I’ve heard so many conversations in which individuals complain that in the past year they had hoped to accomplish x, y, and z, but instead fell into a kind of malaise. They marveled at how they didn’t know where the year went, but outside of work hours, the only thing accomplished seemed to be binge-watching several Netflix series or getting lost in a quagmire of YouTube videos, only to find that as the end of each day rolled around they no longer “felt” motivated to relearn an instrument they once used to play, learn that language they had always longed to become fluent in, write the novel that had been locked up in their hearts or follow their long-time dream to start that online business.
Is there a way to override that “feeling” of not being motivated to follow through with your deepest hopes and dreams? I’m not talking about the goals you think you “should” accomplish, nor about the tasks that others want you to do. I want to focus for a minute on the true passions that reflect your authentic self. There is much less internal resistance when goals are aligned with your personal values.
YES. We can absolutely override feelings that keep us locked up in a prison of inertia—and the key to accomplishing the dreams in our hearts— is the WILL.
Italian psychotherapist and contemporary philosopher Piero Ferrucci, in his book “What We May Be”, recalled a conversation he was having with his mentor Dr. Roberto Assagioli, best known for his work on psychosynthesis. When Ferrucci commented about how we should follow our feelings. Assagioli surprisingly took quite the opposite stance. “Your feelings should follow you,’” Assagioli remarked.
After reflecting on this, Ferrucci realized that his mentor was indeed correct. Just think about how our feelings can sometimes lead us to wallow in negativity, ruminate over an insult that someone hurled at us, or stay stuck in sadness or bottled-up anger. To break free of the negative feelings-rut, we can have the potential to “will” ourselves to intentionally shift our attention and take a different course of action. Whether we feel like it or not.
Unfortunately, when most people think of will power, the first thing that comes to mind is a rigid taskmaster that we will never be able to obey in the long run. Think of dieters for example who try to use their “will power” to avoid that bag of Halloween candy they have stored in the pantry. Ehm..I don’t think so.
But instead of thinking of your will as a stern boss that you “must” obey, think of it as an overall guide that can help you to effortlessly move forward towards your personal value-driven goals. Dr. Ferrucci compares the Will to sailing a boat versus rowing a boat. When you row, you are putting in great effort to make the oars take the boat against currents, wind, etc. In contrast, when you sail, you are simply harnessing the wind and the flow of water, and letting them do most of the work, while you (i.e., the Will) simply adjust the sails, to guide the boat to shore.
So focus on one goal at a time and let your meta-guide, the Will, direct your attention and your action– even when you don’t “feel” like putting the time or effort into it. The more you use the Will, like any muscle, the stronger it gets and the easier it will be to “sail” to the shore where your dreams are realized.
Reference for further reading:
Ferrucci, P. (2004) What We May Be. New York: Penguin.
© Raeleen Mautner, Ph.D. 2021