I don’t get it!
I don’t really understand willpower. At times I can be Superwoman in accomplishing what I set out to do; others times I fail miserably. I start the day with full intentions of only eating so much and then graze on enough sugar/fat-laden carbs to fuel an elephant. I swear to live on austerity and simplicity and then magically find myself shopping on Amazon or at Christopher Banks for more books and clothes I don’t need.
I really do have enough stuff in my life.
Look! Pretty Object! Grab it now or you may never have that opportunity again! No, Never again…
Most of the time willpower is a mysterious switch within me that seems to be faulty or misfiring. My self-control must be defective and flawed in some self-damaging way. Anyone else feel like that?
I just finished reading Kelly McGonigal’s book The Willpower Instinct, that I borrowed from the library. This is not a formal book review of her work but a synopsis of insights I gained. Actually I am relieved after taking in her words – maybe this isn’t some great shortcoming in my spirit after all.
The Willpower Instinct made me appreciate more this great brain God has given each of us. The author shows us a peek inside of the human mind. To understand its capacity to protect us and why the drive one way or another is so overwhelming at times.
After reading this book, I learned I was human. Duh!
And guess what! You are too.
Different parts of our brain are often in conflict. One section is the impulsive self, the cookie monster who wants instant gratification. This part is also the critic – you can’t do anything right and the procrastinator who wants to put off the important until another day. This isn’t all bad – all those factors could help make a good decision and help us survive – we just need to listen to and use our other God-given brain cells too – the ones who think about long term goals and deeper desires.
The book confirmed tips I have learned and added validity to using them. Things like taking a few deep breaths before impulsively ordering large fries or smothering ice cream with chocolate and peanut butter. That willpower was like a muscle – could be trained but not all at once.
Neuroscientists have found it is true that the simple act of waiting ten minutes for something you want can make a big difference in how our brain processes a reward. It does take time for the promise of an award – like long-term weight management to kick in over the immediate gratification of a cookie.
All this time I thought something was basically wrong with me. Now I realize I just have to learn to use my brain better. This is like creating a new default without shame or sense of failure. I feel empowered and hopeful that as a child of God he has given me what I need to be healthy, giving, and more loving.
Becoming more self-aware is a lifelong process. God gave us this one precious life to explore, to learn, to grow. I love the following quote form Pierre Teilhard de Chardin:
We are not human beings having a spiritual experience.
We are spiritual beings having a human experience.
I continue to learn more and more on this human journey. How about you? What are you learning about yourself and gaining self insight lately?
Hi Jean! I love Christopher and Banks, and chocolate/peanut butter ice cream, so I get your point on will power. I have learned that I am really a ‘sugar addict’ and if I don’t eat it, I do fine. If start, watch out!! This gal doesn’t brake for seniors! Or anything else either.
I have to keep remembering that the part of my brain that wants ‘stuff’ doesn’t have to be the loudest voice. Balance is the key, and I’ll be working on that the rest of my life. I know it’s a part of the cross God has given me.
Hope you’re having a great day!
Jean Wise says
I felt empowered after reading this book – i guess more understanding that it wasn’t doing something wrong it was just how the brain works. Now just to get all the parts of the brain to listen to one another. LOL
Nancy Ruegg says
From you, I’ve learned today to use the kitchen timer more often! 🙂
P.S. An update on the rehab of my office/guest room/quiet time area: 1. I straightened and fine-tuned my organization strategies. For example, I found a small box in which I can throw all my scraps of notes-written-on-the-fly, and a pretty gift bag in which to keep some larger items. Clutter be gone! 2. I already had an altar of sorts, just didn’t know it! It’s a small side table on which I keep a candle, a few books, and a creche. Now that I’m thinking of it as my altar, my attitude is different when I light the candle. 3. The last couple of evenings I’ve tidied up the office area so when I enter in the morning, the room looks serene and inviting. Thank you, Jean! The difference is remarkable!!
Jean Wise says
wow I am impressed with all your action, Nancy! See you had an altar like i did – right in front of us. The candle makes all the difference for me too. Now as I enter and leave the room – the altar is right by the door – I simply touch it and feel like I connect even briefly with God. God is sooooooooo good! We are blessed!
Jean Wise says
forgot to say I love the idea of using the kitchen timer for the time minute wait. I will have to try that too….
Martha Orlando says
I love that quote, too, Jean! I learned recently while taking care of my mother that I’m not as patient a person as I thought I was. >Sigh< God, thank goodness, is a patient teacher. Blessings!
Jean Wise says
Must really wear you out especially emotionally to care for your mom. Lots of prayers for you. I have a prayer list and your name is on it. God is good!!