A common distinction between Western and Eastern philosophy concerns the importance of will. While Western philosophy emphasizes the power of will, Eastern philosophy highlights effortless action.
Force versus flow
You can force yourself to be courageous in the face of fear, to work without procrastinating, to persist despite exhaustion, and to suppress adverse emotions. But what does it actually mean to force yourself to do something?
Consider first that you can’t force your body to do what it doesn’t want to do. There’s no action without will, and your will isn’t free. You can, however, be guided by pride rather than other emotions and desires. Pride makes you do your True Will.
The conflict between pride and other emotions is a natural process in your brain called executive control. No matter how much you have to “force yourself” to do something, your actions are never in disharmony with nature. All brain states are natural, so no human could ever do anything that would oppose the flow of nature.
Only in your mind can you fail to be in harmony with nature. We call such disharmony non-acceptance. It is a disharmony between what is (reality) and what you think about what is (opinion). Non-acceptance is irrationality, lack of wisdom.
Force of will versus flow of life isn’t a real conflict. You can’t force yourself to do something that would disrupt the natural flow of life. You can only think the wish to disrupt it because you’re unhappy with how things are going for you. But your thoughts never change how things are. Non-acceptance is simply a failure to understand life.
Accepting the flow of life characterizes a mindset that’s in harmony with nature. This mindset has little to do with strength vs. compliancy, power vs. peace, achievement vs. health, courage vs. fear, discipline vs. comfort, activity vs. passivity, or willpower vs. non-doing. These conflicts represent the dynamic between pride and other emotions that motivate action. With a harmonious mindset, however, you’re fully accepting of your current level of pride—and whatever may come from it.
Practically speaking, you can only achieve what you truly want to achieve. If you quit, you didn’t want it bad enough, your desire was fleeting, your will was untrue, your pride wasn’t heavily involved. By knowing and accepting your True Will, you are free from your ego’s desires and free to live with the flow of your genuine pride, fueling your power of will.
In conclusion, willpower and natural flow aren’t conflicting forces, but essentially one. They express each other in your body. You can only do what your body wills. You can’t force your body to do otherwise because you are your body, including its mind, pride, and will. It is your choice to be wise and accepting of your bodymind, or to be judgmental, anxious, and discontent.