Willingness Vs Willpower…our Ambivalence to Change

Willingness vs Willpower and our Ambivalence to change

How do we create lasting change?
Truth bomb…it ain’t easy. It’s Hard with a capital H. We humans despise change and even if we know what we are doing is bad for us, we prefer to repeat our behavior rather than change it.

But, we know that change is possible. If you can learn bad habits, you can learn good ones too. Right? Absolutely.

But before we get into that, I’d like call Bullshit on something our society seems to revere as the highest ranking value: Willpower.

If you think you don’t have enough willpower, let me remind you that at some point (unless you had a genetic predisposition), you stood. And then you walked…and eventually ran. Did you fall down? Yup, you did. You fell many, many times. Did you still keep at it until you could walk and run without falling? Yes you did. So we all have willpower. Let’s put that excuse to rest.

Breaking bad habits and creating new healthy ones isn’t about willpower.

It is a matter of desire and more importantly, willingness.

Ask anyone who has ever made a big change in their life: quit smoking, changed careers, left a bad relationship, finally finished writing the book…willpower had little to do with how they followed through. What they DID have was a very strong desire to change (failure was not an option), and the willingness to feel uncomfortable when the going got tough. They also had a plan. Not just the action steps required to achieve their goal, they also had a plan for how to handle the obstacles that would likely come up. That’s where willingness is crucial for creating lasting change.

Let’s use quitting smoking as an example (which I did myself 25 years ago). Why do you want to quit? Don’t use your spouse’s concerns or your children’s guilt trips as reasons why, unless they resonate for you. Why do YOU want to quit smoking (…fill in the blank for anything you want to change). Get very clear and excited about seeing yourself as the person you want to become. Visualize it and fully engage all of your senses. When you have already overcome the challenge, how will that feel? How will your life look? What will you say and hear other’s saying? How will your body feel? Again, really connect with your feelings.

Now ask yourself, what you’re going to have to give up to achieve this goal. What are some of the “negatives” about changing this behavior? Lasting change means sacrificing some things. Take time to acknowledge what losses you will have to accept.

Ambivalence is a normal part of goal setting that most of us confuse with a signal to give up. Again, our resistance to change is huge. But, until your new behavior is habitual, it will take energy and probably some trial and error before it starts to feel easy. And going back to my example of quitting smoking, there is a lot to give up. For example, aside from the addiction itself, smokers often have to give up some social situations. When I quit, I avoided seeing my smoking friends for a few weeks. I avoided the smoke filled bars (you were allowed to smoke inside bars back then!…and on planes!) At parties, I stayed inside while my smoking friends went outside. That was a big sacrifice for me because I had close ties with those people…we spent hours out in the cold smoking and gossiping. (And seriously, it was cold…I’m from Canada!) There was some loneliness and serious boredom for me to overcome. Was it still worth it to me to quit? Was I willing to stay inside and make new connections with the non-smokers? Yes, I was willing. I wanted to have the label: “non-smoker” be my new identity.
Honor your ambivalence. Allow room for yourself to feel the crummy stuff. But don’t let it take charge. Instead, write it out. (Do not do this in your head.) Write out all the reasons you don’t want to go for it and include the things you will have to give up. And then for each item on your list, decide… “am I willing to feel and experience this in order to achieve my goal?”

If you truly want to change and know why, you will be able to answer this question with an earnest “yes”. But, let’s not be naive either. This is an opportunity for you to be honest with your limitations and prepare for them in advance. And every time they come up, you can remind yourself to revisit WHY you want it and that you are WILLING to handle this present challenge.

A lot of people post “am I willing?” all over their home and office as reminders. Some people set reminders on their phone so when they enter into a “potential ambivalence challenge”, they are prepared to take action. And some people enlist their friends to remind them of why they want to change and how great they will feel when they’ve achieved it.

Whatever works best for you, do it! But first:

WHY do you want to make this change?

