"We cannot seek or attain health, wealth, learning, justice or kindness
general. Action is always specific, concrete, individualized, unique. "
"In our era the road to holiness necessarily passes through the world
Do we have enough
information yet? If you want to lead a good and healthy life, you can
find abundant information about how to do it. You can read holy
scripture. You can read self help books or listen to self-help tapes.
You can search the Internet. You can go to lectures
and workshops or read the lifestyle section of the newspaper. You can
classes. You can even hire a counselor or a personal trainer.
So many of us continue to do things that we shouldn’t or avoid doing
things we should. Lack of information is not the problem. Often the
missing ingredient is lack of will. We’d like to lose weight or
exercise more. Maybe we’d like to meditate more regularly. We feel we
should study more or spend more time talking with our loved ones. We
may have some big and important project that we need to complete, but
it just doesn’t happen.
Perhaps what we are lacking is sufficient will to act. Willing is the
beginning of behavior. It is the act of setting attention on goals and
taking action to meet them. It is different from wishing. We can wish
for a lot of things, and hope that Santa brings them. Wishing doesn’t
imply that we are going to
do anything about it. Sometimes it works. Often it does not.
When we exert our will, we make choices. For instance, right now you
are probably breathing naturally without thinking about it. You haven’t
exercised will in the matter. Your natural instincts tell you to
breathe in and then out. You could choose to stop, for a short time,
through an act of will. Or
you could will yourself to touch your nose or stand up and stretch. You
be making a conscious decision to perform a behavior, and then you
begin to do it. That’s will.
These are easy examples. What about the hard stuff? Let’s say your goal
is to meditate twice a day for 20 minutes. An admirable goal, and not
easy to attain for those living active lives. How would you attain this
You’d have to start by deciding whether you really want to do it. What
would you gain? Greater composure, relaxation, clarity of mind,
spiritual depth, and mental expansion maybe. Are these gains worth
giving up doing the things you would be doing instead? What would you
lose by meeting your goal? You have to weigh the alternatives.
So lets say you decide you do want to meditate twice a day for twenty
minutes each. You get started and do it for three days. Then you feel
in the morning, or your favorite TV show comes on during the time you
set aside for meditating, or your friend wants to talk to you late into
night. You feel the impulse to not follow through with your goal. When
will is strong, you follow through with your goal by inhibiting
impulses. You might decide to skip the TV show. You might decide to go
and talk to our friend, but stay up later to meditate. And you might
that you need to start going to bed earlier so you aren’t too sleepy to
in the morning.
The phrase, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” is a cliché,
but it suggests the truth that when we create our intention and direct
our will, we must, as part of the process, seek alternate paths to
accomplish our goals when obstacles appear. Will involves tenacity. It
means we don’t give up at
the first disappointment or difficulty. A strong will perseveres.
Strength of will allows us to accomplish things, to become the person
we hope to be. However, it is only useful if it is guided by wisdom. A
strong willed fool makes a wonderful obstacle to progress, but they
don’t accomplish anything worthwhile with foolish goals and values. We
must learn to know ourselves.
We must learn to discern good from bad, truth from fiction, and develop
based on valid principles.
When we exert our will in action, we create karma. Each action has a
consequence. We live in a world of action and reaction, cause and
effect. The energy we create by our action will come back to us one way
or the other. If our actions are rooted in greed, anger, or other forms
of attachment they will create more of the same in our experience. If
our actions are rooted in compassion and unselfishness, we will
experience more love.
How do you assess the
of your will?
Would you say you are a strong willed person, or not?
When or where have you had a failure of will?
What might you have done differently?
Think about your values.
What is most important to you?
What are the standards of conduct that mean the most to you?
What do you most want to accomplish in this life?
What state of mind do you most treasure?
What do you most wish for?
Is it possible you could attain your wish?
What could you do to attain your wish or meet your goal?
What can you do right now to begin it?
What habits or impulses might get in the way of your goal?
What competing values or desires could be obstacles to attaining your
What can you do to remind yourself to persevere in the face of
and passing time?
How can you exert your will without becoming caught up in the trap of
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