By Jimmy Warden
There are a lot of things in life that often times, we just don’t want to do. Whether it’s simple chores around the house, that confrontation we know we need to have with someone, or breaking difficult news to someone we love. If we are not willing to do it, it is less likely we will follow through. This can provide us a lot of angst and anxiety because these also tend to be things we know we should do. The amount of willingess we have for these things tend to be low, whereas we have a higher willingness to complete tasks that we want to do. This variation of willingess is something that I refer to as the “willingness meter”.
What is the willingness meter?
First, I will say that the willingness meter is not something that I invented, but rather learned about from holistic health practicioner, Paul Chek. I learned about it in a podcast of Chek’s where he discussed how motivation and willingness are directly connected. If your motivation levels towards engaging in action or completing a task are high, chances are, you are also very willing to engage in that action or complete that task. Chek likes to think of the willingness meter as a scale from 1-10, in order for people to assess their willingness in a particular situation.
For instance, let’s use an example of doing the dishes after a meal. Depending on how high that stack of dishes is and what your energy level is, you might have either high, medium or low willingness to get those dishes done. High stack of dishes and low energy, your willingess is most likely between a 1-3. Heck, you could also just hate doing the dishes and always have a low willingness to do them at any point in time. The relationship that you have between what it is that you need to do, or should do, also has an effect on your willingness. This is why difficult conversations are difficult to have because not many people actually want to have them! Last time I checked, I have yet to meet anyone that genuinely enjoys having difficult conversations about difficult topics that are potentially divisive.
How can I use the willingness meter to help me?
Having an awareness of your willingness towards different facets of your life can really have a profound impact on what you do, but more importantly how you do it. Think about what you love to do in your life. What is your energy like? What is your focus like? What emotions are you experiencing? Chances are when you’re engaging in tasks or activities that you love, you have a high level of energy, your focus is intense, and your emotions are positive (think joy). If you are engaging in something that you really don’t enjoy doing, chances are you are putting forth minimal energy, you are focused on how much you dislike what you are doing or perhaps what you’d rather be doing, and you’re probably not experiencing much positive emotion either.
These scenarios are also supporting reasons why we tend to escape tasks that we don’t want to do. We usually put them off in the moment and say that we’ll do them later or even just not do them altogether because our willingness meter is so low. Perhaps, we even try to find someone else to do these things for us. When we are genuinely aware of this, we can use that information to help chart a different course of action.
Let’s take the dishes scenario that was mentioned previously. Perhaps, there are also some other chores around the house that need to be accomplished and you are living with a signifcnt other, friend, or roommate. This can open up the door for meaningful conversation to compromise what can be done in the living space that is being shared. Maybe, the person that you live with actually enjoys doing the dishes (crazy thought, I know!), and you enjoy putting the dishes away after they’ve dried. This is an opportunity for a conversation to open up about the process in which the dishes are washed, dried, and then put away. Like the old saying goes, teamwork makes the dreamwork!
Once this occurs, it opens up the door for other conversations about other facets of your life. For example, it could open up conversations about where to travel for holidays (assuming you’re not amidst a pandemic), what other chores could be divided between those sharing the living space, whether or not you cook a meal or order takeout, or whether you decide to get up early in the morning or sleep in. All of these decisions boil down to energy, willingness, and compromise.
I know you might be thinking, “okay, these all seem like trivial things, how does the willingness meter apply to more meaningful things in my life?”. Don’t worry, I’ll get there! However, it is important not to overlook the “trivial things” in life because these are things that we tend to do almost everyday, and anything that you do is a significant portion of your life. It is really simple math. Anywho, let’s get to the more meaningful ways that the willingess meter could help us in our personal lives.
If there are things that you have to do at work everyday that you dislike, say I, I! This is where the willingness meter can come into play. Knowing what you like or dislike in your job can help you organize your tasks. Depending on how you like to approach your day, maybe beginning your day with tasks that you enjoy will help get your energy flowing in the right direction, so that you have enough energy to overcome your unwillingness to do the tasks that you dislike. That way you can use that extra energy to grind through things you might not want to do, but you know you need to do.
There is a saying (forget where I found it, gosh, I always do this!) that says, “where your focus goes, your energy flows”. This is connected to the willingness meter because when our focus is on how much we dislike something, our energy tends to deteriorate rapidly because we’re engaging in emotions like anger, which is basically your brain and body pressing on the gas and breaks at the same time. Yikes! Pretty soon, you’ll have an engine malfunction and find yourself without any energy at all. Now, back to the work example.
If we start our day off with those tasks we enjoy first, we can actually exert a little less energy while doing them because engaging in tasks that we enjoy usually take a little less conscious effort. We are not “willing” ourselves to get through it as much because these are tasks that we genuinely enjoy and have done many times before, so there is a potential to reach a “flow state” where we are engaged to the point of losing a sense of time, because we are repeating actions that we have hours and hours of practice with. Therefore, we are not really thinking about what we are doing, we are merely doing it, because of all the repetitions we’ve had.
On the other hand, if we are engaging in tasks that we do not enjoy, our “willingness meter” tends to be lower, and our chances of reaching that flow state are also lower because of the lack of repitition from not engaging in these tasks and the need for more conscious thought to complete them. The good news is, the more that we repeat these actions, the more likely it is we’ll be able to enter this “flow state” because we’ll create more “motor memories” to complete these actions with less conscious thought. As far as our enjoyment goes, I don’t know if that will change because that is up to the person engaging in their job.
This can also help people make a decision on whether or not their current occupation is right for them. If they are constantly engaged in actions or tasks that they don’t want to do or are unwilling to do, that is going to create a lot of unnecessary suffering in their life, and anything that people do everyday is a significant portion of their life. Especially, if it is their occupation. This is also why there is advice that’s been around forever about “doing what you love”. Some people might think that that’s not practical and that work is meant to be a suffering fest. For those people, I am truly sorry. Reason is, no matter what we do for an occupation, even if it is something that we love, some things about that occupation are going to suck. That’s just reality. However, if we’re eyeball deep in suckage, we’re not allowing ourselves an opportunity to have much joy in our life.
What impact does the willingness meter have on my future?
The willingness meter can help you try to carve out a better path for your future because you’ll have a deeper awareness of what brings you joy and what does not bring you joy. I understand that life isn’t always sunshine and rainbows, but we want to remember that even through the cloudiest and rainiest days, eventually the sun and a rainbow will appear. If we can harness the ability to create our own sunshine and rainbows through our awareness of our willingess meter, we have a higher potential of manifesting more joy amidst the inevitbale suffering we all encounter at points in our lives. Knowing what brings us joy and what does not bring us joy, knowing what we are willing to do or not willing to do, gives us the power to create a brighter future, not just for ourselves, but for the people around us too. So give your willingness meter a check next time there is something you want to do or don’t want to do. It could help set you up for a more joyful future.