Your power is strongest when it’s focused, so clarify your goals and take stock of how you are really spending your time. When your inner will is concentrated toward a unified purpose, you become better at resisting distractions and come to streamline your actions toward purposeful ends. Consciously and mindfully decide not to be controlled by your own irrational desires and passions. Practice meditation to gain better awareness of your own impulses, needs, and motivations. Recognizing such drives within you is the first step toward gaining control and better managing them.
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Make Your Will like a Laser
When light rays are diffused and spread out, their effect is weak; when light rays all point in the same direction, they can form a laser powerful enough to slice through steel.
Your inner will to power is like this— relatively useless when not coordinated, but powerful when harnessed and channeled toward one unified purpose.
Nothing can get done in life without will, energy, power, and motivation.
This is the only material we have to work with in bringing our dreams to life, so it makes sense to use it wisely.
If we fritter it away on inconsequential things, or divide ourselves on many unimportant goals, we never can muster up the full potent force of our free will.
Resisting temptation, distraction, and addiction becomes much easier when the whole of your being is pulling toward the same goal.
You find more motivation to start, and more inspiration to continue if you are always tapping into your deepest underlying drive in life.
It’s an inspiring thought in itself: you don’t have to summon up energy or create it from nothing—you merely have to direct it optimally.
A practical way to use this insight is to look at how you’re literally spending your attention and energy every day.
Watch yourself and your routines closely as though you were trying to do an audit or budget for where you spend your will to power.
Time is another fixed resource we are all blessed with—start by noting how you spend every moment of the day.
After a week, look at the data.
Note how much time is spent on sleep, on rest, on “life admin,” like exercise, grooming, eating.
How much time is spent on work, including commuting, preparing, worrying? How much time is spent on mindless, addictive, or harmful behaviors? Honestly note it all down.
You might like to compile a pie chart to see visually exactly where your time— and your life force—is going each day.
You’ll see the problem immediately: even though most of us say things like “I care about family” or “I’m working on my novel,” in reality, we spend very little time on these so-called priorities.
It can be very sobering to realize that you spend three times as much energy on social media as you do on quality time with those you love, especially since you’d probably say that the latter was more important than the former! Your will to power can only work for you when it’s aligned with your goals.
This means you have to clearly define your goals, as well as make sure that you’re dedicating as much of your time and energy to achieving them as possible.
Self- discipline is what makes you pull yourself into better alignment, mustering your whole self toward the things you most care about.
Some call this integrity—the ability to live and act in accordance with your values.
You don’t need a perfect mission statement written in stone—in fact, you may need to regularly revisit your motivations, priorities, values, interests, abilities, desires, goals, and aspirations.
But it all comes down to the same thing: you have one life.
What are you going to use it for? Are you going to squander your potential, or make every last drop of it work toward the things you most want to achieve in this life?
Control Your Desires
Mindfully Are you in control of your desires? Or are your desires in control of you? Here, “desires” means your addictive impulses, your knee-jerk fears, your irrational anger, your inappropriate lust, your laziness, your jealousy, your paranoia, your need for instant gratification.
Nietzsche would say that as long as you are subject to these forces, you can never fully become everything you could be.
Understanding our motivations, potentials, drives, desires, limitations, and more (i.e.
understanding who we are) is a life’s work, and not something you can figure out with a few quick hacks.
But we can make a start (and we have, in taking a closer look at akrasia and how it can disrupt our personal development attempts).
One way to gain a good foothold over our derailing impulses is through meditation, although mindfulness as we conceive of it in the West today is not something that Nietzsche explicitly recommended.
The first step to gaining mastery over your passions and desires is to fully acknowledge them as they emerge.
And this takes awareness.
Meditation is a powerful tool that can help you gain some crucial distance from the distracting thoughts that pop up and threaten to carry your attention and energy elsewhere.
Half the battle is simply noticing that you are in fact under the sway of such desires and passions.
In meditation, we practice recognizing excuses, distractions, addictions, fears, and other mental noise that get in the way of our focused will and discipline.
