June 2004 Issue --> Health & Fitness Article
Willpower versus Autopilot
By: Dani Rotramel


As one begins the journey toward fitness and health, the thought of not having enough willpower often begins to surface. Although intention is of utmost importance, willpower is not a great determining factor.
As we decide to live our life with intention, a new excitement about living arises inside. Change begins. For any change to occur we need new thoughts, a new vocabulary and a new mindset. The little fox called “You Can’t” tries to stop us, telling us we have never had enough willpower before and we certainly will not have enough now.
For the next little bit, let’s look at the difference between willpower and living a life of intention turned on to an autopilot status. How can it happen? How do we make this change so that achieving the life we wish and the fitness and health we long for becomes “just like us”.
It most certainly can be done.
Willpower relies on force. It works well for a while, but not for long enough. Trying not to do something quickly depletes our limited stores of will and discipline. Willpower begins to require too much of our precious energy and soon fails us. If this is all we have, our new intentions will soon be stolen.
From the Webster’s 1828 dictionary, let’s look at a few definitions:
Force – to lay stress on (Isn’t this what willpower does to us eventually? It stresses us out.)
Forced – compelled; impelled; driven by violence; urged; stormed; ravished. (Hmmm, ravished – yes, it can lead us to feeling this way.)
Intention – a stretching or bending of the mind towards an object; fixedness of attention; earnestness
Intentional – intended; designed; done with design or purpose. Not accidental.
Autopilot – automatic; not voluntary; not depending on the will.
It seems like a bit of a paradox, doesn’t it? We can’t do without willingness for sure. In fact, I have heard it said that the most powerful words any human can speak are: “I am willing.” But once we are willing and once we set a clear intention, what next?
This reminds me of a story I once heard taught by Lou Tice of the Pacific Institute. He talks about willpower by using the example of a boat.
Let’s pretend you are in the boat cruising along with the autopilot set to go south. You decide that really you would rather go north and thus you begin to turn the steering wheel to go in that direction. However, once you let go of the wheel, guess what… the boat begins to turn right back to the way it was programmed to go and that was south. You might work and work and work, exerting all of your willpower and all of your energy to make it go south, but eventually you would tire out and the autopilot setting would prevail.
So, let’s use the principle for our own benefit. If willpower won’t last long enough but autopilot will, let’s begin to reprogram our lives for autopilot habits that can’t help but lead us to success.
Loehr and Schwartz in their book, The Power of Full Engagement, say that creating positive rituals that are fueled by our deepest values and that we quickly establish as automatic, offset our limited will and discipline. They suggest a 30 to 60 day timeframe in which one, two or more rituals are worked on and acquired. This is done by:
  1. Determining the life value this change is supported by.
  2. Writing the desired outcome of what will be acquired. (Example: drinking the proper amount of pure water daily to enhance weight loss.)
  3. Specifically writing out the steps that will be taken daily for the next 30 to 60 days until this ritual becomes “just like you”. (For example: filling up a pitcher of water daily with ½ of your body weight in ounces, scheduling times throughout the day to drink, determining to not go to bed without your pitcher being empty.)
  4. Measuring results daily. (We tend to improve that which we measure ~ Liz Lafferty.)
Once the ritual is acquired, it is just like the autopilot on the boat. We perform it without much thought and for sure with very little energy expenditure. One baby step at a time, one ritual acquisition at a time, our life becomes reprogrammed. Each success gives momentum to the next acquisition.
Instead of depending on willpower, which never works anyway, we declare our intention and our desire, and we begin a reprogramming process. We soon develop new thoughts, a new vocabulary and a new mindset. I love the scripture that says: God has begun a good work in you and He will perform it. This is exactly what happens. God begins to give you the desires of your heart.
Over the past twenty-six years I have learned how to put and keep my own fitness and health habits on an autopilot status. In the Fabufit 12 Week Challenge, which I offer via teleclass and/or as an Online Internet Course, I will teach you how to do the same.
Dani Rotramelwww.Fabufit.com
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