On activating our will

Can we improve our health by activating our will more often?

The will is the part of us that does things…rather than ruminating about them or dreaming about them or talking about them.

There are many with good ideas and decent intentions.

But often, that’s where they stay and wither…as ideas and intentions, in a bleak netherworld of ‘maybe’s’.

Our sense of agency, our sense of self can be lost in the corridors of our mind.

Perhaps we catastrophise about the impact of our actions. Or anxiously consider our various and many options…and decide on none.

Fear can paralyse action. So can apathy. So can self-hate: ’What good can I do?’  

But whatever it is that paralyses, without our will, nothing is done; nothing actually happens.

Or it does, but happens passively.

I speak with someone who is always late for work, even though he would like to arrive early, to settle in and see people.

‘So, why don’t you arrive early?’

‘Because when I should be leaving, I start scrolling on my phone.’


‘I don’t know really.’

‘You appear to have lost access to your will.’

The head is not designed for action. It is designed for anxious thought, fun ideas, lazy distraction and complex plans…but not action.

I speak with someone else. They love to go into their head. It is where they feel in control; and where they find privacy.

There they think about what they might do. ‘I like to think things through,’ they say.

But what they really mean is they fear the outcomes of action. They get stuck at the thinking stage.

And so action is always on hold. They are endless procrastinators.

To stay healthy, in mind, body and spirit, we do need to keep exercising our will. It is a way of reclaiming our lives and maybe our selves.

Exercising our will declares that we exist and we matter…that we’re worth it.

How about we do three things every day that no one else is demanding of us? Three intentional acts that are good for mind, body or spirit.

It could include turning up at work ten minutes early, like our friend. (Yes, he’s doing it now.) So it isn’t such a rush and you have time to talk with people.

Or things physical like taking on squats or planking or stretching every day. Those are acts of the will.

Or saying ‘no’ to anxiety when it appears…that’s an act of the will. When the anxiety train pulls into our station, we don’t have to get on board.

It could mean practicing the piano…or the drums…or our painting, when we don’t feel like it. JDI…Just do it…

Or the decision to respond rather than react. (The difference is a three second pause.) That’s a glorious act of the will.

It could mean getting out to the yoga you never get out to… or to help at the food bank.

Or going for a twenty minute walk or run, even when your lying mind says you are too tired. A runner is someone who turns up…it’s that simple.

Or aiming for a random act of kindness each day.

Or choosing to start the day with something that helps you to feel whole, calm or reassembled – a reading, a candle, music, silence?

Or, deciding that today is a rest day when I will do none of the above. That is also an act of the will and a crucial one. As GK Chesterton said, ‘If something is worth doing, it is worth not doing.’

Our will is not a punisher but an enlivener. Will arrives to wake us up.

How’s your relationship with Will?