Self-control is pretty much a requirement for any form of self-improvement, but it’s almost as elusive as a unicorn. In short, self-control is based on your willpower and your ability to say “No” to that outfit that blows your budget or that delicious donut when you’re on a diet.
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But willpower isn’t something you learn in school, and in common with some other traits, willpower is something that can be practiced and strengthened. You don’t have to completely redo yourself to improve your self-control, as there are ways to “trick” yourself into behaving better.
Try the following three tips to kick your willpower into high gear and finally achieve some of your life goals!
1. Try Some Workouts
Do a few willpower workouts to improve your sense of self-control over time. Start small, and then ease yourself into something bigger. For instance, if you want to lose a few pounds, you can begin by taking a small walk each day or skipping dessert after dinner.
Work your way up from there to bigger goals, such as spending an entire week eating only healthy foods and committing time to a gym. The small steps you successfully take will help motivate you to make bigger leaps, since you get a sense of accomplishment and success from conquering the little goals you set for yourself.
You can use this approach for just about any situation. If you’re trying to cut down spending, for example, start with lopping off an expensive coffee or two during your work week, then move onto bigger things, like saying “No” to that big flat-screen TV you don’t really need.
2. Trick Yourself If You Need To
Don’t think you can resist that box of chocolate you want to eat right now? Just put off eating for a while. Part of temptation is that the item is right in front of you, and you have a desire for it. But if you don’t act on that desire right away, it will lessen, making it easier for you to resist without really flexing your self-control muscles too hard.
The same applies to other things you are trying to cut back on. Want to quit smoking? Delay that next cigarette as long as possible.
Have a shopping problem? Walk away from that item that’s calling your name, and tell yourself you’ll come back for it later. Chances are, when later comes around, you won’t want it nearly as much or feel the need to return to the store especially for it!
Motivating yourself with a little mental imagery is another self-control trick. Athletes sometimes imagine themselves crossing the finish line or making the winning goal to pump themselves up for the big game when they’re losing steam in practice, and you can do the same.
Imagine yourself in that outfit you want to fit into to boost self-control when it comes to food. Picture yourself on that dream vacation you’re saving up for to resist impulsive buys that put you off your goal.
Whatever you are trying to resist by using self-control, bring that image of overall success into your mind. Use mental imagery to boost your ability to withstand temptation and cross the finish line.
3. Limit Decisions To Avoid Depletion
Your mental fortitude is tested throughout the day; as it weakens, so does your willpower. Help keep your self-control at higher levels by removing other things that tax your ability to focus, make sound choices and resist impulsive behavior.
Reducing the amount of decisions you have to make during the day is one way to ensure your choices remain of quality throughout the day. This is because the more decisions you make, the more likely you are to make some poor ones.
Your mental ability is taxed by each set of choices, and in retaliation, your brain may toss some impulsive thinking your way to break up the monotony and release stress.
Eliminate some decisions from your day to improve your fortitude and make it easier for you to practice self-control. In the mornings, for instance, have your preferred breakfast food on hand so you don’t have to start your day off by trying to decide what to eat.
Pare down your work wardrobe so you’re not trying to pick out items from an entire closet full of clothing each day. You can even lay out outfits the night before so you’re making the decision when the day is almost over and you’re faced with less temptation.