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Willpower vs. Won’t Power

July 26, 2019

WillpowerHow often have you heard (or been told) that bad habits are “almost always due to laziness and/or a lack of willpower”? Willpower is defined as: control exerted to do something or restrain impulses. Unfortunately, what most of us attempt to exert upon ourselves is more along the lines of “won’t power” than willpower. For example:

  • I won’t eat that donut
  • I won’t have a second helping
  • I won’t drink more than two glasses of wine
  • I won’t buy potato chips
  • I won’t skip my yoga / Pilates / Zumba class
  • I won’t make excuses to avoid exercise
  • I won’t spend money on things I don’t need
  • I won’t criticize / judge people
  • I won’t get angry when someone cuts me off on the road
  • I won’t lose my temper with the surly sales clerk
  • I won’t complain to my co-worker about our boss
  • I won’t spend so much time on Facebook / Instagram / Twitter
  • I won’t complain about how lousy my life is

You get the picture – instead of looking for positive ways to invoke our willpower (or, perhaps more accurately, our self-control), we repeat negative messages that sound more like punishment than reward for “controlling our impulses”. What we should be doing is turning those “won’t” declarations into actual “will(power)” statements. For example:

  • I will eat an apple instead of that donut
  • I will have a glass of fizzy water instead of a second helping
  • I will enjoy two glasses of wine
  • I will buy carrot chips instead of potato chips
  • I will take some “me” time and attend my yoga / Pilates / Zumba class
  • I will find an exercise I like and look forward to engaging in it
  • I will only buy things I need
  • I will accept the people around me as they are
  • I will take a deep breath and ignore anyone who cut me off on the road
  • I will empathize with the surly sales clerk (maybe she’s just having a bad day; don’t we all?)
  • I will find something nice to say to my co-worker about our boss
  • I will turn off my electronics for at least an hour a day and enjoy the peace and quiet
  • I will express gratitude for the things in my life that are good

Is not really all that hard, is it? All you have to do is stop yourself whenever you start to make a (negative) “won’t” proclamation and turn it on its head with a more positive “will” assertion. I guarantee you’ll feel better about whatever “bad habit” you’re trying to overcome, and whatever challenges you’re facing will be easier to manage.

I just wish I’d had this kind of advice before I reached … the other side of 55.


  1. Jane Watt permalink
    July 28, 2019 1:01 pm

    That was good, just wish I could actually follow through!

  2. July 27, 2019 3:05 pm

    I love your excellent advice!! Good way to turn things around. You know me, I’m always looking for positivism, so why not accentuate the positive in daily life? A whole new attitude change would come with it. 🙂

    • July 27, 2019 4:32 pm

      It came from one of those “aha” moments when I was telling myself what I “won’t” do – I suddenly stopped and mentally kicked myself and said, “Why not shift things around and think about what you WILL?” Sometimes it takes years to figure things out!

      • July 28, 2019 3:27 pm

        Well, the important thing is that we finally have those ‘aha’ moments and figure it out! 🙂

  3. Margy permalink
    July 26, 2019 10:33 pm

    Good advice!
    I recently read a book called ‘The Power of Habit’. Lots of excellent ideas about how to use the power of a reward to create good habits.

    • July 27, 2019 7:23 am

      We’ve been advised for years to reward children for “good” behaviour/decisions rather than punish/deprive them for “bad” actions in order to get them to do what we want them to do. We need to apply that same advice to ourselves!

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