Willpower Boosters from My Mental Toolbox
If you plan to build walls around me, know this -- I will walk through them.
-- Richelle Goodrich
Willpower -- Our Will to Live
On and off during four or five decades I have been applying certain self-designed, simple exercises to boost the "voltage" of my willpower.
There is not much theory behind them, so just a few words fitting into the space of the following introduction, will suffice.
Well, willpower provides the mental and endocrine dynamics in our pursuit of the means for our psycho-physical survival. I am including that "psycho-" part since we, as an advanced species, are not reduced to physicality, and unlike animals, plants, and microbes, we have higher needs of emotional and intellectual character in order to survive within our complex environment.
However, speaking generally, willpower is that major force stemming out from our will-to-live, and as such is a part of our default nature. Thus, I am not here to talk about "cultivation of something new" within the hierarchy of our mental forces, but rather about removing the obstacles to its full expression.
Early during my somewhat studious self-observation I noticed that, in order to deal with those obstacles, I had to speak the language of guts, not the language of brain. So, no amount of positive thinking, good intentions, self-motivating, and imagination may do -- if invoking those necessary sensations is missing, the ones which repeated often enough will do.
Therefore, please don't go too smart about the rationale of the following few exercises. They may, and probably will, look to you as somewhat silly. But the more they look that way, the more you may need them -- because it means that you can't relate well to many memories of experiencing a free flow of your willpower.
With this in mind, I might as well resemble someone trying to describe the taste of strawberries to someone who never tasted them before. So try to reserve your judgement while "doing that silly thing".
Let me also prepare you for a natural resistance from your psycho-physical status quo, which doesn't want its comfort zone to be disturbed. Some of you might have developed an emotional addiction to a sort of "can'titis", where willpower may even sound like something "dangerous".
O.K., enough of this beating around the bush -- let's bite into the very "meat" of the matter.
The art of medicine is to amuse the patient while nature cures disease.
Booster # 1: Silent Belly Laughter
I don't want to mystify the anatomical location and the qualitative character of will power, but let's try to trust those old, good texts, which place it in our solar plexus, giving it that fancy name of "solar plexus chakra".
Meaning an energy vortex responsible for our feelings of courage, confidence, self-value, facilitated by the nervous network in our diaphragm, often referred to as the "second brain". O.K., if you don't want to buy into the "chakra" explanation, at least try to remember that sinking sensation in your stomach pit at times of anxiety -- maybe that will hint to you at the location of our willpower generator.
This location is relevant to us, as we are about to practice an inner massage of that area with a silent belly laughter. You know what I mean, doing all that lung and belly movement imitating a spasmodic belly laughter -- but without a sound other than rhythmic expelling the air.
In order to at least reduce the silliness of it, let me explain. The same set of nerves and muscles is used during a spasmodic, happy belly laughter -- but also at a spasmodic, unhappy sobbing.
Meaning that, by doing that inner massage, we are discharging that "energy pool of uncried tears" which poses as that obstacle to a free flow of willpower. Our body will do that discharging just the same, simply because it can't make a difference between these two opposite mental outlets, as long as their manifesting calls for the same physical activity.
Who hasn't heard of a "laughing to tears", when even the facial expression was the one of a pain? Or about hysterical episode where accumulated emotional energies where displayed in an eruption of crying mixed with laughing.
Then, think of those national mentalities with a pronounced temperamental freedom, like folks in Spain, Hawaii, Middle East -- all practicing belly dancing, which is just their instinctively created form of massaging their solar plexus.
And yes, shouldn't we also mention sex, with both happy and painful facial expressions showing.
As per instructions for this particular exercise -- I am not going to go specific. Do it when alone, of course, I prefer doing it while taking shower. Don't overdo it at the beginning, and don't do it at all if you have a heart problem, or any other health concern where intense laughter might harm you.
No man is free who is not master of himself.
Booster # 2: Voluntary Muscular Awareness
Voluntary muscles are designed to serve in a most direct way to our expression of willpower. Proofs are to be found in every area of living, but for the most obvious example, let's remember how the more anxious, or depressed we are; the less active we are -- with a panic attack or stage fright making us almost physically paralyzed.
With the maddening demands of modern living, the whole beauty of intuitionally guided voluntary living got drowned in the ocean of a brainy mambo-jumbo. So, what once used to be a pure flow of a zestful want, now turned into a swamp of rationalizations in which man is not sure what he wants, or whether he should want at all.
Subordinated to the brains, voluntary muscles got chronically tense, in a confused, high gear readiness to serve the whims of the brain's monkeying around. Muscle works against muscle as an echo of a self-contradicting brain, which produces a gut feeling of readiness for nothing.
In all that inner, subconscious chaos, just about anything may serve as a boogie-man triggering our fight-or-flight mechanism -- from facing our mother-in-law to the political situation in the country.
Which makes our voluntary muscles tired to the point that many of us, while waking up in the morning, are not really willing to face the new day -- let alone using those muscles for "taking over the world".
Also, just think how many unnecessary moves we make during the day. So many of us can't even speak on their cell phones without making those "convincing" gestures.
Now, it all changes when we start giving a new significance to our voluntary muscles, at which point we also start becoming aware of our personal power. For example, by standing by the window and contemplating about the boring taste of life, you may suddenly realize that this same standing could be done in an art gallery instead.
