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Be Willing.

Forget willpower

Close-up of two orange rosebuds.
These Slim Dusty rosebuds emerge willingly to face the sun at Evergreen.

I’m going to tell you a little secret about me in the morning when the alarm goes off at 5am.

Sometimes I leap from bed like a tousled but willing rocket. Other times I force myself, using pure willpower, to stand upright and hunt in the dark for my tatty pink slippers.

What makes me enact the first scenario one day and the second scenario another day?

It has nothing to do with phases of the moon, what I ate the night before, or which part of my sleep cycle was interrupted by the alarm. It’s all to do with the emotional power contained within two little words: will and willing.

Words have power because of how they can make us feel. They are highly charged, invisible objects that float between people on sound waves and swirl around inside our heads. They float off pages or come at us from TVs, iPods, or phones. We absorb so many of them daily that we don’t pay close attention to them, although they are sending us on emotional rides all day with more speed, plummets, and spins than the Kingda Ka rollercoaster at Six Flags in Jackson, NJ.

Some words can drain us, and others inspire us. They can inform, amuse, or order us. The more emotionally charged they are, the more attention we should pay them because of the harm they can do.

But back to me in my bed at 5am and the words will and willing.


To will something means to make it happen. To force it to occur. To use willpower. To exert control over events. It creates a push-pull situation – you against the world. It has a hint of negativity because it’s not what you really want to do, deep down. I will go for a run even though it’s raining; I will eat this raw carrot instead of that last chocolate truffle; I will turn off the TV and study the life cycle of intestinal bacteria for an hour so I don’t fail the test tomorrow. But to be honest, you want to stay dry inside, eat the yummy truffle, and watch sitcoms.

When I will myself to get up, I am fighting other inclinations, like wanting to stay snugly warm between the sheets for a few more minutes, or sleep for another hour or two or three. So, my will pushes against my inclinations; my inclinations push back with equal force. I toss and turn, open and close eyelids. I groan and snore and sigh as the sun rises effortlessly, willingly, high into the sky.


To be willing to do something means there is no hesitation. There’s no inclination to do otherwise, no alternative worth considering. Willingness has a ring of freedom to it. It’s a choice happily made. It carries positive power. It pulls you effortlessly in one direction and you go with the flow. There are no words swirling inside your brain arguing backwards and forwards. To be willing to do something doesn't involve thought at all, once the willing is in place.

Being willing to get up in the morning floods my body with fresh, warm energy. I can’t help but smile. The faint glimmer of first light on the horizon makes me feel at one with the sun. I rejoice to be alive, glad to have been granted one more day. What will it willingly bring? I don’t know. All I know at this moment is that I’m willing to get up, and that’s enough to be getting on with.

The words will and willing may come from the same root word but are as far from each other in practical meaning as the towns of Timbuktu and Tuckanarra.

Forget about using your will.

Forget willpower.

Fill your days with willing.

With love, Marlane

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