When I was in my early twenties, I thought of will as mostly meaning willpower: the drive to push myself to get through it, get things done, whatever it took.
In a way I now find entirely predictable, this didn’t work out so well. It turned out to be unsustainable because I based the use of my willpower on a whole pile of shoulds, and that pile turned out to come almost entirely from two places: my intellectual self and other people. Oops.
Eventually, after some machinations, I came to notice how this way of using willpower to make myself do things wasn’t exactly working out in my favor. I invented some stopgap measures, like the Crying Rule, which stipulates that if the idea of carrying out an obligation actually makes me cry, I’m automatically granted permission not to do it.
Later, I also noticed how twisting my own arm was eating up a great deal of my energy and came to be curious about the kind of will you’ve seen me writing about here: seeking my own desires and the ease that comes from moving from a place of alignment. I worked hard on being gentle with myself, and on not engaging in the kind of punitive, disciplinary, obligation-based thinking that hadn’t worked before. I tried to make sure that all the pieces of me — my intellect, my emotions, my body, and my spirit — were on board with the things I wanted to do.
The challenge with this is that every good thing has bad parts: there’s no such thing as a dream with no dirty work. Also, no matter how good something is, you sometimes just don’t feel like doing it. (I’m sorry to tell you this; it’s so nice to think that if only we were acting 100% from our will and desire, we’d absolutely desire to take out the trash or balance our checkbooks, but so far, no one I know seems to be alleging that this is true.)
And so, I’ve come to another place about will: seeking my desire, yes, but also seeking the desires that lie beneath my momentary desire for distraction or sugar or to hit the snooze alarm one more time. When I find my desire for physical well-being, it can make me willing, if not eager, to get up and take a walk. When I encounter my desire for peace, it can make me willing to pick up the objects that clutter my space.
How about you? How do your larger desires motivate your small actions?