Do You Have No Willpower?

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"We confuse willpower with low self-worth all the time. At what point does pushing ourselves because we think we’re wrong turn into extreme self-deprivation?"

For accessibility and ease, you can listen to this post narrated by Mike:


I don’t have very good willpower.

If I want something, I usually give it to myself. I rarely resist anything. And I’m not amazing at pushing myself. In fact, I’ve always disliked running for the simple fact that it took massive amounts of willpower to get myself to run. And I just couldn’t do it.

Other exercise, sure. But not anything that requires a lot of willpower.

Ironically, though, just yesterday, someone commented on my amazing willpower. That I’m rarely tempted by sugary dessert out on the table. That I seem to have no trouble sticking to a mostly paleo diet. And that I get up at 5:30am every morning, even on weekends and vacation to exercise, journal, and meditate.

Surely, I must have some superhuman willpower that other people don’t have.

We awe at willpower like it’s this Holy Grail. Like self-deprivation is the ultimate goal.

We visionaries have been told we’re not good enough again and again and again. That we’re wrong. That our emotions and desires are wrong. So, of course willpower—the act of depriving ourselves of those desires—is going to seem right.

I spent a lifetime depriving myself. I remember being just 12 years old or so and being subbed out of a soccer game. I didn’t think I had played well so far. So I looked down at my water bottle, and I kicked it away.

I didn’t think I deserved it. I had to deprive myself of basic nourishment. Because I hadn’t earned it.

We confuse willpower with low self-worth all the time. At what point does pushing ourselves because we think we’re wrong turn into extreme self-deprivation?

No, I don’t have a lot of willpower. I’m just less interested in the what than the why.

My job is to help visionaries connect with their unique genius and life purpose. And the word ‘purpose’ actually means “why.” But most of us talk about it as a what.

We say things like, “Oh, I haven’t found the right career; I haven’t found my purpose,” and “My purpose is to be a life coach.”

Except neither of those things has anything to do with why. If we never actually understand the purpose, we’re doomed to arbitrarily stumble into situations and just get lucky if they work out.

It’s much less interesting that you haven’t found the right career than why this job didn’t feel right.

It’s much less interesting that you are a life coach than why it feels so purposeful.

Focusing on willpower is always focusing on the what. And I’ve spent far too much time in my life reducing myself to an object. I’m more interested in why.

It’s not hard to eat really specific foods when you know how sick you’ll get it you eat that bread and drink that milk. Enough days sick on the toilet kind of have that effect on you.

And it’s not hard to get up early when you’ve spent enough time crippled with stress and anxiety rushing out the door.

Like I said, I don’t have great willpower. I’m terrible at fighting myself or pushing myself or depriving myself.

Because pushing is starting from nothing and trying to get to something. Starting from “not being good enough.” And I’m already enough. So I have no interest in pushing. I’m just interested in being pulled toward my vision.

Willpower won’t get me there. But knowing my purpose—my why—will.

I eat sweets when I want to. When I tune in and realize that the why to eat them is stronger than the why not too. It’s just that that doesn’t happen all that often. Because I know sugar gives me horrible headaches and makes it challenging to get a good night sleep.

But I never deprive myself. I would never dream of taking something I really want away from myself. I just tune in to what I really, really want.

Some days, when I meditate, my mind wants to quit. And you might call it willpower that I don’t quit. But I’m not really fighting myself at all. I just check in to why I’m even meditating in the first place. What part of my genius is being expressed.

And then it’s not so hard to keep going. Because I know that the deepest level of me—my deepest why—chooses it. That’s all.

I always give myself what I want. I just make sure it’s what I really want.

Because I’m never wrong or broken or fucked up. I can trust my emotions. But I have to make sure they’re my real, true emotions. Beneath layers of social conditioning, convenience, and comfort.

We visionaries are never wrong. We’re not wrong. We don’t have to push harder or deprive ourselves more.

It’s not for lack of willpower that we aren’t taking action on what we want. It’s for lack of clarity around why we’re doing it in the first place.

The funny thing about us visionaries is that we’re tenacious. If we want something bad enough, we tend to break through every barrier in place and get it. So we just have to clarify why we want it so badly. And make sure it’s what we actually want on the deepest level.

Most of the time, we talk about willpower from the baseline that we’re inherently wrong. That we’re lazy and selfish and indulgent. And we can’t control ourselves. And we can never trust our emotions. So we need to bring in this intense discipline to set us straight.

It’s just another story in a long line telling us we’re wrong. And that we need to keep pushing to be different, better, “good enough.”

But our purpose, our genius, our vision, our “why,” pulls us forward. It’s what reminds us of who we really are. And allows us to take action from that place.

We’re not wrong. In fact, our genius is the very thing that’s allowing it all to be successful. It’s the why hidden beneath layers of guilt, shame, and conditioning.

And I find, shockingly, that when I stop depriving myself of something I want, I stop compulsively craving it and can actually check in with what I really want.

It’s “willpower” that often fuels the compulsions. It’s deprivation and social conditioning that make me feel like I need something that maybe I don’t even truly want.

Tell any little kid not to touch something, and they’ll be obsessed with that object all day.

Willpower doesn’t work. But trusting yourself always does.

Allowing yourself to be all of yourself—down to the layer of your genius—is the most effective way I know to build the life you’ve always wanted.

And it never starts from the baseline that you’re wrong. It starts from knowing that you’re a genius.


Questions for Reflection:

*Answer in a journal, in the comments right here, or take it over to the Sacred Branding® Facebook group where we can support one another.

Do you have no willpower?

  • Do you struggle to stay on task with a project or to stop yourself from doing something you shouldn’t be doing?
  • Do you always end up giving into yourself when you want something? Do you have a hard time staying disciplined and exerting your willpower?
  • What if willpower is actually another form of deprivation? What if tuning in to why you really want something is way more interesting? What if you can trust yourself, and your only job is to connect with the deep, genius layer of who you truly are and what you want?
Mike Iamele

Mike Iamele

Mike writes about how artists, entrepreneurs, healers, and visionaries of all kinds can actually build a life around the genius inside of them.

He's CEO of Mike Iamele LLC and Creator of Sacred Branding® and the Sacred Circle.

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