Turning Free Will into Willpower: The Opportunity of a Lifetime

By Dr. Jim Schroeder and Vanessa Jodlowski

Special to The Message

There are countless personal factors that we have no control over, such as our age, origin, genetics, even our family. On any given day, most of us have little to no influence over many external factors, whether it be cultural or societal trends, weather or astrological patterns, politics or economic fluctuations. But every waking hour, all of us have a great deal of control over the decisions we make, which has a dramatic impact on our lives and that of others.

Theology of many major religions tells us that the use of free will is critical to avoiding sin and opening ourselves to God's love and salvation. Science indicates that there are keys to harnessing willpower so that we may be happier and more effective. Countless experiences throughout history teach us that willpower can be an agent of great good and beauty or some of the worst atrocities known to mankind. But rarely have these three elements been combined to have a fuller understanding of this incredible gift and need in our lives. “Turning Free Will into Willpower: The Opportunity of a Lifetime” is a book that takes a deeper look at these elements with a focus on understanding how we as parents (and people) can teach and harness this gift now and for generations to come. Through the use of many inspiring and personal stories, theological applications and highlighting of cutting-edge research, the book takes an intimate look at free will in the context of our everyday lives. It goes beyond just what we should do and focuses on the timeless question — how?

The book is co-written by Dr. Jim Schroeder and Vanessa Jodlowski. Dr. Schroeder is a pediatric psychologist and Vice President and Training Director in the Department of Psychology & Wellness at Easterseals Rehabilitation Center. He is the author of six other books, including “Wholiness: The Unified Pursuit of Health,” “Harmony, Happiness, and Heaven,” and “Confessions of a Carless Commuter: What 40,000+ Motorless Miles Taught Me About Life.” He also has a podcast entitled “Living a Whole Christian Life.” He and his wife, Amy, and their eight children live in Evansville and are members of Holy Redeemer Parish. Vanessa Jodlowski resides in Evansville with her family. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan and will be starting a graduate program in psychological science in the fall. She and her parents are members of Good Shepherd Parish.

When we set out to write this book, we had four main goals. First, we wanted it to be courageous, not shying away from any factor which impacts the daily decisions that people (and parents) make, which affect our physical, psychological, social and spiritual health. Second, we wanted it to be accessible and useful for all, regardless of your life experiences or resources. Third, we strove to make it practical, a guide that you could keep coming back to for ideas and motivation years after the initial read. Finally, we hoped it would be inspirational. Life is hard, and we all desire regular sources of motivation to keep us going. Ultimately, we want to connect with you the reader in helping make this world a healthier, happier and more harmonious place. Every person, even in the most difficult, unfair circumstances, has the potential to make decisions that can improve their lives and that of others. While we all have our differences, we believe that each of us desires a world where we can live and raise our families with purpose, peace and promise.

As we are currently in the midst of a pediatric mental health crisis, with local waitlists for services as long as 18+ months, it is clear that we can’t just keep focusing on reactive mental health (i.e., providing services when psychological issues become readily apparent). We also need to focus on empowering individuals, parents and families to find ways to prevent and reduce the occurrence of mental health issues in our homes, schools and churches. We recognize that there is incredible power in combining the wisdom of human experience, religion or spirituality, and science, but few practical resources are available to synthesize these areas in a way that is useful and accessible in our daily lives. We believe that our book provides this in multiple ways, including the development of three key frameworks (FREEDOM, ACT and WILLPOWER) that can easily be taught and retained by caregivers, teachers and church leaders to be used in formation.

The book is available on Amazon in paperback, hardcover and Kindle. If you are interested in using it for a group or parish, please contact Dr. Schroeder at [email protected] to see about a bulk rate and/or speaking opportunities. We look forward to connecting with you, and we hope you will join us in this pursuit.