Roberto Assagioli wrote about four aspects of will. Today I want to focus on strong will, the others being skillful, good, and transpersonal (Cosmic or God’s will). We all have these aspects of will, in various degrees. Will is energy and usually one aspect is more developed than the other. The idea is to make all the aspects equally balanced.
Strong will is not your ability to force your will onto others. This is the Victorian idea of strong will. Strong will is to direct, not impose. In fact, most people see strength as the only aspect of will. But when the will is only strong, it can actually cause failure and harm to yourself and others.
Strong Will is the Fire in Your Belly
Strong will is really about fire. How much fire or drive does your will have to carry out a decision? Perhaps you can remember a time when your strong will surged forward. It might have been a crisis, when you felt that you had to say “No!” no matter what the consequences. Times when you felt there was no other choice in a matter and your determination seemed to propel you forward towards a desired goal.
This is strong will and it is an inner experience. Its opposite is when you may have felt too easy-going, just letting other people or circumstances decide things for you. Like a weary helmsman of a ship, you let the waves and wind batter your boat around. Instead of taking the steering wheel and keeping to the ship’s course despite the storms and sea currents, you simply couldn’t take the trouble to stay on course and arrive at your destination.
I have to admit my lack of strong will shows up whenever it comes to learning a new language. I have all kinds of excuses and am ingenious at creating things that I absolutely must do first. Like writing this blog! Instead of focusing my strong will on learning Dutch or German, I seem to be very clever at using my skillful will to avoid it!
You Strengthen Your Will with Exercise
Like any physical muscle, the way to strengthen your will is to exercise it. Assagioli proposes a number of techniques. Ironically, you need some will to develop a will that is weak! To help with your determination, first imagine yourself as having a strong will. See yourself walking with a determined step and acting in every situation with focused attention and persistence. See yourself successfully resisting temptations to do otherwise. For inspiration, read a biography of someone you admire who has possessed great will.
Now stand up from your chair. Right now. Stand up. Now sit down. Stand up. Sit down. Stand up. Sit down. Feel ridiculous? This is one of Assagioli’s “useless” exercises, deliberate acts to help train the will. Any easy, little task will do, the important thing is that you repeat it a number of times with precision, regularity and persistence for five to ten minutes everyday. Afterwards, write down how you felt and what you thought as you were doing it. For example, spend five minutes walking back and forth to your bookshelf and touching it. Move 100 matches or bits of paper from one place to another. Get up and down off your chair 30 times.
Exercise Your Will to Move Towards Joy
There are other practices you can do to strengthen your will. Get dressed calmly but rapidly. Remain serene while doing a tedious task. Control your impatience while stuck in traffic or when you feel that you are being unjustly treated. Resolutely stop working when you are tired. Lie down in the middle of the day for ten minutes when you have a million things to do! All these small daily activities help to exercise and strengthen the will. But don’t try to do them all at once. Pick one and stick to it and then after some time, change to another.
When the will is missing, our creative life energy is buried and we can fill ourselves with anguish, depression, resentment and confusion. Whenever we exercise and activate our will, we move closer to our purpose and life goals. We move closer to joy!