Reverse Willpower

I’ve been grateful to be able to keep up several great habits over several years, and I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to keep them up for several years more.

A friend of mine recently asked me if it takes willpower to do those habitual actions every day, and at first I just answered in the negative. Once you begin to think of yourself as just being the sort of person who does habit x every day, the need for willpower becomes minimal.

But then after a moment of reflection, I added in a thought that seems really helpful to me. I said that sometimes doing the habits almost seems like reverse willpower, in a way.

When I said that, I was thinking of those moments when it’s late in the evening, when I’m tired and distracted, and all I want to do is listen to an audiobook until I fall asleep, and yet I sit down and do the little bit of reading or writing or practice or whatever it is, that I didn’t get to during the day.

That might sound like incredible willpower, but it certainly doesn’t feel that way! Willpower doesn’t feel like it enters into it at all. My will is turned decisively toward dreamland, and I’m reluctant to do anything else.

But the habit drags me along, pulls me through the motions so I can check the daily box. There’s a part of me that fears losing the habit, and so my willpower gets forced into doing what I’m the moment it has no desire whatsoever to do.

I don’t know if that makes any sense from the outside, but for me, in the moment, it felt like a valuable encapsulation of something I don’t think about much but which probably helps me out more than I usually know.

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