Home > Health, Learning, Personal, Reflections, Safety > The trouble with willpower

The trouble with willpower

mightyMy life changed two years ago today.

The change started small, but became bigger and scarier over the days and months that followed.

I didn’t accept it. I was invincible! I could do anything I wanted, if I only wanted it enough. Anything. It was only a matter of willpower.

Then Reality interjected herself. I remember clearly the moment I saw Reality unadorned by my own desires for her. My sister sounded so anxious talking with me and dropped off our phone call so abruptly, I saw that my perseverance wasn’t changing external circumstance. It was destroying my body in ways that were devastating my mind.

There, wrapped up in Reality’s too-tight embrace, I saw what had to change: me. I had to stop believing I could do or be anything. I had to stop nurturing the delusion that every single problem I faced could be overcome by my will alone.

I saw that not everything in this world is within my control. Not everything in my reach is within my control. My choice and my choice alone is within my control.

With this anniversary and my later meeting with Reality in mind, I’ve reflected on a truism I hear often:


To that I say:


Give up.

Except … don’t.

Don’t give up. Move on.

Move on when you know it’s right.

Move on when something–or someone–is hurting you.

Move on when you see only wishful thinking is on your side.

Move on when something so much enduringly better for you comes along.

Move on when you balance pros and cons and discover the pros long ago jumped ship.

Move on when you see you could spend the same amount of time and effort for much better results and happiness elsewhere.

That’s wisdom, not weakness.


  1. Koa
    October 8, 2014 at 8:55 pm

    Oh hi you. Yes. I see that I’m the first here tonight. I’ve had some talks, some arguments, some downright battles with willpower and reality. Love this.

    • October 8, 2014 at 9:15 pm

      Hey, you! ♥ Part of why it seemed so important to write this now is that I’ve found myself falling into the “I CAN CHANGE ANYTHING!” mindset again recently.

      Sure, I can trying to change things, but it’s important to remind myself that trying to change those things is time and energy taken away from things I might rather be doing. If I keep trying, it should be for a better reason than my willpower (or pride) demand it.

  2. October 8, 2014 at 8:55 pm

    I absolutely agree with every word you said. Thank you for sharing those wise words, it really helps me with this whole kicking smoking thing I’m trying to pull off.

    The reality is, it’ll kill me faster if I don’t.

    • October 8, 2014 at 9:17 pm

      I’m glad it resonated with you. I wish you the best in kicking smoking! It’s a mighty rocky road, for sure, but one well worth taking.

  3. October 9, 2014 at 4:06 am

    I am always so inspired by you! I am coming to the wire, after 47 years of smoking I think I am nearly ready to quit. I know I need to quite, should quit but dang, I don’t know how. Time to talk to my the doc.

    • October 9, 2014 at 9:39 am

      Good for you, Val! There is no substitution for the wanting – no amount of nagging can take the place of a person deciding that is what THEY want for themselves.

    • October 11, 2014 at 5:48 am

      I hope you do talk to your doc! I know we “only” chat here on the internet, but I vote for any and every measure that will potentially allow for extra years of chatting.

  4. October 9, 2014 at 4:44 am

    Definitely wise. No sense making ourselves physically ill just to avoid “giving up.” Your motto of moving on is a much better–and healthier–way to approach life.

    • October 11, 2014 at 5:49 am

      I still find myself falling into the “never give up” mentality, until I figure out what that niggling sense of ungood is and remind myself what I’ve learned. 🙂

  5. October 9, 2014 at 4:59 am

    I’ve got to start keeping this in mind. Sometimes I can be very stubborn, even when it is detrimental to my health.

    • October 11, 2014 at 5:51 am

      It’s a hard one to learn–in the real, I’m-acting-on-this-way, versus just intellectually–but, oh! It makes life so much less frustrating. And painful.

  6. Twindaddy
    October 9, 2014 at 6:01 am

    I COMPLETELY concur. Like a doctor, of course.

    • October 11, 2014 at 5:52 am

      This made me laugh both on first reading and now. Hee!

      (For anyone reading comments, context here!)

      • Twindaddy
        October 11, 2014 at 5:54 am


  7. October 9, 2014 at 6:45 am

    That’s such a hard one, but I’ve been working on it – learning how to stay true to my own truth and realizing that the path others take is meant for them – and not for me to direct! 🙂

    • October 11, 2014 at 5:54 am

      “the path others take is meant for them – and not for me to direct!” Yes–or vice versa! Just because one person had great success doing one thing doesn’t mean you will. I wish all these things gotten with the head were easier to translate into action. 🙂

  8. October 9, 2014 at 7:53 am

    I don’t know about you but I am very gracious to those around me… I understand and encourage them to “give up” “rest” when it’s the best thing!

    But for me…

    HA… even 9 months pregnant I was upset at myself for being tired and not wanting to talk to people!!!

    If only I could see myself and give myself the grace my Creator does!!

  9. October 9, 2014 at 9:41 am

    Did I miss what changed for you 2 years ago, or is that private? In any event, I really like your attitude about moving on when something no longer makes sense for YOU. Great photo, too!

  10. Samson
    October 9, 2014 at 10:35 pm

    I love it when a truism is called out. So many of them are patently false—the tend to be the clarion calls of a world that doesn’t believe in half-measures…or critical self-awareness.

  11. Jane
    October 11, 2014 at 7:24 am

    Love this so much. Quitting drinking was like this for me, and it amazes me how much suffering I can still cause myself (without even thinking about picking up a drink) just by getting my ego tangled up in Fixing Something.

  12. October 14, 2014 at 5:19 am

    Wonderful words that are applicable to different situations for different people!

  13. October 16, 2014 at 7:50 pm


  1. February 20, 2015 at 8:15 am

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