You need self control so you can accomplish the goals you have set for yourself. This is because your short term desires are not always aligned with your long term goals. As a result, you need to build self control so you can make decisions that are in your long term best interests.
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Self control is a muscle and as a muscle, you need to strengthen it. Many of you are attempting to make massive transformations in your life, but you have not built enough self control to accomplish the task. To build self control is like building a body that is conditioned for a marathon. If you simply wake up one day and decide you were going to run in a marathon, how successful do you think you would be? Now, most people recognize how difficult running a marathon is and they know it is almost impossible to accomplish without training. Well, this is also true when it comes to changing your life. You must put in the required training for your mind to successfully manage the journey.
In order for you to accomplish the goals you set for yourself each year, you need to build self control and rise to the challenge. Below are four self control building techniques that are sure to help.
Start off slow and ramp up
If you wanted to train for a marathon, you would attempt to walk or jog a couple laps on the firs t day. You should apply the same logic to your life goals. What small step can you can take today that can will change your life in a year?
- If you want to reestablish a relationship with a family member, instead of starting with dinner, send them a birthday card.
- For someone wanting to change their eating habits, order the same food you always eat, but commit to only drinking water.
- If you want to write a book or read more books, commit to reading a page or writing a paragraph each night.
As simple and insignificant as it may seem on the surface, your life is full of small decisions. Each decision brings you one step closer or further from your happy place. If you are unhappy with your current life, you likely can’t point to any one decision, but a string of small situations that changed your life over time. You must allow yourself the same flexibility when you are chasing happiness by rising to the challenge.
Leave your safe place
Studies show when you use up all of your decision making facilities, you revert to whatever your old life use to be. For simplicity, we are going to call your old life, your “safe place”. That is why you may have a great morning and afternoon, but you lapse at the end of the day. This is also why grocery stores fill the checkout isles with candy and salty snacks. The designers understand you made plenty of decisions throughout your shopping trip, so they are betting on you making a bad decision at the end. They know you would unlikely be tempted by the candy on your way into the store, but the odds of you being tempted are in their favor on the way out.
In my book I share a story about a parole judge who had 1,000 of his cases reviewed for inconsistencies and bias. What they found was the judge was more likely to grant parole in the morning when he first started reviewing cases or right after lunch. In both of these instances, the judges’ mental strength was at its highest. This allowed him to feel comfortable making conscious decisions about whether a criminal should be allowed to reintegrate into society. As decision fatigue set in from hearing cases, the judge would be less likely to grant parole. The study found that whenever your self control is drained from making a bunch of decisions, you revert back to your safe place. For the judge, the safe decision for him was to keep the criminals incarcerated. For you, your safe and normal route may be to eat unhealthy food or wasting time on social media.
Make self control a daily part of life
One of the best ways to combat draining your self control is to reduce the amount of decisions you make each day. Among the ways you can decrease the amount of decisions you make each day, you can automate as many choices as possible. The most popular are to wear the same style of clothes each day and to eat the same type of food.
The goal is to build habits so that you are not consciously thinking about what you are doing. Many seem to agree that three weeks is a good amount of time to make a habit. If you can commit to consciously doing something that will improve your life for three weeks, it will become a part of your life overtime. As a result, it will no longer require you to use your self control to maintain your lifestyle.
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Build self control through mindfulness
Since variety is the spice of life, you may not be interested in automating parts of your life just yet. The other option is to strength your self control so you can make all the decisions you want. One good method to build self control is to use your non-dominant hand. It forces you to consciously think about what you are doing and as a result, you are flexing your self control muscle.
By being present in the moment and noticing the world around you, you are consciously deciding how you are going to live your life. The main risk with this method is the same risk you run when working out any other muscle. Your muscles are going to get tired and need to recover. During this time, you will not have much self control at your disposal. You will have purposely exhausted your self control in an attempt to increase your future reserves.
The reason it is essential for you to build self control is you need the ability to think clearly about the impact today’s choices have on your future. If you find your decision has a short term benefit, you need to ensure it doesn’t have a long term cost.
As conscious beings, we have the amazing ability to understand and comprehend each decision we make. A bird flying south for the winter does not have the same ability. It flies south for the winter because that is what is programmed into its DNA. It cannot decide for itself as freely as you and I can to fly east or west. Don’t forfeit the amazing power you have been blessed with to decide the type of life you are going to live. Self control is one of the greatest abilities you can grow and master.
Until next time,
Dre ‘Living the achojah life‘ Griggs