Willpower as a Scapegoat?

11 Apr

Yesterday I started the day with willpower on the brain. No, I was not thinking I needed to exert it  or muster up the energy to power through a difficult task. I was thinking through what I wanted to cover in my Willpower podcast scheduled for later that afternoon.

My Willpower is Stronger than my Won'tI had decided to title it Willpower Without White Knuckles because of the common misconception that willpower is this intangible, mysterious concept that we are either born with or without and if we’re unfortunate enough to have been left with the short end of the stick, then we’re white -knuckling our way through the effort it takes to meet a goal, stop procrastinating, achieve a task, you name it. Whether it’s dieting to lose weight, increasing exercise to gain strength and enhance our functionality, or studying each night to get closer each day to holding that diploma, willpower is at play. We’ve all got it- some of us are just better at using it, and each time we do, we strengthen it!

As I was contemplating how I wanted to convey what willpower is, isn’t, and what makes some of us more effective at utilizing it, I came to the conclusion that there’s something besides a lack of it that can get in our way. If we’re always thinking that it’s willpower that is going to power us through the tough stuff, does that give us license to take a free pass when we perceive that “I just don’t have it in me today”?

In short, I want you to consider how you might be using willpower as an excuse to NOT do what’s congruent with your goals. Are you looking at progress that you’ve made and the willpower you’ve already exerted and using that as justification for doing something outside of what is between the lines of the path to your dreams? “Meh, a little detour won’t take me too far off course…..I avoided the cupcakes that Anne brought in for the birthday at work! I deserve this chocolate after dinner.” Or this, “I exercised for an hour this morning, so I can afford to eat this burger and fries for lunch.” Or this, “Well at least I only had 4 slices of Efficacypizza…before, man, I would have eaten half of the whole pizza!”

Stop! How does this make sense? If losing weight is your goal, how does eating the chocolate help facilitate you getting closer?  It doesn’t.  The cupcakes- One challenge that was approached successfully. The chocolate- A separate challenge. The exercise- One step in the many steps toward losing weight. Eating a healthy lunch- a completely independent step toward that same goal. Four slices was two more than you had committed to eating when it was served.  Don’t let your feel-good emotions or comparisons get in the way of remembering what your goal is in the first place, and don’t mistake your progress toward the goal as having reached the goal.
Willpower without white knuckles means thinking one step at a time, objectively. Left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot to Each Step Brings you Closer to the Finish Lineavoid tripping over yourself. If you find yourself saying, “I just need more willpower!”, take that a step further:

  • Assess where you get tripped up.
  • Under what circumstances are decisions that you’re less than thrilled about happening?
  • Are you justifying? Reasoning?
  • Listen to the stories you’re telling yourself that get you out of taking responsibility. 

One Response to “Willpower as a Scapegoat?”


  1. Top Ten Ways to Inspire your Motivation | becomeawomanofstrength - April 12, 2013

    […] Do Not use Willpower as a Scapegoat- This is a new concept for me. I read this blog post and thought “OMG, I sooo do this.” […]

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