Part 1 of a 2 Part Series

By Dr. Ron Cruickshank, Golf Mind Coach & GGA Director, Canada

This winter my personal focus has been on intelligent golf training (thousands of repetitions, building myelin skill circuits and constant video feedback) and getting physically fit for next years season. By getting fit, I mean losing weight and hitting the gym regularly as I work on being more flexible and stronger.

Sounds great, but then the cold shower of reality hit. Part A of my objectives has been easy as I work on my swing. I like it, love to do it, get great enjoyment from it, happy to see the improvement. However, Part B has been more challenging because I don’t really feel like dieting and getting to the gym in the Canadian cold has its drawbacks.  Man, that’s a bummer. I think I’d rather side with Mae West when she said.  “I generally avoid temptation, unless I can’t resist it.”

Given this situation, it dawned on me with the blinding glimpse of the obvious. What I need to meet my goals is MORE WILLPOWER.  Bundles, sacks and gallons of it would be good I thought.

Understanding The Nature of Willpower

This realization led to my standard behavioral scientist approach. I began to do a comprehensive literature search in my desire to more deeply understand the specific components of will-power, figuring I would then take that knowledge and turn it into a detailed strategy to get more of ‘it’.

As a behavioral scientist I have studied motivation extensively over the years and have developed a comprehensive viewpoint about what it is and what conditions are necessary to provide it.  However, in this case I wanted to look deeper and more specifically at willpower and understand what it is, how it gets developed, and how can we acquire it.

Guess what?  Nobody really knows and the opinions are all over the board. In fact, you can find thousands of references to will power and the other related terms like resolve, drive, determination, grit, self-control and firmness of purpose. But in the end, no one seems to have a definitive answers. Since we all seem to want it, this subject seems a challenge worth taking on, so I thought I’d develop my own take.

To begin, I’ll offer the following definition: Willpower is getting yourself to do something that you don’t emotionally feel like doing. The key to my definition is the linking of an action to a feeling.  When we mentally want to do something, but don’t take action (assuming we are able), then the reason is generally based in emotion. We represent it to ourselves consciously, as ‘I don’t feel like doing this’ and unconsciously as procrastination and manufactured excuses called reasons. The end result is the same; we fail to take action even when we are clear it is something we believe we ‘should’ do.

Commonly, this lack of action is perceived as a lack of willpower. The explanations for why we have this lack are varied. For some, willpower is viewed as a set up habits that you can build up like a muscle, continually getting stronger as it’s exercised and stretched. For others, willpower is seen like a limited resource: you only have so much in your willpower reservoir and after you’ve used your allotment there isn’t anymore. What is the truth?

After much reflection, I came to the conclusion that none of these perspectives are totally valid for most people. What leads to so much misunderstanding and confusion is our tendency to think about will power in a macro-perspective rather than micro. One is seen as having will power or not having it, as if will power was something one was capable of imposing on every aspect of their life like deploying a large net over a wild beast.

The truth is all of us have situations in our lives where we don’t initiate willpower or take action. It can be as varied as losing weight, hitting the gym, arriving at meetings on time, being firm with our children, getting a project finished or making that dreaded sales call where we risk rejection.  Will power, or the lack of it, must be examined selectively and on a case-by-case basis in ones life in order to figure out the path to gaining more.

My basic premise is that one can develop willpower to take action on anything you decide to.  Under further scrutiny I’ve realized that we all have lots of willpower. In fact, most of the people I know have tons of it. They get up each morning and go to work, fix the kids breakfast, get the laundry done, pay the bills, get through college and fit in a trip to church on Sunday when they would often rather sleep in. In other words they demonstrate phenomenal willpower on a daily basis by taking action consistently regardless of their emotional state.

SEE NEXT BLOG:  Part 2 – Dr. Ron’s Secret Technique for Developing Willpower