WHAT obstacles might come up and WHAT will you have to give up?
(write it out)

Are you WILLING to feel the feelings that will inevitably come up should these obstacles actually happen? (go through each item on your list)

And then start living as the person you want to be. Start taking those actions now and keep your “willingness tools” close as you go for it.

July 24th Workshop



How to  Get Out of Your Own Way and Get What you Really Want!

workshop led by Brigitta Dau

~ Is another year speeding by without seeing your goals come true?

~Are you “shoulding all over yourself” rather than taking REAL ACTIONS to get what you      want?

~ Are you ready to try a new approach?

In three hours, you will gain clarity on why you want what you want, discover your patterns of resistance and self sabotage, learn quick and effective strategies to move beyond what’s holding you back, and leave with an effective and doable plan to make those goals happen. We’ll cover everything from procrastination, to rejection, to perfectionism. As well as cultivate skills to manage stress, like mindfulness and cognitive exercises. Learn how cultivating what you’re passionate about and ending self sabotage will help you create the life you are meant to live.

Date: Sunday, July 24th
Time: 1pm – 4pm
Location: Los Angeles
Cost: $50
Contact: brigittadau@yahoo.com for more information or to register today. Must register by July 15th. Space is limited.


Yes! I Want it! How do I get it!?!

The Half Way Check in…
Part two

Yes I want it! How do I get it?!

You’ve decided, “YES with a capital Y! I still want to achieve this goal this year.”

So then, where are you in terms of achieving it?

This is the moment of truth. This could be a lovely “high five” moment or it could be a tough love reality check. Be honest. What are you doing on a regular basis to achieve this goal? Where are you doing great? Where are you blowing it? Where are you holding yourself back? Could you be doing more?

To use myself as an example, I’ve had a busy year and can say I’ve achieved some of my goals already. Or at least, I’m well on the road to seeing the success I’m hoping for. But what about the other one or two that I set back in January? They are right where they were six months ago. Any action I’ve taken has been sporadic with little consistency thus little movement has occurred towards seeing these goals become reality. Do I still want them? YES. Am I excited about them? YES. So, I have to get honest with myself as to what I’m doing or not doing to achieve them.

If that sounds like you, then let’s get real.

Big question: Why? Why have you not applied yourself to the best of your ability to make this goal come true. What is stopping you? Where are you stopping yourself?

Now, before we go into our “I suck, I’m a loser, I have no willpower, what’s the point” story, imagine you are talking to a friend instead of yourself. What would you say? Likely, you’d ask them what they were AFRAID of.

When we show up small in our lives it’s because we are afraid. Afraid of rejection, embarrassment, failure…Change alone is very challenging. It can be confronting and awkward and none of us enjoy feeling self-conscious.

So, be compassionate with yourself. And be curious. And…honest. Why haven’t you gone after it? Writing about your feelings is a great way to get clear about not just how you are holding yourself back, but your motivations for not taking action. When you know WHY you are afraid, then you can take action to overcome it. Usually, once we look at our fears, we can honestly say we are willing to try anyway. Putting the smoke and mirrors act to the side allows us to take full responsibility for ourselves and puts us back in the driver’s seat of our lives.

You’ve heard me say this before: Plot it out. What do you want to see happen by July 1st? August 1st? What will you have to do to see that result? Schedule it. For example, let’s say you want to be able to be able to run 3 miles. Well, what actions will you have to take? You’ll probably have to run 3 – 4 times a week for a certain amount of time to build up to 3 miles. Maybe this week you will jog for a 1/2 hour, 4 times. Schedule those runs. What day? What time? Make plans with a friend if it helps. (I also recommend thinking ahead to the excuses you will make to NOT go for it. Prepare for your resistance in advance…excuses are not facts, they are the ways we sabotage ourselves.)


And remember to reinforce the good stuff! When you actually follow through, give yourself lots of kudos for taking another step forward. Pretty soon, with consistent action, you will see your goals becoming reality.


Is it June already???

