Stages of the Volitional Act

The following is from The Act of Will, Chapter 11, pages 135-139

The act of will consists of six sequential phases or stages. They are:

  1. The Purpose, Aim, or Goal, based on Evaluation, Motivation, and Intention
  2. Deliberation
  3. Choice and Decision
  4. Affirmation: the Command, or “Fiat,” of the Will
  5. Planning and Working Out a Program
  6. Direction of the Execution

1. The aim, or goal: The chief characteristic of the volitional act is the existence of a purpose to be achieved; … the aim must be valuated and assessed; then it must arouse motives which generate the urge and the intention to achieve it.

2. .. Many possible goals exist. .. choice has to be made … preferable goal determined through deliberation

6. Finally comes the direction of the execution. This is a specific task of the will, the proper function of which is not to carry out the execution directly, as is commonly supposed. The will can and should make skillful use of the other psychological and bodily functions and energies existing in the personality: thinking and imagination, perceptions and intuition, feelings and impulses, as well as the physical organs of action.

Purpose – Aim – Goal – Valuation – Motivation – Intention

The following is from The Act of Will, Chapter 12, pages 140-150

Classical psychology took account only of conscious motivations. Then, by contrast, psychoanalysis concerned itself only, or almost only, with unconscious motivations and urges, thus arriving, for all practical purposes, at the negation of the will.

Authenticity does not consist in giving in to a bad motive simply because it exists.

In considering motivations, then, one is helped by distinguish between two classes which we may designate respectively as drives and urges, and reasons. Drives and urges can be conscious or unconscious and can be generically regarded as spontaneous tendencies which “move” us or tend to do so. Reasons, on the other hand, to be really such, must be conscious and have a cognitive, mental aspect.

At the present time we represent the sum of all the evolution of the past from the mineral kingdom on; but evolution does not stop with so-called Homo sapiens: evolution is continuous, and our task is to carry forward and foster this great evolutionary impulse, without, however, repudiating the preceding stages!

What is important is to make sure that the lower motives are aligned with the higher motives, and that it is these that are in control and determine the action.


The following is from The Act of Will, Chapter 13, pages 151-169

Thus the prerequisite of thinking–and deliberation–is an act of restraint, of inhibition.

To modern ears, the word “inhibition” carries a rather unpleasant sound; it brings to mind repression and its unfortunate consequences. It can be said that today there is a veritable phobia regarding repression. Therefore, it is worth while clarifying the great difference that exists between :repression: and conscious control.

It is necessary to consider the consequences of the action that we are proposing to take. This is an exercise in foresight. … ; what is needed is empathy, that is , the capacity to enter, so to speak, into the skin of others, and by means of intuitive imagination, become aware of the effects our words and acts may produce.

Inspirations and Intuition … Let us now examine another way of making decisions, especially those that are determined by motives originating in or arriving via the higher unconscious (superconscious) in the form of illuminations, inspirations, and urges to action, both inner and outer. Broadly speaking, such motives can be considered transpersonal in character:

These difficulties should not deter us either from using the approach of arriving at correct choices, or from following our higher promptings. On the contrary, those who do not have spontaneous inspirations or intuitions can make use of the available methods for activating the superconscious and for linking it with the conscious personality. The most reliable ones are the various procedures of receptive and reflective meditation.

Consulting with Others – Finally, there is also the subtle and indefinable but genuine effect of the mere presence of a willing and understanding listener. This can be said to be “catalytic”

Counseling – … , there is a correct counseling technique which is worth learning. … There are several ways in which a consultant can help: 1. By assisting one to formulate clearly the problem to deliberate upon .. 2. When the problem concerns relations with other individuals … by helping one to see that due consideration is given to their points of view. 3. By directing attention to the inevitable consequences of the various possible choices and by illustrating how certainly the law of cause and effect is likely to respond to one’s actions. 4. By assisting the enquirer in finding the correct interpretations of the impressions and indications that he has received from unconscious and especially superconscious urges and intuitions. .. The method of consultation can be employed very simply, in the form of dialogue.

Collective Deliberation – The first rule is to reduce to a minimum the number of those who are to have a hand in the decisions. … Another rule is to put time limits on both discussion and decision. A third, and important, rule demands that those who make the decisions assume all responsibility for them, as a group no less than as individuals.

Individual Differences – The indecisives, who represent a minority, call for a different approach. They must be faced with the necessity for making decisions. They must learn to do so by seizing opportunities “on the fly,” at the right moment. There is an Oriental maxim that has significance for both types: “One cannot mount a camel that has not yet arrived, or one that has already departed”. We can distinguish two different causes, or groups of causes, of indecision. One, which may be considered “constitutions.” occurs in introverted types who indulge in excessive and sterile self-analysis. They often have an intense sense of inferiority. … Other causes of indecision are conflicts between unconscious and conscious motives, fear of making a mistake and unwillingness to assume responsibility. .. Indecisives must clearly recognize that to decide is inevitable. … , not to decide is in itself a decision, and may well be the worst one! They have to develop the courage to make mistakes.

