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Turn to Jesus (Article)

Virtue 101: Willpower
Practical tips on forming virtue in our families.

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What is willpower?

Willpower is the strength to act in an intentional way, despite adverse circumstances or moods.

Our strength of will is shown through our actions, especially when we have to overcome obstacles in order to carry out a resolution or reach a goal.


Forging our willpower will make us free to act according to our reason enlightened by faith and guide, channel, and master our passions, feelings, and instincts.

Why is it important to form willpower?

The person with willpower:
• is able to work in a patient and focused way to achieve his goals.
• can handle suffering and adversity without caving in.
• grows with each new responsibility and rises to new occasions, because his will is like a muscle that grows stronger every time it is challenged.
• bounces back from failure and difficulty because he is mentally tough.
• is more able to resist vices and bad habits that prey on laziness and weakness, such as gluttony, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, etc.
• is more able to grow in other virtues, since the formation of good habits requires constant effort and repetition.

In concrete terms, forming our will can mean:

• Controlling our personal preferences in small things. Examples:
o getting up when the alarm clock rings without hitting the snooze button
o keeping our closet in order and folding our clothes before stuffing them into a drawer
o getting responsibilities done first, without procrastinating
o giving our best in sports or in a workout, not slacking off or cutting corners
o learning to organize our time and our work by priorities, not by preferences
o doing our homework carefully and attentively, checking it over for mistakes and typos before handing it in
o eating less junk food

• Taking on new challenges. Examples:
o Learning a new hobby, sport, subject, or technique that may not be easy at first, but that is worthwhile
o Taking more advanced courses that will be more demanding, but that will also be more enriching
o Befriending someone out of your comfort zone

• Doing something for others. Examples:
o Setting the table or taking out the trash for Mom before she asks.
o If you drive: volunteering to get the groceries, pick up your brother at soccer practice, or run some other errand
o Visiting the elderly in a nursing home
o Doing something special for a friend on her birthday.
o Helping out at the local parish as a CCD teacher or volunteer.

• A false sense of entitlement, as if life always has to be effortless and easy.
• The habit of living by whims and not by goals.
• The emphasis on comfort and convenience in modern culture, which can make sacrifice and effort seem foreign or exaggerated.
• Good old laziness…

Note: Be patient! Willpower is not forged overnight with one or two grand, heroic actions, just as strong biceps can’t be formed with one weightlifting session. As with any muscle, it takes time, patience, and constant repetition to form true strength and endurance. That is why consistency in our ordinary, daily duties is one of the best ways to grow in willpower.



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Sponsored by the congregation of the Legionaries of Christ and the Regnum Christi Movement, Copyright 2011, Legion of Christ. All rights reserved.

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