Skills That Last a Lifetime – “WILL”

“The Darkness cannot extinguish your light. Your WILL. Your determination. No matter what is happening—no matter how hard the fight is. As long as you keep fighting—you win.”

Jocko Willink, US Navy SEAL

There is likely no experience that illustrates the Qi Skill of “WILL” better than United States Navy SEAL training. Each year the Navy recruits about 40,000 young people to serve with about half of them expressing some interest in becoming a SEAL. With a set of strict criteria, only about 1,000 are selected to begin SEAL training. Three out of four of those do not complete the training. It is the ultimate combination of the traits that Dr. Jana describes as essentials in “WILL”: commitment, conscientiousness, determination, persistence, perseverance, and focus. Does this mean that we all have what it takes to become a Navy SEAL? Well, not likely! However, these traits support our interests, experiences, and strengths as we face our own set of challenges in life.

We are examining Qi Skills proposed by Dr. Laura Jana. This blog will address the “WILL” Skill. [For an introduction to Dr. Laura Jana’s Qi Skills, please visit the introductory blog in this series]

Within the “WILL” Skill, we find our motivation to meet challenges and implement the other six Qi Skills. “WILL” Skills serve as a foundation upon which we build the other QI Skills. Dr. Jana is quick to distinguish between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. This Qi Skill is built on intrinsic motivation. Daniel Pink, the author of the book, Drive, has described intrinsic motivation in this manner, “The joy of the task is its own reward.

Balance and Motivation

It is no accident that the “WILL” Skill is placed in the center of the QI Skills. In addition to a foundation, it can also serve as a balance. Dr. Jana explains that “WILL” Skills are highly dependent on “ME” Skills since they demand attention, focus, and self-control. US Navy SEAL Jocko Willink expresses the proper balance between “ME” and “WILL” as humility. “The worst thing about a lack of humility is that you can’t do a solid, honest assessment of yourself. So, you are not going to improve.”

Willink states that the primary reason that a highly trained special operation’s SEAL would be dismissed from the program was lack of humility. If someone who could justifiably be called elite is brought down by a lack of humility, what does that say to the rest of us? Our motivation, drive, and focus must help us balance our self-assessments, relationships, and curiosity with honest assessments as we gain experience in school and work.

A Word for Parents (teachers and employers can learn from these as well) from Dr. Jana on building “WILL” Skills:

Avoid engaging in if-then parenting

Limit the use of extrinsic rewards for a job well done. Consider such statements, “I’m so proud of your effort to accomplish that.”

Model self-motivated behavior

What type of attitude do we display when activities are boring or hard?

Resist swooping in

Avoid removing difficulty from age-appropriate activities. Help your child discover the joy of time and effort to accomplish a task.

Present them with puzzles

Solving age-appropriate complex problems is a great training ground for work in our rapidly changing world.

Take it slow

Our culture values quick and easy. Make time in your busy schedules to let your child fiddle, struggle, and complete a task.

Give them goals

Determination is built through long-term goals. Help your child learn about and select goals that take time to complete.

Pick up on passions

As you observe interests in your child, these can be the basis for helping develop long-term goals.


Review the other Key Skills. (Click on the links below).





Jana, L. (2017). The toddler brain. Boston: Da Capo Press.

Pink, D. H. (2009). Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us. New York, NY: Riverhead Books.

Willink, J., & Babin, L. (2015). Extreme ownership. New York, NY: MacMillan.