Understanding your willpower

We have exaggerated ideas about our capabilities. We like to think we can do it all. But no matter how disciplined you are or how hard you try, without a ‘sane estimate of your capabilities’, you’re setting yourself up to fail. John Ortberg says: ‘Willpower is…finite…You don’t get separate stockpiles for different areas…That’s why a long list of New Year’s resolutions is almost certainly doomed…It takes a whole lot of willpower to get on an exercise…programme to lose weight…If you add on the list: get on a budget…keep your office clean, and read Calvin’s Institutes every week, you set yourself up for failure…For most of us…our wills get depleted…more quickly than our bodies.’ Ortberg suggests these:

1: Schedule your most important tasks for when your willpower is strongest. For many people, that’s the morning. One study shows prisoners have a better shot at parole if their case is heard in the morning when the judge has a higher reserve of willpower and is more inclined to take a chance.

2: Spend willpower wisely by not taking on too many tasks at once, even after you have prayed about them. Generally, God works through your will, and He seldom gives you a free pass to disregard the laws of finitude He created.

3: Set goals – but not too many. Lacking a few, we drift, but having an overabundance means we worry about them, accomplish less, and suffer emotionally and physically.

4: Remember that the one act of your will that replenishes willpower instead of depleting it is surrender. God meant for prayer, solitude, worship, and meditation to be done in a way that restores us.