Throughout history, human civilization had gone through adversities like war, natural disasters, catastrophes, political awakenings and even personal trials and tribulations. Some perish, others pulled through, while there are even those who thrive and emerge stronger and better than before.
What makes or breaks a person or society is the Will. Psychologists and philosophers have debated and argued what exactly is the human will. Many have sought to define and understand it, and to this day, the human will is still something that is tacit within all of us – we know and can feel it, but we just don’t know what the hell it is or how to describe it!
The human will had been the point of reference for several important theories and thought. Carl von Clausewitz, the father or modern military thought (some call him Everyone’s favorite White Prussian male…), defined war as a contest of will. The use of force is but a means to an end, and the will is the ultimate object of war. Sunzi, the Eastern counterpart of Clausewitz, penned down his thoughts in a treatise of warfare, better known to the Western world as the Art Of War. Many people have read the great works…few can truly understand them.
You must be thinking…”Damn, my head is starting to hurt with this academic babble…what does it mean and how can I use it?” Well, here’s something to think about – what if the Human WIll is BOTH the means and the object of war, where “war” simply means anything that you want to do – a business, a personal goal, a mission, a corporate objective…ANYTHING?
In this article, I will put forth a framework consisting 4 key principles that gives full control over the Human will – whether at the individual, team, organizational or higher. In essence, it explains the Will as a Weapon, hence it is both the means and object at the same time. I will then test the theory with various real-world events, both past and present, personal and global. Once we have an understanding of the human will, we can move to the next level – how to harness Will Power for personal and organizational EMPOWERMENT and as a force multiplier.
THE WILL AS A WEAPON
Imagine a Tank. The tank is arguably the SINGLE-most significant advancement of warfare that changed the way Mankind fought. In WWI, the British were losing to the Germans’ trench warfare, and it was the sheer ingenuity and necessity that brought about the creation of the tank – a modified farm tractor that could roll across the German trenches and won the war for the Brits. The tank is formidable because of 2 things – mobility and firepower. What gives the tank the awesome combat power?
First, it needs ENERGY in the form of fuel to drive its engine, as well as explosives or kinetic energy to deliver the deadly payload from its main gun. Second, it has armor as PROTECTION – keeping the soldiers in its belly safe and intact amidst the hails of bullets and shots in the battlefield. Third, its tracks and suspension systems keeps in ANCHORED and in place as it fires its main gun, or gives it good traction across muddy fields and plains, and up steep hillocks and slopes. Fourth, the fire control system – how well the tank aims and fires its weapons, either on the move or stationary – DIRECTS the effort and damage exactly where it needs to and want to. Should any one of these 4 aspects fail, the tank is USELESS. No fuel, it can’t move. No armor, the soldiers get shot and wounded by normal rifle rounds. No suspension or tracks, it slides sideways and drifts as the external environment changes. No direction, the gun can fire anywhere EXCEPT at the enemy.
What if we apply these 4 aspects as PRINCIPLES or facets to manage the HUMAN WILL?
We shall now take a closer look at the Big Four – Energise the Will, Protect the WIll, Anchor the WIll and Direct the Will. For ease of reference, let’s call this the EPAD framework. For this article, it will be succinct and brief – a deeper discussion of each of this will come soon.
PRINCIPLE 1: ENERGISE THE WILL
You may have heard of other terms like motivation, morale, confidence, invigorate and so forth. Many management theories have addressed all these in one way or another. In essence, the human will needs the energy, either from within or from external sources, for short, high intensity bursts or long-lasting, sustained perseverances. Whichever the case, there is no doubt that the human will needs to be energized.
Monetary and tangible rewards work fine for immediate, high-powered energy boosts, but just as fast as it takes effects, it will also sizzle out quickly. It is also very costly to keep rewarding and providing for this form of energy for the will. Non-monetary means like sense of learning and growth, recognition, praise, inspiration will give an extended effect and last as longer time, almost like an internal nuclear reactor.
PRINCIPLE 2: PROTECT THE WILL
The term PROTECT the will is more commonly addressed and referred to as Resilience, Resistance, Hardiness and the like. The ability to not not just bounce back, but also to thrive in both acute and chronic adversity. The will needs to be hardy so that it does not break down or disintegrate under pressure, usually stress. How this is done is by utilizing various coping mechanisms to deal with a specific adversity. At the individual level, for example, mental skills training, religion, values and even prayer are good coping mechanisms in the face of intense personal challenges like shock and fear, or chronic situations like poverty. At team and organizational levels, coping mechanisms in the form of systems help the team to deal with situations. In a military unit, a team of medics is a system to cope with battle casualties. At local townships, a fire department deals with adversities like fire, car crashes and other disasters of a certain scale. Internationally, we have the United Nations and other NGOs that handles adversities of a larger scale.
PRINCIPLE 3: ANCHOR THE WILL
Cohesion, commitment, engagement are often talked about and emphasized in teams, organizations and nations. What all these are is basically different psychological contracts between different entities. A psychological contract is the unwritten reciprocal obligation between entities. Cohesion is horizontal – between peers and friends. The camaraderie and sense of belonging to a social group are the bonds that keep the collective will in place. Commitment is vertical – between bosses and subordinates, between individuals and the team or department, Company, industry, profession, or nation. It can be referred to Identity, and the obligation to uphold the status, values and image of the Identity. The more anchor points an individual has, the less likely he/she will be swayed by external forces, and the more likely the individual will stay in place, the more likely the team will stay intact under challenging or unfavorable circumstances. These anchor points also serve to energize the human will, especially those that are strong and deep.
PRINCIPLE 4: DIRECT THE WILL
The belief in the purpose of the Mission or goal is important to focus all efforts. It matters not what the purpose is, but it matters that people believe in the purpose. Knowing where one is heading is of paramount importance. Hence, effort must be spent to rationalize, frame, illustrate and convince ourselves as well as others on the purpose of the mission. You may have read of or heard about the Purpose-driven life and other empowering advocacies. Essentially, this help coordinate and synchronize the other facets of the human will and bring to bear the power of the will on a target. This is commonly referred to as Vision.
HOW DO I UNLEASH AND USE MY WILL POWER?
The EPAD framework can be thought of as a higher-ordered structure to put approaches, constructs and ideas in perspective. There are various sublevels of each principle – at the individual or personal level, at team level, at organizational or systems level, and at the strategic level. For example, morale can be thought of as something that an individual or team has, but you cannot aggregate it to systems or strategic level. A more appropriate term at higher levels would be esprit-de-corp. Another example would be hardiness. A person can be hardy and tough, while a society can be resilient. Of course, you can argue that an individual can be resilient too, but it means different things in different context. A large tribal group in the African plains can consist of thousands of resilient individuals who can survive harsh weather and dangerous wildlife, but as a society, it is unable to cope with large-scale disasters in the way modern nations do with constant ER monitoring, rescue services, air-lifts and so forth.
To prepare yourself or your team’s will, one would need to give thought and pay attention to how anchored you are, what coping mechanisms you have or need, what energy sources you can tap on, and how clear and strong is your belief or Vision.
Once you use these 4 principles to sort out the various levels and facets of the human will, NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE.