Delight-Driven Willpower

positive habits, joyous willpower, happy habits,

Willpower isn’t a trait mastered by the strongest among us. It’s a form of energy that wears down if overused.

When you exert a lot of effort to stop several habits, you may be subtracting the very energy necessary to fulfill your intentions. For example, if frugality is new to you, you might vow to give up the morning latte, lunch out, buying magazines at the newsstand, and scrolling through online stores. You may give up so many habits at once that your willpower is taxed and you find yourself spending more or drinking more or arguing more once the weekend arrives. I don’t have a spending problem, not even close, but I do have plenty of habits I’d like to drop. They jangle at me like annoying wind chimes made entirely of what I want to change about myself.

We’re more likely to be successful when we take on one or two changes at a time, letting them become comfortable patterns before adding more. It’s commonly said that it takes at least 21 days to create a habit. Not too sure about that. If it’s a rewarding new habit it may have significant sticking power in a few days. If it’s a tough habit to drop (like my departure from eating wheat), it may still seem alluring years later. I know all about this. (Pizza, why do you call my name?)

And we have to remember there’s typically a gap between what we know and how well we apply it to our lives. A big gap that extends through four stages of competence. No wonder it’s hard to change.

We often associate self-discipline with the loss of short term pleasure (lose weight, save money, stop wasting so much time on Facebook). But for some of us with pretty decent impulse control, self-discipline can too easily tip into self-berating. Negativity gets us nowhere. It’s essential to be attuned to the positive, to see how we’re making progress rather than focusing on where we’re going wrong.

I think we should use willpower to cultivate delight in our lives rather than seeing it as a way of dropping bad habits. Those lovely new joys we’re practicing may very well nudge out what we don’t want in our lives as a side benefit.

Oh, and one more thought. Sharing our goals is a way of augmenting our willpower. That’s why I’m sharing my list.

Delights to Cultivate

1. Be a person who wears interesting hats.

2. Lie in the grass whenever possible.

3. Lean toward single-tasking. (That means you Pinterest.)

4. Tune in to sensory pleasure: birdsong, soft blankets, wind in the trees, warm soup. 

5. Keep ice water by my desk to inspire hydration (not to inspire klutz moves that might dampen my keyboard or phone).

6. Say positive things about myself (no more predicting future klutz moves).

7. Sigh whenever I want to, because it stimulates the vagus nerve. Ahhhh, that feels good.

8. Go barefoot more often.

9. Send oddities via snail mail.

10. Use gifts given to me rather than setting them aside for “good.”

11. Develop life lists.

12. Stretch my creativity by sketching for fun, without judgment.

13. Be happy with what I’m getting done rather than focus on what I haven’t accomplished.

14. Go on out-of-the-ordinary dates with my beloved. Maybe I can talk him into glassblowing lessons!

15.  Dye my hair pink. Okay, maybe a few streaks.

16. Honor the wisdom found in doing nothing.

What delights do YOU want to cultivate?

positive willpower, habits of joy,

Image:pixoti.deviantart.com

About Laura Grace Weldon

Laura Grace Weldon is a writer and editor, perhaps due to an English professor's scathing denunciation of her writing as "curious verbiage." She's the author of "Free Range Learning," a handbook of natural learning and "Tending," a poetry collection. (lauragraceweldon.com) She's working on her next book, "Subversive Cooking" (subversivecooking.com). She lives on Bit of Earth Farm where she is a barely useful farm wench. Although she has deadlines to meet she often wanders from the computer to preach hope, snort with laughter, cook subversively, talk to chickens and cows, discuss life’s deeper meaning with her surprisingly tolerant offspring, sing to bees, hide in books, walk dogs, concoct tinctures, watch foreign films, and make messy art.
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10 Responses to Delight-Driven Willpower

  1. sgaissert says:

    Thanks for this, Laura. You inspired me to check out some letter-writing sites. Please expect an oddity from me one day . . .

  2. Delightful article. Insightfully delightful. A profoundly playful teaching. I hope it’s spread wide and followed passionately.

  3. suevanhattum says:

    Ride my bike. Every time I try to do that to be good, I find that it makes me happy. Swimming too.

    And yoga works that way when I find a good teacher.

  4. Pingback: delight-driven willpower — DeepFUN

  5. LisaZ says:

    I love everything about this! It’s so much more effective if we love what we’re doing, and we’re compelled to do it rather than driven or forced to do something. Love it! Thank you for stating it so well, and in terms of ‘delight’.

  6. Hannah says:

    I’m borrowing some which I especially liked, from your list:
    #4 – (enjoy sensory pleasures)
    #8 – (go barefoot)
    #13 – (focus on accomplishments, not what’s still unfinished)
    #16 – (honor the wisdom found in doing nothing … very therapeutic!)
    plus, I would add:
    – Curl up in a chair with a book more often
    -Take classes and workshops to learn new skills and meet new people
    -When I find something interesting or inspiring, trace it to its source and explore it, even if nobody else thinks it’s interesting

  7. Cindy says:

    Hey, I thought you said to only concentrate on working on two at a time? I do love your list, though, because it inspires me to think of TWO to add from a good list of more, ad then try two more later :-) Thanks for the positive boost!

    • Caught me Cindy! You’re right. But my list doesn’t really include what I need to work on, even concentrate on. It’s a way of welcoming into my life more of what delights me. Pretty much no willpower required. Just living out what makes me happy, from more water to going barefoot to strange hats. Betcha little things make you feel happier too!

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