While I was stuck in an elevator for over an hour, I didn't go panicky one bit, being aware that it was that same standing which I do in some long lineups, or anywhere else. Nothing else was expected from me to do, and I found it easy.
Despairing over your lack of willpower to quit your smoking habit, you may suddenly become aware how it becomes easy if the muscles of your hand don't pick up another cigarette.
In other words, awareness of your ability to direct your voluntary muscles means shifting some of the weight of life from your brain to those muscles.
Life is all about DOING.
Executive subconscious never sleeps throughout your life, and you are DOING something all the time. You don't "stop" anything by falling asleep at night, you just activate the mental pattern of sleeping. Meditation is not "doing nothing", it's shifting your mental dynamics from one pattern to another.
Struggling inside between two tendencies is silly in terms of using voluntary muscles. It's like using one hand for tying your shoes and the other for tying your necktie -- resulting with nothing being done.
So, by recognizing the power of your voluntary muscles and impressing yourself with how they perform even the smallest task, may bring more order into your brain.
For one thing, it may bring to your attention one capital question -- what is it that you really WANT to DO in any given situation. Then, with mind and voluntary muscles establishing that new friendship, your willpower will grow exponentially.
He who only seeks applause from without has all his happiness in another's keeping.
-- Oliver Goldsmith
Booster # 3: Positive Feedback
I will never forget a classmate at high school sitting in front of me, and her little routine which helped her to neutralize her stage fright before oral exams. Back in the old country we had to stand up beside our seat and answer the questions from our professors.
Students were called alphabetically by their last name, so she knew when her turn would come. Very quietly, almost whispering, she would keep repeating her uninhibiting routine which sounded something like this:
"Now, just watch how nicely I am going to forget everything I've learned. That's it. Carol, you are screwed, you'll go stiff so royally again, and nobody can do it like you can".
I could bet that none of you can recognize anything "self-encouraging" in that silly monologue.
But it worked for her, because every time she ended up tweeting out her answers with no pausing, no display of fear. How was it possible?
Well, we go all stiff because of the inner conflict of wanting to succeed and fear of failure. By apparently giving up her intention to win over her fear of failing, she removed the conflict, she surrendered to the outcome of failing -- so she succeeded.
What exactly is happening in that inner dynamics has everything to do with our excessive, trigger-happy negative feedback mechanism. It's the one overlooking our possibly wrong performance and outside possible "threats" to our performance.
In other words, it lets us know about "things going wrong". When we deduct from our interactions with the world that things "keep" going wrong, we make that mechanism overly sensitive -- until even some innocent things trigger the alarming bells, shutting down our willpower.
So, what would be the logical antidote to that crazy inner practice?
I call it positive feedback practice.
It boils down to mixing into our negative observations some positive elements. Trust me, it may feel a sort of maddening at the beginning. I don't know if my friend Carol was experiencing it that way, but when I first tried it, it was that -- maddening -- while enormously liberating at the same time.
So, the next time you are experiencing something negative, give yourself some credit for it. Well, I told you it would feel silly.
Say to yourself how good you are at producing crappy emotions. If anxious, or depressed, congratulate yourself for that "high quality of emotional crap". And when it triggers inner impression of something insane going on, again, credit yourself for being able to notice how crazy this exercise is.
There will be an inner revolt over this new style of introspecting. For, you are so used to condemn your lousy feelings, so what is this now? You are used to having that conflict inside, between a wish to feel good and that helpless admission that "nothing has worked".
But, hey, your face won't fall apart if you even put on a little smile while having a nerve to say: "Come on, give me some more of it, I just love how well I can produce my emotional crap!"
A strange thing is bound to happen. In your solar plexus you may feel something liberating. It may be accompanied by a new notion that no feelings can beat you if you welcome them as something "nice".
Never confuse motion with action.
-- Benjamin Franklin
Life Means DOING -- Let's Make It a Conscious Act of Willpower
Nothing in this whole universe makes any sense if there is no one to make it. So, whatever is not touching your life in any way -- does not really exist. You are DOING your life, mentally, emotionally, and physically, and whatever is out of the range of your psycho-physical processing shouldn't be included in the computation of your daily living.
It goes without saying -- all DOING is only possible in NOW & HERE. That's where and when you'll find the only playground for your willpower. You can go nuts over your bad memories, and that going nuts will be DONE in now and here, with no opportunity given to edit anything back there and then.
Those are moments of incredible liberation when, on our gut level, we realize that we are always willing something -- it's not "happening to us". Face it, my friend, if all that which feels like a burden in your life was not negligible, you wouldn't be able to fall asleep at night. How does that falling asleep "happen" -- night after night, despite all those "stressors"?
Simply, by your mentally DOING something different. In those moments of your "working on it", you are not even aware that it's your willpower at work.
By doing these -- out of routine -- willpower boosters you get more and more aware of your free choice to DO something outside of mentally habitual. Something not dictated by a played-in automatism of living, but out of your free choice.
Ultimately, your free willpower will always remind you that you are not your body, not your circumstances, not your thoughts and emotions -- but the one who DOES them, one way or another.
You are WILLING your whole reality either consciously or unconsciously.
Why not do it consciously -- because you CAN. And because it's so much more fun.
© 2019 Vladimir Karas