Willpower. A client told me that she has none. Actually, it’s the most common response I get to why sticking to their dietary or exercise protocol didn’t work.
“I don’t have any willpower.”
I don’t either. Put a plate of Brie under my nose and ‘whoosh,’ it’s gone. Chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting? Three pieces minimum. It comes from a part of me that loves good food. Sweetness. Creaminess. Dense and moist yumminess.
See, we all have many aspects of our being that come into play at various times. We set a healthy diet down in menu form, buy the right foods, have the intention to create veg-filled meals, then bam, ice cream hollers from the freezer and we’re toast.
It came from that part of us that loves ice cream on a hot summer night.
We have parts of us that insist on restricting our intake to lose weight or exercising an hour a day. A part of us that wants to eat. Another that wants to be a couch potato. Parts that tolerate rabbit food only so long. Parts that smack us right in the middle of our forehead in a potato salad binge standing in front of the fridge. Parts that fret or blame when we fall off the wagon.
What would happen if we ditched willpower and replaced it with willingness? We can’t ‘will’ anything to happen in our life but we can have willingness to recognize all of our parts and welcome them. Loving up the reckless diet-abandoning part of us just might help it relax so it doesn’t abandon so often. Appreciating our binge-part might tone its impulsiveness. Gratitude for the sweet-loving part may entice the veg-head part to up the ante the day after indulging in dessert.
We become willing to see not just one part, the one without willpower, because that narrows our focus to the whole. We widen the aperture of our heart’s lens to all aspects that complete our system. I just wonder how that feels?
Tara Brach put it this way in a recent dharma talk (my additions in brackets): It’s the quality of presence to remember who we are and respond to that remembrance. It’s possibility, the evolution of our consciousness. We move from fight/flight to attend/befriend. Sometimes it’s quick and sometimes it takes a while. The ability to shift toward willingness is our capacity. This is what the evolution of consciousness is about. Not because we can will it but because we can sense out of wisdom that we’re not free as long as we’re caught in blame, [regret, shame, anxiety]. We simply intend to forgive [appreciate, love, hold near]. As we awaken around that intention, the door to the heart opens, the light can shine through.