Thursday, December 2, 2010

Driving Forces: Willpower Gone Awry

". . .he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone. . ."

Matthew 14:23

Over the years I have met a few rare people who live mainly by their willpower. These individuals usually have done amazing things. I was particularly impressed by a 60-year-old man who regularly competed in triathlons. He explained that he daily ran several miles, biked a couple of hours, and regularly swam to prepare for the next race. This man was not prone to using his emotions as a driving force. I suspected he didn't ask himself if he felt like exercising on any given day. Reason also wasn't a driving force. I doubted he allowed distractions to interfere with his training schedule. He probably stayed extremely focused on the necessary preparations for the next race. To an outsider, he may have seemed irrational at times. It was only by his strong determination he was able to be successful.

This man is an example of a person who lives his life by willpower. He sets goals for himself and heads toward them regardless of the personal cost. As a result, he has been a successful athlete. In fact, he has consistently placed in several competitions.

Many very successful people live by their willpower. Top executives of Fortune 500 companies, Olympic medalists, Nobel Prize winning scientists, and some entertainers obtain high achievements because of their driven nature. These individuals are singularly focused. All other needs and agendas are subjugated to their principal goal. I suspect they work at their main objective whether they are hungry, tired, or sick. In other words, they are driven by their will.

This may be admirable, but it is out of balance. Our will should be one of the most important driving forces in our life, but it is not to be the only force. We should use our willpower to set short and long range goals while allowing our logic and emotions to temper those objectives. For example, if we desire to be physically fit, we should regularly exercise, not just when we feel like it. On the other hand, we shouldn't work out when we are ill. Our will needs to let our rational mind and our emotional state determine the reasonableness and wisdom of our goals.

Jesus had strong personal willpower. He knew his powerful message of love would be provocative. Despite the risks, he stayed on message even though it resulted in his death. Jesus, however, did not unreasonably drive himself with this objective. He still took time out to teach his disciples, to spend time with friends, and to be alone with God. Jesus lived a balanced life; one reasonably driven by will.

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