When we have big, audacious goals, we want to be asking ourselves whether we’re relying on willpower to make progress, or Soul.

Willpower may take you to your destination, but with your childlike humanity left behind, feeling hollowed out and needing to recuperate. You’ll be standing in the house of your dreams, married to a beautiful spouse, and wondering “is this it?”

Willpower run rampant is a form of self-hatred and self-exile. It is often a control-seeking escape from our wounded parts.

Woo! Let’s unpack that.

Willpower can be a form of self-hatred or self-exile when we banish the parts of ourselves that don’t work in a planned or productive way. We think of banishing these parts as a necessary part of growing up, but we’re really pruning ourselves back to fit a box that will always be too small and dark for Soul.

The end result of willpower is typically a scarcity mentality. This is because willpower is finite and eventually gives out. Anyone or anything that makes demands on us is sapping our supply.

Now we’re overworked, and have a lack of empathy and connection to boot.

Consider that the opposite of willpower is not laziness; it’s awareness and insight. I’ll argue that these are the sources from which our actions should arise. But to bring our actions to completion, we need less willpower and more Soul Stamina (thanks Carolyn Myss).

What Is Soul?

Think of your Soul as your higher self. It’s your inner teacher, parent, or therapist, depending on the day.

The Soul connects with the Why behind our dreams and allows the How to follow. We usually only see the next step ahead of us when we work from Soul, and the end destination remains a process-driven, rather than outcome driven thing. It’s highly unnerving to the mind! But it doesn’t have to be wishy-washy-woo-woo.

Soul actually takes a lot more strength to lead from. That strength, or Soul Stamina, is the ability to spot our mental antics and self-hating parts, and to nonetheless re-integrate them into ourselves with unconditional loving kindness. It asks that we take a stand for love, instead of reacting from fear.

It takes stamina to step out of the willpower fight – there will always be a gripping feeling in our chest that says “what if this is the wrong way!”

The voices of our inner critics spring up whenever we reach for Soul – insisting that we may be fundamentally flawed, that we may fuck everything up, and yet we continue toward Soul because we cannot stand the hollow feeling that comes from business as usual.

Consider the differences between willpower and soul stamina:

- Willpower is applied toward a vision or goal (that may have been Soulful at one point), but means turning off all the feeling parts as you let your brain take over and try to fight your way there, on your own. You come up for air now and then, but tighten your control on yourself anytime you see something scary.

- Soul Stamina may feel a bit like willpower, but it's got integrity. It might look like: facing the things you've been avoiding in your life, feeling the feelings that have been forbidden, or acting in a way that doesn't fit how others have come to know you. Soul Stamina only works with love. (Anytime we're trying to "fix" ourselves, we're running a "Spiritual Manager," which is an inner critic all gussied up. I'll do a post on this at some point.)

How to Work from Soul

The real “100%” effort we can give is actually about 70%. When we give 70% effort, we stay relaxed, and our body stays soft (not in fight mode).

Relaxed attention and relaxed effort are what taps us into the deep well of internal resourcefulness. It also leaves space for divine inspiration, serendipitous conversations, and a tea party with your seven-year-old (inner or actual).

We all have a time-wasting and childlike side to us. Have you had to banish that part of you in order to get things done? Imagine that this part is an integral one to being human – and to being an adult! We know we’ve lost touch with it when our work feels meaningless and forced.

Consider that both our productive characteristics and our childlike (Soul-like) ones have equally important work to do in order to allow us to live meaningful lives. Our childlike selves carry the creativity and spontaneity that our grownup ideas need to be living, breathing expressions of our true nature.

Taking things at 70% speed leaves space for our wholeness and brings way more back our way by the time the job is done!

Using all willpower is like driving with your foot on the gas pedal and a blindfold over your eyes. On the other hand, Soul always guides us, as though it has access to the bigger plan, directly to the help and the balance we need to really give our gift. Often along the way, it will direct us back to our wounded parts for healing, right in the middle of the path that we thought was heading in a completely different direction.

This is in fact, our real destination, as well as the next adventure.