Choice – Decision

The following is from The Act of Will, Chapter 13, pages 151-169

In the matter of making choices, it is essential to recognize that there usually are a few basic choices that enter into the many specific choices. A specific fundamental one is the choice between the past and the future. We are in a period of drastic change and rapid renewal; many old forms do not work any more. The old ways of life prove increasingly inadequate to meet present needs. Therefore it is vain to remain attached to them and to delude ourselves by thinking that we can preserve them intact. On the other hand, the new is not to be chosen in a hurry and without discernment. At present we are witnessing violent, excessive, and ill-considered attempts to change everything at once

Affirmation – Command

The following is from The Act of Will, Chapter 14, pages 170-177

… first step of achievement stage … certainty … the synthesis of two inner attitudes: faith and conviction. True faith is by nature intuitive; it perceives the reality of what is not evident, not manifested, and accepts it. According to Saint Paul’s definition, it is the “substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Faith leading to a sense of certainty requires primarily faith in oneself, that is, in the real Self, in what we are essentially.

The Techniques of Affirmation

1. The use of “words of power.” … can be said only inwardly, but are more effective if pronounced aloud

2. The use of images. … One can use the image, or vision, of what is wanted as if it were already accomplished … Or one can use an image that is the symbol of what we will to realize.

3. Assuming physical attitudes. That is, making gestures, performing acts, which either directly or symbolically express what is to be achieved.

4. Repetition. … The required number of repetitions depends on the importance of the aim, the difficulty of its attainment, and the time needed for the process of manifestation. … The technique of repetition can be employed in a variety of ways: a) Repetition at definite times of the same words or phrases, or repeated use of the same images, b) Series of repetitions at more or less long intervals. c) Repetition with variations of form. This method avoids the drawback of the repetitions becoming routine and mechanical. Variations revive interest and stimulate imagination.

Advertisers are probably the cleverest in the use of repetition and, in general, in influencing people by means of affirmation.

Before and besides using various affirmations for the different volitional actions it is most effective to use what could be called the basic, the essential affirmation: I AM A WILL; I AM A CONSCIOUS, POTENT, DYNAMIC WILL Also the close connection between the will, the self, and love can be emphasized thorough affirming: I AM A LIVING, LOVING, WILLING SELF It should be apparent that much of what is said in this book faces two ways at once:; ;one toward the use of the will to accomplish a variety of purposes, the other toward using the will to train the will itself, as a prior or concurrent activity.

Planning and Programming

The following is from The Act of Will, Chapter 15, pages 178-188

The most important rule is to formulate, clearly and precisely, the goal to be reached, and then to retain it unswervingly in mind throughout all the stages of the execution, which are often long and complex. … The means ever tend to become ends in themselves, and when this happens, man becomes enslaved by the means he has chosen to employ.

Another basic consideration concerns the possibility of a given program being realized–in other words, its feasibility. A frequent error is to conceive plans and programs whose magnitude would demand capacities, circumstances, and resources we are ver far from having at our disposal

This brings us to another rule in planning: the establishment whenever possible of right cooperation. A frequent reason for the failure of so many plans lies in the fact that people want to carry out their programs themselves: want to be the center of the planned organization. Thus they are often guilty of duplication through trying to do what others are already doing, sometimes with much greater resources and possibilities.

A fourth rule of planning pertains to recognizing, distinguishing, and giving proper sequence tothe various phases of planning. They are formulation; programming; structuring; project-making; model, or pilot, project.

Direction of the Execution

The following is from The Act of Will, Chapter 16, pages 189-196

An Examination of this final stage of volitional action will reveal the fundamental error generally committed in the use of the will, and error based upon a mistaken conception of its nature and way of functioning. This error consists in attempting to act by imposing the power of the will on the organs of action. Instead, the true and natural function of the will at his stage is to direct the execution, to put into operation the necessary and appropriate means for reaching the proposed objective. It does so by taking command of and directing the various psychophysical functions.

Another of the mind’s functions which can and must be directed by the will is the intuition. This leads to the examination of the relation between will and intuition. It seems evident that the will possesses no direct power over the intuitive function; it can even hamper its functioning. But here also the will can perform a most helpful indirect action; it can create and keep clear the channel of communication along which the intuitive impressions descend. It does this by imposing a temporary check on the distracting activities of the other psychological functions.

Co-creative Group Suggestions

The following is based on work carried out by the co-creative group on the Will Project during the International Congress of Psychosynthesis in Canada from 11 to 15 September 1998. Initially this is provided to give some form of structure to pages. Please edit freely.

  1. Marketable product highlighting the stages (visual product)
  2. Develop the metaphor of “Building a house” and stages of the will
    1. Each room is a stage
    2. Rooms have connections between them
    3. This could be in written or workshop form
  3. Develop the metaphor of Architecture for the stages of the will (workshop or written form)
  4. Develop a workshop on purpose, motivation, and intention
  5. As a part of the Will project, work with the stages of the will (this could be a focus of our internet chats)
  6. Use the stages of the will in OD interventions
  7. Research the stages of the will at various levels (going beyond each Stage)
  8. Develop a workshop exploring territories that are generally unfamiliar
  9. Apply the stages of the will to our own organizations
  10. Include John Cullen’s work on stages of the will in the Will Library


The Act of Will, Chapters 11 – 16

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