. I would sort my tackle box, shop at the tackle store, constantly check fishing reports, etc. I have a passion for fishing, and when I know a trip is coming up, there is no act of will required. I am drawn in, and compelled to prepare for my fishing trip.

You Can’t Shrink Into Greatness…..

Willpower starves your hunger for fulfillment and happiness. It requires a suspension of comfort, enthusiasm, and reward. On a chemical level, it is the deprivation of dopamine in your brain. An active mental process that can only be maintained for so long.
Willingness feeds your hunger for fulfillment and happiness. The act of visualizing achieving your goal, and living the life you’ve always wanted. The constant contemplation of what’s to come, and what I will do to make sure it happens, and how I can make it better and better.
Chemically speaking, practicing the state of willingness increases levels of dopamine. It feeds your reward center, and stimulates your mind to grow your mind in whole new ways of getting more and more of what’s bring you a sense of fulfillment.
Who do you think is going to last longer, think more clearly, and energetically innovate new ways of improving your pursuit of your goal? It’s not the guy that barrels through pain. It’s the guy who contemplates his vision, maps his goals, and reflects on what victory will feel like.
Willpower fights your default behaviors. Willingness reprograms them. Think about this the next time you feel drained and frustrated in your pursuits. Remember that it’s a marathon, not a sprint.


About The Author


I am a college drop out who found my passion as an investor. I love the many facets of finance, investing, and business. But even more than that, I love sharing what I learn with others.

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