The Half Way Check in

Part one
It’s June…already…

Like all years, this one is flying by and before we know it we will be ringing in the New Year. And, likely setting some goals or resolutions, yet again.

The question is…will they be the same goals from this year?

At this point of the year, its always beneficial to check in and see how things are going. This is not an opportunity to beat yourself up. It is however an opportunity to get honest about what we really want for ourselves.

You know your goals or the resolutions you made. Hopefully you wrote them out and have been checking in with them on a weekly basis.

Or, maybe you forgot about them or gave up on them a few months ago.

Now is the time to revisit them.

For several reasons:

Maybe, it was too hard. Was it possible the goal wasn’t realistic in the first place? Would a revision be a good step in the right direction? (i.e., running consistently 4 times a week vs running a marathon. For some people running a marathon is an easy goal to achieve. For many of us though, it’s a huge goal that requires a lot of other small goals to be achieved first. If running a marathon is epic for you, set a more reasonable goal such as a committing to a consistent running schedule.)

Another important reason to check in? Are your goals still valid? Do you still want to achieve them? We all change over the course of a year and sometimes what seemed super exciting six months ago isn’t a priority anymore.

The first thing to ask yourself is “Do I still want to achieve this?”
This is important to clarify for yourself. Towards the end of 2015, I challenged my clients to get everything they could off their “to-do” list so they could go into 2016 with a clean slate. Which meant for some of them, to let go of certain things that wouldn’t have a great impact on their lives.

If you can “declutter” your goal list by dropping what’s not worth it, you can create more energy for yourself to go after the goals that will make you truly happy.

To determine which goals are still important, ask yourself “why do I want to achieve this goal?”. Don’t just go with your first answer. Ask yourself this at least 3 times and try to narrow down the specific emotional reason you want this goal. How will it make you FEEL when you achieve it. (More specifically, how will it make you feel WHILE going after it?)

If your answers are wishy-washy or bland, I say drop it. Also, if you feel stressed or resentful at the thought of it, ditch it. If however, you feel your heart skip a beat and you get excited about how your life could be if you went after it, then keep it on the list.

Some great questions to ask yourself are “What kind of person will I be by going after this goal? Would my friends be excited for me if I went after this? How will my life look if I actually pull this off? Does going for it light me up?”

Journal about it, ask your friends their thoughts…and then… Decide. Is this a “lights me up YES!” goal? Or is it time to drop it like a hot potato?

In a few days you’ll receive part 2 of the “check in” newsletters: Yes, I want it. How do I get it?!

So sit down with these questions today. Remember, “your circumstances are not determined by your resources, they are determined by your choices” – Tony Robbins


Offloading emotions, AKA BS Stories

When we fail, or get hurt, or feel jealous or angry…when we feel bad about things, we often jump to “offloading emotions” status.

“Offloading emotions” is a nasty form of self-talk that stops us in our tracks.

Some examples:

“I failed and feel terrible” becomes “I’m a failure”

“I overate again” becomes, “I’m fat and have no willpower”

“I lost my nerve” becomes, “I’m a chicken”

“I could have done better” becomes, “I’m a loser”

You can see that there is a big difference in terms of emotional charge when you compare “I could have done better” to “I’m a loser”. Stating “I’m a loser” is a wide sweeping, judgmental thought that hurts…a lot. And for most of us, thoughts like these can be paralyzing.

Like I’ve said before, our thoughts are usually not as truthful as we believe. But we are quick to offload our “negative” emotions to statements like the above.

For most of us, it’s easier to label ourselves than to be curious about our feelings. Being curious about our feelings means being willing to feel uncomfortable. It means consciously staying present to what’s going on with ourselves in those unsettling moments.

But it’s worth it in the long run.

When you are curious about your feelings, you become aware of your self-talk. You’ll quickly notice those harsh words that “voice in your head” is hurling at you. Previously, they went unchecked. But now, when you can actually hear the stories and insults your self-talk is spewing, you can consciously decide whether to believe it or not. And, if it’s not helpful, I say, don’t believe it.

