You have a dream to write, paint, dance, sing, build a house, start a business, travel the world. Do you use willpower to get you there, or do you rely on the energy of enthusiasm to realize your dreams?
Perhaps you think enthusiasm is shallow and limited, comes and goes, and you will have to resort to willpower. Perhaps you feel you have no willpower or it always fails you.
For years I argued for enthusiasm vs. willpower. I am coming to appreciate now that we need both, but I have made several important discoveries about this:
- The vital bridge between willpower and enthusiasm.
- The two kinds of willpower—one is a disaster and the other a boon.
- And most essential of all, the deeper power that moves worlds.
Enthusiasm Comes From the Gods
“Nothing great was every achieved without enthusiasm.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
In my work helping artists and dreamers to realize their dreams, I have maintained that willpower is a weak force, especially as compared to enthusiasm. In The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron has a compelling essay encouraging artists to draw on enthusiasm instead of discipline.
Enthusiasm (from the Greek roots for “the God within,” or as Cameron translates it, “filled with God”) is an extraordinary power that naturally inspires and motivates you in any project, activity, or life dream.
When we are filled with inspiration and passion for our art, we don’t have to force ourselves into the studio. In fact, almost nothing can keep us out of it.
When filled with enthusiasm, we are unstoppable. We are also magnetic to support from others towards our dreams because enthusiasm is contagious.
Willpower Is Weak
Willpower, on the other hand, as anyone who has attempted to overcome an addiction can tell you, is weak. When not backed up by a deeper motivation, vision and love, willpower quickly loses steam. That is because it usually comes from ego, not from heart.
Many of us fall into the trap of see-sawing between trying to enforce a military discipline on ourselves and then falling off the wagon and beating ourselves up mercilessly for it. Take note: This only ensures another repetitive cycle of the same.
This use of will is destructive, an attempt to bully ourselves into doing what we say we want to do, instead of loving ourselves into it.
Cultivating self-kindness creates a soil from which all manner of good and fruitful things can grow.
Anything built on a foundation of self-violence, rather than self-kindness, contains the seeds of its own ruin and our own ruin. So, let me be clear, this is not the kind of willpower I encourage you to use.
But, There Is a Time and Place for Will
I have recently come to appreciate that we need a little willpower, as well as enthusiasm, to reach our dreams.
Those without any willpower struggle mightily to realize their big life dreams.
The key is to be in right relationship with our will.
Otherwise, we end up in repeating cycles of striving and exhausting ourselves, of accomplishment and burnout, of progress and collapse. Sound familiar?
Will without enthusiasm is dry, hard and loveless, making our work joyless and dull, a drudgery at best, incredibly difficult at worst.
On the other hand, enthusiasm without any willpower can peter out, having us jump from project to project, never completing anything, having too many interests at once, always distracted by the next shiny object.
As a person who has always had a tremendously strong will and a lot of ambition and discipline, it was easy for me to overlook the important role these qualities play in being able to realize our dreams.
You do need some willpower, especially when the thing you want to do (sing, write, make films. . . ) conjures up fear, past hurt, self-doubt.
Or when you have to take a step towards your dreams that is uncomfortable in order to make the time and energy to engage with your art, such as get up a half hour earlier or step out on a stage in front of an audience.
Or when you need to move past an addiction, such as staying up too late watching TV or reading Facebook compulsively or listening to the news before beginning to create in the morning (bad plan!).
Willpower alone will not get you over these hurdles, but you’ll need a little burst of it.
30 Seconds of Willpower to Realize Your Dreams
You need some will to overcome inertia, fear, bad habits, resistance. In most cases, you only need short bursts of will, 30 seconds at a time is enough. Just enough to overcome the temptation in front of you and get yourself into the studio or to bed on time so you’ll have energy to go into your studio the next day.
But you will need these short bursts daily.
If you think you don’t have any willpower, that is just an old lie you have told yourself. We all have inner strength.
If it were a matter of life or death (which doing what you love is), you would find the motivation. If I told you that you would be dead in a week unless you create every day for an hour, you would move mountains to make it happen.
That is will, but it is deeper than the inner taskmaster (who is not your friend or ally). The will energy I’m talking about here draws on a love for your life, and that love is powerful.
Both willpower and enthusiasm come and go. But there is a shining link between those energies that lasts.
In my next post, I’ll share with you what that magic power is that is vital to reaching your dreams. I’ll also share what’s behind it that is the power that moves worlds.
To your dreams,
P.S. If you would like expert soul support in creating a life of passion, purpose and deep play, sign up for coaching with me. Get 40% off my regular rate when you sign up in December 2017 (for new clients). Two steps you can take now:
1. Find out more about my coaching here.
2. Email me here to set up a free Discovery Session and explore if this is right for you now.
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