A Change in Willpower

26 January, 2018
By Bo van Alst

Did your parents tell you that breakfast is the most important meal of the day? Did your teachers make you think within certain frameworks? And does everything around you make you believe you always have to look handsome or pretty? From an early age, we are taught to think in black and white. We're also taught that, in the modern world, we are becoming lazy and we lack motivation. Is that our fault? Does it mean that we have lost our willpower? Does it mean we don’t try?

I think we all have willpower – we try to eat enough food, lose enough weight, look good, be nice, have knowledge, and the list goes on. But what if willpower isn’t the problem, but rather our focus? We are so hardwired to think that B follows from A. Does it? Aren’t we capable of figuring out our own alphabet? We try so hard to be the best person we can be, but we often feel that we fail, and we lose our motivation.

What if becoming the best version of ourselves has little to do with an external focus on our weight, body, intelligence, character, but everything to do with ‘going deep within ourselves’. That is: if we look after ourselves, listen to our body, step into the grey area of the unknown, we might find exactly what we’ve been looking for. And we might realize that all we were looking for was ourselves.

I will clarify with an experience I had this morning: In the past six weeks I’ve been taking a cold shower every day. It’s starting to become a habit. It’s a simple habit, because the only excuse lies in those last few seconds in which you decide if you turn off the heat. With the breathing, however, I didn’t see much happening. I didn’t feel the tingling; the lightheadedness. I found it hard to stick to the morning routine: stretches – breathing – cold shower.

This morning I thought: “just follow the routine, no excuses”. I changed my willpower. I had to fight my habitual brain, which was telling me to check my e-mail, eat breakfast, stress over daily stuff. So I changed the focus of my willpower, and decided to ignore my hardwired thoughts. At that very moment, I felt I didn’t need breakfast. And then I thought: “Actually, since starting the WHM, I feel less hungry during the day”. Food wasn’t on my mind all the time, and became less of a stress-factor. After the stretches, I did the breathing exercise, and there it was: tingling; lightheadedness... it felt amazing! I longed for a warm shower afterwards, followed by a cold one, so I listened to my body and that’s what I did.

Now, hours later, I’m still feeling the effect. I’m relaxed, I feel empowered. The wires in my brain are starting to loosen – my body and mind will tell me when and what I need to eat, which thoughts are useful and which aren’t. And those nice side-effects? I’m getting cold-shower abs, am more worry-free, and save money on food and gym classes. Here I am, creating my own alphabet, and I will choose which letter to focus on.


Bo is a writer & editor.