Will power is the Almighty force dormant inside all of us. There are many examples of great men who rose to the top with their strong will-power. We have seen many miracles of healing and many times we attribute it to the will of the patient. It was a strong will of Gautama to realize the truth which led him to become Buddha. It was a will of Mahatma Gandhi to get India its freedom. We have seen a common man like us broke all the barriers and reached a great height because he developed a strong will.
Before we discuss how to develop the will-power, we need to understand what this will is. We use this term many times, but we hardly realize the nature of it. Swami Vivekananda has said that the will is the compound of Spirit and Mind. Will is a guiding force which tells us what is the right thing to do and which evil acts to avoid. In Vedanta, our true nature is a spirit, the consciousness and the entire purpose of this life is to realize this true nature. Through Maya, we associate ourselves with mind and body. In the absolute reality, there is no mind and hence there is no will, but till the time we are illumined, will-power has great significance.
You might ask why should I develop the will-power if I am not ambitious? Will power is not only required to achieve great success, but it also helps in building a strong character and it is a must in our daily life as well. Swami Budhannada in his book “Will power and its development” has described our daily inner struggles as small tragedies. We know what is righteous and what is good, but we cannot always act on that. We know what is evil and what is bad, but we cannot resist doing that. For, e.g. we know that smoking, backbiting, or fast food are not good for us, but still, we cannot stop our self. We know that physical exercise and Meditation is good for our health, but we cannot practice it.
In short, our inability to walk on the path of righteousness and our weakness to give up against temptation results in small tragedies of daily life. We can avoid these small tragedies (which normally results in big tragedies) through will power. The existences of this inner struggle explain that we have will power, but only it is weak at that moment. We need to acknowledge that all the strength required to build will power is within us. It is sleeping and can be awakened through practice.
1) The first step is to accept that all of us has the will-power and if we desire and practice, then we can develop it to any length. This can be also called a leap of faith. Faith not in any religion or God, but faith in our own self. If we have faith in crores of God and Goddess, but we don’t have faith in our self, then we cannot reach anywhere.
2) The second step is to control and nurture the mind. This needs altogether different discussion, but we will briefly look at a few steps. The first step is to purify the mind. We can only control the mind that is pure and for that, it is important to live a moral life and follow our core values. Many modern people might find this boring, but in reality, if we have to stop the inner struggle, then we have to bring harmony. Only two kinds of people will not have an inner struggle, one who has a pure mind and the other one who has given up to his lower nature. I am sure that you don’t want to categorize as the second one.
I have seen many differences in my own thought process after I started reading the teachings of Swami Vivekananda on a daily basis. They are full of strength and act as a reminder to work towards the realization. We talk about the physical diet, but we hardly discuss diet of the mind. We should be careful about what we are processing in mind. By reading the teachings of such great souls we enlighten our self. Avoid any controversies and focus on purity. In the starting, your mind might consider this as boring and impossible. However, we need to examine that this is our mind and not we and we have the power to change the thinking. Let’s not give up and find the strength to change it.
3) I have found this one simple technique to develop the will-power very effectively. In daily life, we give up to so many temptations. It could be of watching TV rather than doing something productive. It could be surfing Facebook instead of reading something motivational. It could be eating sweets and fried food. All we have to do is that every day we do not give up on one temptation. You tell your mind that for this one you will win. For, e.g. you can decide not to surf Facebook today and instead read something motivational.
Slowly you will learn that you can conquer all the temptations. This is how your will-power will be stronger. After this, you use this will power to achieve your goals. Always keep righteousness and spirituality at the core. This will help you in keeping your mind pure. Temptations are the lower nature of the great bliss that is our true nature. If we have to grow, then we should give up small pleasures.
4) Concentration — Another skill we need is concentration. Ideally, concentration is needed to develop the will-power and will power is needed to develop concentration. They both go hand in hand. We can practice concentration by focusing on the activity at hand. Remove all other thoughts and just be in the present moment. This might not be possible to practice for the entire day, but we can take up a few daily activities to develop the concentration.
5) The present moment — Swami Budhanand has mentioned that we face two obstacles on the path of will-power development. One is the guilt of the past and other is the worry of the future. Both of these weakens the will-power. The guilt of past sin is good, but the best way is to not repeat the sin and for that, you need a strong mind. What is the use of this momentary weakness of guilt when we cannot stop our self to repeat the same mistake?
What we are today is the result of our past actions. What we will be in the future is based on how we act today at this moment. According to Vedanta, there is no future or past. There is only this current moment. This is so true. In reality, the past and future are only present in our mind. We can only live in this moment and not in any other part of the time.
6) Face failures — We have been programmed for many years on the opposite of will power and concentration and hence they will take some time to manifest. It may sound strange, but we need will power to develop will power. During our practice, we will face a few failures. We should not take them seriously, instead take note of what has gone wrong and again start the practice and do not repeat the same mistake. Without failures, we will not enjoy success.
I strongly recommend reading Swami Buddhananda’s book “Will power and its development”. Take up one idea in which you believe strongly and practice it. Don’t let your mind wander everywhere.