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Forget Willpower! I Trust My Inner Wisdom

By Charlene Rayburn

willpower in wood type

When I was dieting, I would “rev myself up” with determination and willpower to stay on “the plan.” I held the “skinny me” image in my mind as an imaginary muse. Frankly, my muse seemed way too far away to inspire me, and the hype left me exhausted so my will never lasted for very long.

Today, I simply remind myself to pay attention. I say “simply” because it really is that simple (though admittedly not always easy).

When I pay attention, my inner wisdom guides me to healthy living. It tells me when it needs to be fed, and that a variety of foods help me feel my best. When I pay attention, I really taste the food I’m eating; in fact, I savor it. It is more instantly gratifying because I’m more satisfied with the experience of my meal in the moments while I’m eating. I’m also more satisfied after the meal because eating was a more pleasurable experience and I ate the right amount for my body’s needs.

My body also tells me what form of exercise will feel good, even luxurious. It guides me to what will help me feel better when I’m done exercising than I do when I start. It also tells me how to avoid pushing myself too hard. It rewards me with more flexibility and strength.

The real difference between willpower and inner wisdom is the way I talk to myself.


• I must not eat that. I must resist. I must stay on the food plan.
• I must stick to the outlined exercise plan, even though it hurts or leaves me feeling weak.
• I must push through. No pain, no gain.
• I must be self-disciplined.
• Why can’t I do what I said I was going to do?
• What is wrong with me?

Inner Wisdom

• What sounds delicious to eat? What does my body need?
• What would be the most delicious way to move my body today? What does my body need?
• What is one step can I take that will move me closer to my personal health goals?
• I choose to be kind to myself. What would be a wonderful way to treat myself to self-care today?
• Knowing that I am intelligent and capable, what do I choose in this moment? Perfection isn’t necessary.
• I trust my inner wisdom. No one else knows me like I do.

Knowing that we instinctively move away from unpleasant things, and toward things that give us pleasure, it is easy to see which of these self-talk patterns is more helpful.

Willpower meant trying to make someone else’s “right” choice and self-shaming and self-blaming when I made the “wrong” choice.

Inner wisdom is simply trusting myself to make the “just right for me” choice. Ahhh.


About the author

Charlene Rayburn, CVCC, lives her passion for mindfulness and intentional leadership by serving as a personal and professional leadership coach, by managing a department of dedicated employees for a Fortune 500 sized health insurance organization, and by facilitating Am I Hungry?® workshops and coaching sessions. She has coached extensively with individuals and groups outside the corporate world, as well as with executives, leaders, and teams in non-profit, private, public, governmental, and educational organizations spanning the globe. Charlene received her coaching certificate through the Center for Coaching Mastery at Coachville, LLC, and earned a Bachelor of Business Administration Degree in Management from Davenport University. She is a member of the National Management Association. One of her most emotionally challenging and rewarding experiences was serving as a volunteer at the Center for Battered Women. Charlene currently lives in Michigan and enjoys spending time with her husband of over 20 years, reading, learning, cooking, practicing yoga, and watching her grandson grow, who lives with his dad, her stepson in Fort Worth, Texas.

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