June 10, 2016

3 Ways to Step into our Willpower.


If you opened this blog post, my guess is that at some point in your life you have had a hard time sticking to something.

Maybe it was a deal you made to find your “true” self (moving from lower desires to higher ones), or you started something full force and then soon fizzled out and back into your daily habits.

I have been accused of this once or twice in my own life.


As someone who has dug a bunch of shallow wells—mostly academically—I know well what it’s like to start out full force and then become distracted or uninterested. The brain likes to give us a false start, so we think we really nailed this or know this well, and then the moment we hit our first obstacle we turn away, because the mind creates an illusion of “false achievement.”

I picked up a new book the other day (another thing I love to do is start reading a bunch of books, but never finish them)…this one was on willpower.

I was curious about it, because this is something that I believe is never really lacking—at least, that’s what I teach others.

Yet, I want more of it.

I sat in my lawn chair with a beer, ready to reclaim my willpower…again. I was excited and hoping to learn something new.

As I got to the chapter about the brain, this book confirmed everything I’d learned as a life doula (yoga therapist and ayurveda wellness consultant).

The reason we don’t follow through with what we set out to do is not a lack of willpower, it is atrophy of our concentration muscles, which are in the prefrontal cortex of the brain.

The more we multi-task, the more we weaken our willpower and subsequent ability to make powerful change.

The more we center ourselves around one-pointedness and focused concentration, the more we align with what we set out to do.

Are you with with me? Concentration is our power.

But what is our will?

We cannot stop with just understanding the brain and power—we must understand how our hearts and mind are linked.

In India, these two words are not separate.

You also have to find out what you are passionate about—what do you love?

Yoga is about moving from “lower” desires to higher ones.

For me, my lack of willpower came from my people-pleasing tendencies. I ignored what I wanted in order to be the best that I thought others wanted.

Always saying “yes” to others was the reason I could never make roots for myself.

As Carl Jung says, “Consciousness begins with an act of defiance.”

I said “no” to my people-pleasing tendencies and to worrying about what everyone else was thinking about me. When I did this, I laid the foundation for a yes to life.

Because of this yes, I was finally able to be authentic.

Whose will are you acting out? That of your parents? Teachers? Partners? Religions? Friends?

What I have learned: Willpower = God’s Will + My Power

Here are three things I have learned about willpower—or as I like to call it, the heart-mind connection:  

1. Make sure the things you are reaching for are your innermost desires—not what you think others want, or from comparing with others.

Focus on the things that continue to nudge your spirit, even when you turn away.

Be with them.

2. Show up fully.

As the ancient yoga sutras of Patanjali puts it into context for us in Y.S. 1.14:

“But that practice only becomes firmly established when it has been executed with great attention and without interruption over a long period of time.”

3. Don’t stop figuring out what your true desires are and moving in that direction. 

Please, don’t stop.


Author: Dani McGuire

Image: LaVladina/Flickr 

Editors: Renée Picard; Yoli Ramazzina

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