The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language defines willpower:
will·pow·er or will pow·er (wlpour)
n. The strength of will to carry out one’s decisions, wishes, or plans.
n 1. the ability to control oneself and determine one’s actions
2. firmness of will
A few words that the thesaurus throws out there are self-control, drive, resolution, resolve, determination, grit, self-discipline, single-mindedness or firmness of purpose
Everybody has their strengths, motivations and “wills”. There are areas in our lives where we display extreme willpower. We commit to something and we see it through 110%. I believe that this is a gift that some people are better that than others. Some people are very low on the willpower scale. Sometimes we call them lazy. I don’t believe that it is laziness…I think having strength and control to follow through is something we build over time and through experience. You have to want it, but you have to be willing to step outside of yourself to follow through. This is easier said than done.
A few words that display the opposite of willpower: weakness, uncertainty, apathy, indecision, lethargy, hesitancy, torpor, languor, shilly-shallying (what the HECK is shilly-shallying? I think I might need to use this in a sentence today), irresolution.
All of these things can get in the way of us reaching our goals. Maybe we hesitate because we are uncertain if we actually can do it. Maybe we give into our weaknesses. Maybe we are just plain lethargic and don’t care enough to push ourselves to change.
All of these words and definitions aside, when I think about my fitness life, I see the definition of willpower. When I make a fitness commitment, there isn’t much that is going to stop me. I am proud of this trait. I don’t know where it came from (maybe my kick-butt Dad who just finished a marathon at 8,000 feet on his 50th birthday) but I am thankful for this strength. Sure, there are mornings I don’t want to get out bed to workout, but 99.9% of the time I do it anyways. If I sign up for a race, there is not doubt in my mind that I will train for it and complete it. Having fitness goals keeps me on track and gives me a structure that is like a safety net for me.
Food, on the other hand, brings me to the list of willpower antonyms. I eat a generally nutrition and well-balanced diet. I have to display great willpower in avoiding all common allergens (gluten, dairy, soy, corn, eggs, nuts…) and maybe it is because of this, I don’t have much willpower left. I think about food a lot. If I decide I
need want more food, even if I know I just ate plenty, I can rarely stop myself. I could “commit” to being “really good” this week, and two days later I already feel like I have fallen off the wagon. Food is a weakness for me and I am constantly trying to find ways to re-focus. I know what I am supposed to do, but when it comes to willpower, I have a tough time being 100% committed!
As a fitness professional, I know that you can out-eat any fitness program. I will preach this and I believe this. That doesn’t mean it is always easy. We are ALL faced with the constant pressures of social eating, of delicious foods, or the love of spending time in the kitchen.
Some of you have way stronger willpower in the kitchen than you do in the gym. This can be just as frusterating when you want to get stronger, or faster or complete your first race, but let things get in the way of that committment.
We all have our struggles. Who wins in your willpower world? The food lover? Or the fitness freak?