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Willpower Won't Save You - Harnessing the Power of Gratitude

I had hoped, that after more than four weeks of “sheltering in place,” this new normal that we find ourselves in would feel a little bit more… normal.

Instead, I find stress creeping in through the cracks of my sanity.

Sure, I have coping strategies to deal with the stress, but they don’t seem to be working like they used to.

Make a list.

Stick to a schedule.

Stay structured.

Get stuff done.

But what happens when I don’t or can’t get stuff done? When Zoom calls and virtual meetings fill my day and drain my energy? Or when washing my yoga pants one more time only to fish them out of the laundry basket and put them right back on again might just push me over the edge? What about when I just can’t seem to pull myself off the couch?

One thing I have turned to in times of stress is listening to podcasts. One in particular that has been extremely helpful for me, especially when I’m feeling low, is the The Happiness Lab. I was listening to a recent episode and one sentence sparked a personal epiphany:

“I am going to stop assuming that willpower will save me.”

Whoa. Really?

But willpower is all I have control over.

Willpower is what helps me get stuff done.

If willpower doesn’t get me through, what will?

The answer is simpler than you might expect. The key to achieving our goals, bettering our relationships, improving our health, and coping with uncertainty is GRATITUDE.

The thing about willpower is, is that it can dessert us when we need it the most.

Willpower is fragile – especially when the future is uncertain. Gratitude is a much stronger tool.

Simply put, gratitude is the emotion we feel when we recognize that we have received something of value that we couldn’t achieve on our own. This feeling is typically coupled with a desire to pay it back or pay it forward. Gratitude gives us purpose.

Dr. David DeSteno, author of Emotional Success: The Power of Gratitude, Compassion, and Pridesays this:

“The beautiful thing about gratitude, is… while we feel it, it sets our expectation for what we value and what we should do next.”

Gratitude orients us toward what is most important to us and what we value most. These things are grounding because they won’t change in the long run, even when the future feels uncertain. Gratitude fosters peace in uncertainty, which benefits not only our physical and mental health, but also our relationships. Gratitude reminds us to be kind to others andto ourselves.

If we look at the Christian Scriptures, gratitude plays an important role in orienting ourselves to God and to the important things in life. I can’t read Paul’s letter to the Philippians and not think about the parallels to our current situation. It is a letter written amidst uncertainty and disappointment. The Philippians are doing their best to do what’s right and to help one another, yet they’re still missing the mark. Paul reorients them with a key tool – GRATITUDE.

Even and especially in the midst of disappointment and uncertainty, gratitude is what orients us and helps us remember what matters most.

Paul knew, and we know, that gratitude doesn’t erase or diminish the hardships that we face. But it can reorient and remind us that there is still goodness. There is still justice. There are still things to be grateful for. And when we practice cultivating gratitude, we find peace.

As for me, I’m going to stop trying to grind my way through this global crisis. I am going to try to take a moment each day to think about the small things I am grateful for. And I am going to be intentional about paying it back and paying it forward through prayer and by being kind to others and myself. I’m going to focus on things that are admirable, true, holy, just, pure, and lovely.

In gratitude, may the God of peace be with you all.

Written by, Amanda Kemery - Founder of The Junction

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