Welcome back again everyone! Today, I want to continue the discussion we began last week on the incomplete view of health and wellness which many of us have developed. Although I think mainstream medicine has played a part in creating these gaps in our perspective, I’m more interested in turning my attention to another industry: the self-help world.
I spoke recently with a client who was struggling with willpower, and who was having tremendous difficulty getting anything done in their life. Now, the self-help world would most likely tell this person (with many eloquent and inspiring turns of phrase, I’m sure), that all they had to do was focus and apply their willpower to make changes to their life and get what they want. Almost all self-help programs fall under this paradigm. But this person’s whole problem was a lack of willpower, and in my experience, unhealthy people in general aren’t exactly bursting at the seams with the stuff. Conveniently, this idea also shifts the burden of responsibility onto the client, creating a negative feedback loop of shame and self-recrimination when they almost inevitably fail.
There’s a tendency in these circles to think of willpower as something like the expression of the internal man or woman, limited only by our strength of character or our drive to keep going or something equally nebulous—and if you think about it, that seems awfully circular. I think willpower is just another type of energy.
Exercise is a useful metaphor. If you decide that you want to get in shape, then that will no doubt involve expending energy in a focused and deliberate way with the goal of self-improvement. That’s exercise, right? But as any fitness instructor or physical therapist will tell you, you won’t do any good by running yourself ragged or by lifting things that are much too heavy for you. Maybe you would see some short-term progress, but then something would tear, or you would be too sore to continue, and you would end up losing more progress than you had made.
Improving your internal life is much the same. It is important to realize that willpower is not a measure of our spirit or integrity, but a resource that is part of a natural cycle in our lives. The way to lasting improvement is not to keep pushing with will alone, but to improve the cycle as a whole.
I think this is one reason why Belief Mapping is so powerful—I know, I know, I keep bringing it up. But I’m excited about it, so you will all have to bear with me. The method is designed to draw connections between all aspects of your life, and then address it all together. This isn’t normally how people think about their problems, we tend to try to isolate specific aspects we don’t like and cut them out. A surgical approach, you might say, as opposed to my more natural one.
I have more to say on this subject, so I think I’ll continue this series a little longer. Next week: how the heck do you take specific steps to improve your life as a whole? And how do you do it in a way that isn’t dependent on willpower?
Have a blessed, wonderful day!
Dr. Alex Loyd