Atrophy of Will

Pearl and I were talking a few days ago about will power. She said something that instantly made a lot of sense to me. She basically said that when you don’t exercise will power on a regular basis, it becomes very difficult to do so when you need to. I’m paraphrasing here, but that’s the gist of what she said.

And I agree!

We know it is scientific fact that when you do not use your brain, it becomes weak, just like muscles. And we also know that different tasks are assigned to different parts of your brain. So it makes sense that the part of you that does what you know you should do, instead of what you “feel like” doing, needs to be exercised regularly if you want it to be there for you when you need it.

The alternative is “atrophy of will“. Someone who doesn’t say no to the candy bar is going to have a lot more trouble saying no to something more important than just a candy bar.

I think the mistake some people make is that they assume it works the other way around. I know people see it this way with trumpet. They think that the mistakes they make at home, when they are practicing, are just minor mistakes. They will “get it right” in the performance because that’s more important. But it never works that way! If you are not getting it right at home, it’s a 99% chance that you won’t get it right on stage either.

Will power is the same way. You cannot assume you will ultimately do the right thing when it’s important to do so, if you’ve been slacking on everything leading up to that moment.

So, that is a thought for everyone to ponder today.

What do you think? Do you think that someone can exercise will power when they need it, regardless of whether they’ve exercised it in the past? Or do you agree that it must be exercised regularly or become atrophied?

(There is also a spiritual element to this conversation that I didn’t want to get into, other than to acknowledge that it exists.)

6 Responses

  1. J. Adicks

    I disagree with your premise.
    How do you practice will power for an event that may happen in the future? True, one can practice daily on matters of little importance. But will that practice relate to some future event where will power(self-control) is needed.

    Will power is more than not saying or acting a certain way. Will power is more about knowing what is right and wrong in any given situation. Will power can be controlled by parents, employers and by anyone who has the power to reward or punish for a desired or non-desired action. Will power is more about learning about yourself and the world around us—what is good and what is bad. This also relates to good and bad values that one has been taught or have learned. Often one needs help to discern the right choice to make.
    Will Power and the Exercise thereof is more a matter of choice than of practice.

    • Eddie Lewis

      Thanks for contributing to the conversation! So you don’t think will power can be exercised? Am I understanding you correctly?

      • J. Adicks

        Yes, will power / self-control can be exercised as I stated, “True, one can practice daily on matters of little importance. But will that practice relate to some future event where will power(self-control) is needed” for a future event you have not practiced for?

        However, to know(discernment) what is right and wrong for any given situation is most important to any exercise of self-control in any event. True, as you said, one can exercise will power but whether or not that exercise will translate into will power in any situation still remains to be decided. It is easy to say what you will or will not do for any event until you are faced with that event and the circumstances associated with that event.

        • Eddie Lewis

          I see what you are saying.

          There is an interesting book I read recently about performance and how the mind works. One of the points made in the book is that when we prepare for just a few random setbacks or surprises, our minds can then adapt to most other problems. The book specifically says that you don’t have to cover every possible scenario because your brain just learns to adapt and adjust to things as they happen.

          So I’m thinking that perhaps will power works the same way.

          • J. Adicks

            How does one “prepare for just a few random setbacks or surprises”? It seems to me that preparing would be more an attitude you develop over time. As one has setbacks and disappointments, it is how you handle these that would prepare you NOT to overreact each time a setback happens. This would give you the state of mind to reflect on the situation and decide a course of action as each new event occurs in your life. Preparing for a performance is one of many areas one can condition one’s self to control the outcome of the performance.

            Here is a question you can answer; My belief is that one never gets completely over being, at least, somewhat nervous / apprehensive performing—no matter the venue or the craft. Would you say that is true?

          • Eddie Lewis

            Once again, I need to apologize for taking so long to respond.

            To answer your question, I believe that some performances kick in more adrenaline than others. The symptoms of that greater adrenaline can be seen as nervousness. So, in that sense, I agree with you. I remember a performance a few years back, high pressure situation, and I was breathing fast and heavy, sweating, etc., but I chose to not see it as performance anxiety. It was my body revving up to help me do a better job. He he he…

Leave a Reply