It was wet. It was muggy. It was later than my usual run. It was damp. Light drizzle fell in the air and I kept hoping it would clear up and asked for a ray of sunshine in this new season of training. It didn’t.
I abandoned my familiar route to run my first long run since my training began two weeks ago. I had missed my first scheduled long run the week before after finding my inspiration to purge with a yard sale. For today’s run, I thought I would try an unfamiliar path with new views, new scents and untouched paths. I was surprised how fast the mileage was building and I kept pushing. The path winded, crossing into another path another street. I weaved through twists and turns while songs played on my shuffle and raindrops fell on my visor. Eight miles later, I headed home with a new sense of accomplishment and a shirt drenched. It was not the best run and it was definitely hard finding the willpower to begin.
Since I began the second round of training, I have noticed that my motivations, energy and desire levels to run are a bit different. Where is the will? Is it because I have accomplished a goal that I feel I don’t need to continue? I don’t think so because I want to run and I want to train even harder to be successful this time around. I began to notice that it must be my willpower.
Every day, I am tested (we are tested). Whether it’s chocolate tempting me from cutting my sugar intake or my warm bed coaxing me to sleep just a little later, I am forced to decide between what I want to do and what I ought to do. The ability to resist those impulses is self-control or willpower. What researchers are discovering is that willpower is a mental muscle, and certain physical and mental forces can weaken or strengthen our self-control.
Studies now show that “self-control is a limited resource that may be strengthened by the foods we eat. Laughter and conjuring up powerful memories may also help boost a person’s self-control. And, some research suggests, we can improve self-control through practice, testing ourselves on small tasks in order to strengthen our willpower for bigger challenges.” (NY Times-How To Boost Your WillPower).
Kathleen Vohs, professor of marketing at the University of Minnesota, says in lab studies, “self-control is boosted when people conjure up powerful memories of the things they value in life. Laughter and positive thoughts also help people perform better on self-control tasks.” Dr. Vohs notes that “self-control problems occur because people are caught up “in the moment’’ and are distracted from their long-term goals.”
After reading this article, I began to realize that I was distracted by the goal I just met. I have run the race, I finished, but that hovering cloud is still attached to the event. And then the voice of the wise, “If first you don’t success, dust yourself off and try again.” That was my motivation to train for my second marathon. That should be enough to drive my will power right? Not always.
Willpower can be a great thing, but we don’t always have enough of it to fight off every temptation that comes our way. Willpower peers out Saturday morning at rainfall and says, “I’ll run tomorrow!” The problem with willpower is that is closely aligned with reason and reason is always opened to be “reasoned with” and “talked out” of doing things, like running 8 miles in the rain. It just makes since, right? Reason is always willing to risk the path that leads to failure. I’m sure I am not alone when I say that I have found that if I don’t really want to do something, my mind will provide me with plenty of reasons why I do not have to. Then my emotions join in the party and agree that I don’t feel like it anyway.
The problem is that our soul (mind, will, emotions) would love to run our lives, but the Bible says we are to be led by God’s Spirit. We are never instructed to be willpower-led, we are told to be Spirit-led. Willpower and discipline are important and vitally necessary to a successful life, but willpower alone won’t be enough. Determination gets you started and keeps you going for awhile, but it is never enough to bring you across the finish line. Zechariah 4:6 says, “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit says the Lord of hosts.”
Now I realize that when I am discouraged or cannot find the will to start that I can turn to God and ask Him to provide me with the will to run this race. God releases His power into my willpower and energizes it to bring me across the finish line. I don’t have to do this alone. And in the end, my willpower will not get the credit for our success, God does. In John 15:5 Jesus says, “Apart from Me you can do nothing.”
In my case, I must learn to let God do the heavy lifting and allow Him to supply the ability to energize my choices and overcome my reason. I can choose to run or stop eating sugar (bad thing for me), but my choice alone is not enough for complete victory. Again, willpower and determination will get us started, but they’ve been known to quit in the middle and leave us straned. God never quits.
God has not created us to function well without Him, and the sooner we learn that the better off we will be. If you too are having trouble finding the will, please begin this journey with me by asking God to get involved to do the heavy lifting. Continue on with God and finish with God. What should we do when the burdens in life seem too heavy? Jesus said, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28