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“ ‘Where there is a will, there is a way,’ says the proverb. That is not entirely true; but it is true that where there is no will, there is no way” (Thomas S. Szasz).
WITHOUT A SUFFICIENTLY STURDY WILL, WE CAN’T BE EFFECTIVE IN ANY WORTHWHILE ENDEAVOR. If our intellect and our emotions are the “legislative” parts of our minds, then our will is the “executive” part. It executes our decisions. It carries out the dictates of our conscience. It even brings into being the creations of our imagination. And if, for some reason, our will is lazy or not strong enough to do these things, then all the finest thinking, discerning, and desiring that we might do would amount to very little in the end.
We often speak of our will as being “free,” and there are some important senses in which that is true. In a strict sense, however, our will is not absolutely free. It is always attached to an object or purpose that is determined by the other parts of our minds. As Joyce Cary put it, our will “is simply the engine in the car — it can’t drive.” Or to go back to our government analogy, the will doesn’t make the laws; it just carries out the instructions that have been given to it. It should be obvious, then, that we need to be careful what instructions we give to our wills. If our thinking is carefully maintained, then our wills can serve us well. Otherwise, great damage is likely to be done.
Most of us know that the will doesn’t always come through for us. Yes, it can be very strong when the choice is “what I want vs. what you want,” but it can be amazingly weak when the choice is “what I ought to do vs. what I want to do.” When my alarm goes off at five in the morning, and it’s time to get up and write, I wonder where the strong will is that showed up so quickly when I “discussed” matters with the idiot who cut ahead of me in the line at Starbucks.
The fact is, if we don’t deliberately train our wills, they won’t be helpful. If undisciplined, our wills will be too strong in some areas and too weak in others. So training and conditioning our wills to help us is one of the most important parts of becoming mature, and Anatole France was certainly right when he wrote, “An education that does not cultivate the will is an education that depraves the mind.”
“The will to do, the soul to dare” (Sir Walter Scott).