Most people think so. This “forceful” type of willpower—forcing ourselves to “eat right,” “sleep right” and “be right” is draining and uncomfortable. Although we may experience “success,” aka. “change” for a period of time, it will be short-term and involve significant struggle.

We can only force ourselves to be something we aren’t for so long. Then, there comes a breaking point, when that part of ourselves that disagrees with the “healthy way,” comes out screaming, “GIMME twelve donuts, an all-nighter and something I know isn’t right! Whatever it takes to make this need shut up!!”

Willpower by force is not only ineffective in the long run, but also damaging to our confidence. When we fail at forcing ourselves, we may wrongly conclude that we will never succeed. Because we cannot truly succeed or grow our willpower by force. We are not strong enough to force ourselves to overcome willpower issues without crippling our own truth. And the truth is, part of us wants to keep that addiction—that’s why it’s in our life.

But there is another, kinder way to win ourselves over to a healthier lifestyle. Instead of forcing, denying, squashing or repressing that part of us that “doesn’t want to be healthy,” we can learn about what it truly needs.

Addiction serves a deep purpose that is of the utmost importance. That purpose is buried in our thoughts and most often—our repressed feelings. When we learn the deepest, “darkest” reason for why we reach for that addiction, we find that it isn’t all that dark. The reasons are often simple, common, human needs like, “I need to feel loved,” I need to be understood,” “I need affection,” “I need to be proud of myself,” etc. If we do not know how or are otherwise unable to meet those needs in healthy ways we will find any way to meet them—even if it’s through a life-threatening addiction that may lead us to lose everything we once loved.

Addictions are just one of thousands of ways to meet our needs. If you’re ready to learn about your unmet needs and find healthy ways to start meeting them, here’s a way to start …

The next time you feel that feeling—the feeling before “the binge,” ask yourself, “what do I REALLY need right now?” If the answer is 12 donuts, dig deeper. Find the real answer—it’s there. What do you really need?

Take time to listen to your answer, without judging or criticizing.

Then ask, “What healthy way can I fulfill this need RIGHT NOW?” Maybe it’s to meet friends for dinner, walk your dog, shoot some guns or take a bath. Whatever it is, do that thing, immediately. The longer you wait, the more impatient that “needy” part of you will get, and the more prone you’ll be to grabbing that gratuitous getup, lewd libation, or whatever it is that you “do” to apply a Band-Aid over your need.

Remember: always give yourself a big thank you for giving and receiving real, honest answers. With each new truth we discover, we are closer to choosing healthy ways to meet our needs. By being willing to learn and care for our whole self, we can overcome our willpower issues. No force necessary.