Once those are recognized, we can then practice letting them go, or consciously choosing a different path.
Think of it as gym for your will.
Here’s a simple meditation routine you can practice daily to achieve a more focused will.
Sit comfortably on a chair with both feet flat on the ground, back in proper alignment (neither slouched nor overly rigid), and hands resting on your lap.
Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths, feeling and listening to the sound of each breath as you inhale and exhale.
Relax any muscle that may be tensing—your forehead, jaw, arms, legs.
Continue taking deep breaths and count slowly from one to ten as you go deeper into this relaxed state.
Notice the thoughts that come, and let them when they do so.
Try to be aware that you are not your thoughts, and that you can access a part of you that can look at these thoughts in the same way that you can observe passersby on the road.
Next, imagine that your energy, attention, and will to power is a beam of light that you can consciously retract from a thought or behavior, and shine onto something else instead.
Notice how you can control this light to shine from one part of your mind to another, from one thought to the next.
This is how you develop the skill to wield your will to power toward more productive ends, by first practicing the ability to channel it as you please.
Once you feel you have enough practice for the time being, imagine pulling back from the deeply relaxed state you are in as you take deep breaths and count backward from ten to one.
Open your eyes.
Practice this meditation exercise regularly to gain mastery of your will to power.
Create Your Own Life; Create Your Own Meaning; Create Yourself
There is a blank piece of paper in front of you.
You have one hour, and a whole palette of colors to draw from.
You can do anything.
There are no limits, but once the hour is up, it’s up.
What are you going to make? This situation is not much different from the situation we actually find ourselves in with life.
Whatever your views on free will are, there’s no denying that we have some range of possible actions in front of us.
Every day, we can choose our words, our attitudes, our reactions, the questions we ask, the perspectives we take, the values we hold dear, the meaning we find in things, the mistakes we’re willing to admit to.
And in this way, every day, we create ourselves.
If we have the ability to harness and control our own will to power and develop our self- discipline so that we are in control of our desires, then it follows that it is we who are in control of our lives, and not some mysterious external force.
Nietzsche claimed that some people have “slave morality” in which they express their own will to power in weak, passive, or underhanded ways, while others have “master morality,” where they exercise their own will by imposing it on others weaker than themselves.
Imagine a bully and the person they pick on.
The bullied person might derive a sense of their own power by adopting a victim status that makes them feel vindicated and virtuous, whereas the bully might find their power in dominating and mastering others.
It may be most helpful, though, to imagine that we have the capacity to express our will to power in both ways.
As we saw in the previous chapter, akrasia is a serious threat to self-discipline, but slave/master morality might do more damage, since it’s often unconscious. Here are some examples of how you might be directing your will to power into less-than-ideal channels, or undermining it entirely:
• Blaming others.
When we believe that others control our fate, we stop asking how we ourselves are responsible, and give up our power to act for ourselves.
Expressing dissatisfaction with life while taking no action to improve anything unconsciously speaks to your lack of confidence in your own power to master your environment.
It’s as though if you complain hard enough, someone else will come to fix the problem for you!
When you have your own self-determined values and sense of integrity, it doesn’t matter what others do.
Whether you believe you’re better than others or worse, comparisons only undermine your own will and power.
Envy in particular is a denial of your own ability to achieve those same things for yourself (with effort, of course).
Making excuses about why we can’t do the things we know are good for us is a missed opportunity to strengthen our will.
Bearing in mind that you create yourself—do you want to be the kind of person who is powerless, reactive, and a victim? Do you want to grasp the opportunity and build yourself according to your values, or do you want to drift about with life, bouncing off other people’s wills and passively accepting what happens to you? You can always take responsibility for yourself and own your choices, both good and bad.
Many people say they “don’t have time” to work toward goals.
They may see others succeeding and make some justification about why they couldn’t do the same.
They blame a bad childhood, the government, their star sign, life in general.
But all of this is just a distraction—as long as you fail to use your will to power, the page in front of you remains blank, your values unacknowledged, and your goals unmet.