(I wrote an entire newsletter titled “is this thought helpful?”…if you didn’t get it or want to read it again, let me know and I’ll send it to you.)

Start getting curious when uncomfortable feelings come up and try to catch yourself when you are offloading emotions with insults and labels. Start to cultivate more curiosity about what Bulls$%! stories you’re telling yourself.

…Maybe those stories need a rewrite.


Generous Assumptions

What is the most generous assumption I can make?
(and still acknowledge my feelings)

There is a fabulous book called “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Rusiz ( If you haven’t read it, do so!) It’s basically stating that if you follow the “four agreements”, you will have less conflict in your life.

One of the agreements that has always stuck with me is “Make No Assumptions”.

It seems virtually impossible for me to follow that agreement. And I think, we often HAVE to make assumptions to get by in the world we live in. For example, if you know it takes 1/2 hour to drive to a certain place, you can “assume” today will be the same. If you made an appointment with someone at 1pm, you can assume they’ll show up. If you had to second guess all your assumptions you’d be exhausted by 9am!

But some of our assumptions, mainly our assumptions about other people, can be harmful and counter productive.

Think back to a time in the past week or so, when you had a disagreement with someone that left you feeling bad afterwards. Maybe you felt judged, belittled, embarrassed, hurt… Take a moment now to see if you can recall what your thoughts were at that time.

“He thinks I’m stupid”, “She thinks she’s better than me”, “He doesn’t care about me”, “She’s only in it for herself”…etc,etc,etc. Just notice the thoughts.

Now, ask yourself if you can, for certain, know that your thoughts are true.

Usually when our buttons get pushed, we are diving deep into a swarm of thoughts that have little truth and even less relevance to the situation at hand.

But, how can you stop the story once it’s started?

By interrupting it.

Go back to the situation you recalled. You noticed your thoughts. Now, acknowledge your feelings (hurt, angry, etc). But, ask yourself “What is the most generous assumption I can make right now?”

Assuming “she’s only in it for herself” probably isn’t the most generous assumption you could make. What else “could” be going on?

Can you know for certain “he thinks you’re stupid”? What’s a different assumption you could make.

Making a generous assumption doesn’t mean you let people get away with behaving badly or that you stop setting boundaries. Making a generous assumption helps YOU behave in a better way for YOU. It helps you side step your old beliefs and allows space for your mind to come up with a solution rather than an attack.

And yes, you have to practice asking yourself this question until it becomes automatic. Then, when a real conflict occurs, this question will be your first thought rather than your previous knee jerk reactions. But as I always say, have fun practicing it.

When someone blows the stop sign…”what is the most generous assumption I can make right now?” Sure, they may be a self- centered jerk, or, maybe they just didn’t see the sign…

When your client is late…”what is the most generous assumption I can make right now?” Well, they might have no respect for you or your time, or maybe they had an issue with traffic or an unforeseen emergency at home.

When someone cuts ahead of you in line, “What is the most generous assumption I can make right now?” They might be totally unconscious and selfish, but maybe they just didn’t see you.

By asking this question, you are not negating the possibility that they are unconscious, selfish, etc. But you are creating the possibility that a slightly less harsh belief could also be true. And that will likely help you react in a less confrontational way.

Then when bigger things happen like your friend or partner or boss snaps at you…”what is the most generous assumption I can make right now?” will be a natural thought before you respond.

Start practicing today and let me know how it goes! And I think everyone should pass this on to someone they know because we could ALL make more generous assumptions about each other, right?

Is this Thought Helpful?

Is this Thought Helpful?

(even if it might be true?)

“I’m fat”, “I’m incompetent”, “I’m a failure”, “I’m too old”, “I’m too young”, “I’m boring”, “I’m a loser”, “I can’t handle this”…does any of this sound familiar?

