We all have goals that we would like to achieve. Whether it’s stop overspending or working out more, improving our lives always comes down to self control. However, getting up to go to the gym or turning away from sales always seems to be that extra effort that we just can’t make.
My biggest enemy has always been procrastination : it has caused me A LOT of problems. So I sought ways to get rid of it and I found some wisdom in a book called “The Willpower Instinct : How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of it”.
Don’t let the tacky title discourage you, it contains some real pearls inside. Thanks to this book, it has become so much easier for me to write new articles for this blog.
Here are some points that I found particularly important :
First of all, what do you need to know about self-control ?
The part that handles self-control in your body is located in the prefrontal cortex of the brain. And your brain gets tired with use, just like a muscle. Overburden it and it will get weaker in other aspects. This explains why students who put all their willpower into cramming for their exams are more likely to binge on snacks.
Stress, tiredness and distractions make it easier for you to cave in to temptations. So take good care of yourself : eat and sleep regularly.
Your goals will benefit from that in the long-term.
What can you do to have better self-control?
- Don’t try to suppress your cravings : surf them instead
The paradox of our mind dictates us to think about the precise thing that we’re trying to avoid. So let the physical sensations of an urge take over you but notice how it feels in your body, notice your breath. Do you feel any tensions? If yes, where? Don’t try to fight it head-on nor push it away. Accept that you feel this way and then gently remind yourself of your goal.
- Try to instill a 10 min delay before you cave in to your temptation
For example: “Okay, I will get that snack, but I’ll wait 10 min”. When you pass that threshold, it’ll be so much easier to resist. With time, you can double or triple the time of delay.
- Build up willpower with small challenges that are not overwhelming
For example stop using a specific curse word. This will build up your self-control. Keep in mind that it should be something that isn’t too hard or you’ll just overexert your willpower instead of training it. Pick something that you can easily keep track of.
- Find efficient ways to reduce stress
It’s not always easy to relax in these busy ages but being in the best condition possible definitely helps you say no to that creamy cheesecake. For stress relievers, stay away from activities like watching TV, gaming, shopping, drinking, eating or smoking… Instead, pick activities like walking, reading, listening to music, doing sports or other creative hobbies.
- Let others inspire you with their willpower
In others words, look for some role models who have the same goals as you. Pay attention to your close surrounding : people who have developed good self-control will have a positive effect on you but so will the people with more loose ends. Figure out who influences you. Build up resistance to the negative effect by reminding yourself frequently of your goals.