Will Power vs. Discipline : Something to Think About ...
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Soni Weiss, Ph.D., CH
Transpersonal Counselor, Past Life Regressionist, Clinical Hypnotherapist

Will Power vs. Discipline

by soni weiss on 12/12/11

Will Power vs. Discipline  

Merriam Webster defines will power as energetic determination.    Notice the word energetic? It is not just being determined to reach a goal; it’s the use of additional energy to meet the goal.  Think about the sentence, “She accomplished the last hundred feet of the climb by her sheer will power”.  You can almost feel the struggle, the energy being expended, can’t you?  Which is why will power is a short term strategy; no one can keep struggling forever, you run out of strength.     

Now discipline is often used synonymously with will power, but it isn’t really the same.  Webster defines it as correction or regulation of oneself for the sake of improvement.  When you get a picture of discipline in action, it’s quiet, it’s determination to reach a goal, it’s solid, grounded, preserving. There is no feeling of conflict and struggle. 

 Think of someone who is on a diet trying to lose 20 lbs at the Xmas party buffet table and how they will debate with themselves over the cream cake.  Now the disciplined person probably won’t be 20 lbs over weight to begin with, but if he is he more than likely avoids that section of the table or moves by because he understands the consequences of his behavior, in relationship to outcome; the long term goal.  What I do this very minute WILL affect the next day, the next week, the next month.    

The fellow using will power is saying to himself, “well, maybe if I just have this one piece, I can make up for it tomorrow”; he thinks about it; he is struggling with himself, if does choose not to take the cream cake it’s by sheer will power.  He doesn’t have a clear picture of the connection of what he is doing now to what will happen in the future.  Discipline is thoughtless behavior after a while; will power is conscious behavior all the time.  

In uncertain times like now it is going to be those of us who practice discipline who are going to get through them with the least amount of stress.   We can’t avoid stress but we can do our part to minimize it.  Dealing stress is what builds muscle, character, self esteem, it’s not the stress itself it’s how we perceive it.  

When a person has a clear picture of what they want and the steps neede to get it, they are much less likely to feel stressed.  So if you have a goal you want to reach and you’ve been struggling with it, then you need to change how you think about it.  You need to stop struggling, using will power and will power turns to  disciple.  

Clearly define your objective.  Let’s use weight loss as an example.  Say you want to lose 20 lbs in two months time. Write down all the benefits and draw backs, both are important then work backwards to make your plan.  How often have you heard people say they don’t do anything because they don’t know where to start?  Start at the end.  See the end results very clearly.    

Ask yourself what happens just before I reach the goal, what do I need to do.  Answer: I needed to cut out 60,000 calorie (1lb = 3000 additional calories x 20 lbs = 60,000 calories) divide that by 60 days and you quickly figure out this not a reasonable goal.  Cutting out 1000 calories a day is going to put you in a starvation mode, affect the metabolism by slowing it down, take a lot of will power as you will be hungry all the time and if you can do it, it won’t last because it’s willpower.  O.K., so what is a more reasonable choice.   300, 500 calories a day that would take 120 days and that would be doable. Then ask yourself how can I remove 3-500 calories a day from my food intake and make those decisions.   Maybe it is a snickers bar or a latte or the egg Mc Muffin or smaller portions. Continue making a detailed plan in your mind.  Then ask what is the next step I would have to do in order to do this one:  Maybe it is I will have to get up 20 min earlier and make my own breakfast in order to do that I will need to do so and so….keep working backwards until you have a really detailed outline of what needs to be done.    

It’s when we have a detailed map in our heads and have explored our choices and made decisions, ahead of time, that we don’t have to struggle; use will power to overcome obstacles. The thought out decisions are steps in learning self discipline.  We already thought about it; know what we need to do to maintain what we have and get what we want and we go into a mindless self discipline mode.  We have a connection in time with how our behavior at the moment affects the future.    

 I even caught myself doing this the other day.  I had a really stressful day and I reverted to old thinking and thought maybe some ice cream would taste good and immediately the voice came up and said, I don’t do that anymore…I don’t eat for comfort.   It wasn’t a question of will power; it wasn’t even a choice any more.    What a great feeling that was, as self discipline has never been one of my strong suites, believe me.  If I can learn it…so can you. 


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