Most of us have some pretty nasty self talk. And usually there is a fairly lengthy story attached to these thoughts as well. We all have a very well defined belief system promoting the notion that these nasty thoughts are absolute fact.

Regardless of whether they are true or not, are these thoughts helpful? Do they propel you forward and inspire you to take actions to improve your situation?

I doubt it. More likely, they stop you in your tracks and lead you to do more of what already makes you feel bad.

If the thoughts help? By all means, keep them. But for most of us, thoughts like these do not help at all.
But, we’re often too caught up in these thoughts to stop the story in our heads.

Simply questioning if these thoughts are true, won’t make them be less harmful. And actually getting rid of them is next to impossible, though doable over time. So, what can we do RIGHT NOW to take action in the face of these thoughts?

Ask… “Is this thought helpful?” If no, then, add a few words… “I’m noticing I’m thinking___”

“I’m a loser” = “I’m noticing that I’m thinking I’m a loser”.

Chew on that for a minute. Do you notice that there is a slight separation between you and the thought?

Write out your own nasty self talk…the whole hideous story. Pick the thought that is the nastiest. Ask yourself, “is that thought helpful?” Then, add the “I’m noticing I’m thinking___” in front of it. Does it have less of a hold on you? Maybe it’s not quite as ‘personal’ as it was before?

Practice this through out the day as these thoughts pop into your head. Start to “notice” your self talk and question if it’s helpful. Remember, the self talk will not likely go away, but you don’t have to connect with it…just notice it. And ask, is this thought helpful?

Set the kind of Goals that Move You Forward

What do you Want and Why? “CHANGE IS NEVER A MATTER OF ABILITY. IT IS ALWAYS A MATTER OF MOTIVATION” -Tony Robbins Why do you want what you want? That’s the most important question you can ask yourself when you are looking to change something be it a bad habit, a relationship, your career…”why?”. Why do you want it to be different? Here’s the trap…a lot of us will answer with “because I don’t want to feel ___ anymore”. In most cases, that answer pretty much insures that the change you want won’t happen. Our brains are hard wired to “go towards things”. Particularly, things that make us feel GOOD. That’s pretty obvious, I know. But if you want to change something, you have to focus on how you WANT to feel when you have achieved that change, rather than focus on what you don’t want. For example: “I want to lose weight.” Why? “Because I hate the way my body feels in my clothes”…is the trap. Instead maybe you can answer: “Because I want to feel fabulous and confident in my clothes, I want to have more energy”…etc Another example: “I want to earn more money” Why? “Because I’m sick of living paycheck to paycheck”…is the trap. Instead, maybe you answer: “Because I want to take a vacation, get my car cleaned, go out with my friends”…etc Another example: “I want to get a better job.” Why? “Because my boss is an asshole and my life is being flushed down the toilet”…you can clearly see the trap there! Another answer? “I want to tap into my natural talents at work, I want my work to be fulfilling and soul affirming”…etc You get the point. You have to phrase your desires in “moving towards” language. And then, focus on THAT rather than focusing on what you DON’T want to feel. Focussing on what you WANT moves you forward and brings you closer to actually getting it. It also elicits the energy required to receive that which you want. This is not new age “woo hoo”, it’s basic physics. Low vibrational energy attracts low vibrational energy. And, high vibrational energy attracts high vibrational energy. So, focusing on what’s wrong, what’s not working…low energy thoughts…will attract more of that energy. The same is true for higher energy thoughts. Thoughts of enthusiasm, gratitude, and vitality attract more of those high energy vibrations. The old saying “ What you focus on, expands” is not self help jargon. It’s a law of physics. And if I was breaking a habit or embarking on a new career, I’d be harnessing all the high energy I could, and get the law of physics on MY side. And by reframing your goals from “moving away from” (low energy) to “moving towards goals” (high energy), you can effectively get the energetic world on your side. Which leads to: better results more efficiently and with greater ease. Brigitta (feel free to forward this to your friends!)