Dig Deep: 5 Tips for Building Self-Control

In our last post, we explored why building self-control is critical to achieving your long-term goals. Now, we equip you with the tools and techniques you need to beef up your willpower muscle courtesy of The Willpower Instinct author Kelly McGonigal.

1) Know Thyself

According to McGonigal, understanding what causes you to lose control is key to strengthening it. By recognizing your vulnerabilities, you are positioned to sidestep the pitfalls that usually trip you up.

Research tells us those who are overly confident in their powers of self-control are the likeliest to succumb to temptation. Pride goeth before a fall, as Proverbs, Shakespeare and Greek mythology remind us.

2) Let’s Get Physical

Willpower is affected by sleep, diet and blood sugar levels. Studies show those with higher blood sugar levels exhibit lower impulse control. They are emotionally frayed and more susceptible to poor decision making.

It’s a bad idea to go shopping when you’re hungry, tired, stressed or cranky. You’ll spend twice as much while getting less of what you need and more of what you don’t.

If you want to build self-control, you need to get your physical health tip-top with sufficient sleep and a healthy, nutrient-dense diet.

3) Reduce Stress

Stress weakens our willpower, so reducing stress will help fortify your self-control.

The American Psychological Association (APA) has found the following strategies to be most effective in relieving stress: exercising, playing sports, meditating or praying, taking a walk, practicing yoga, listening to music, reading, being with loved ones, spending time in nature, enjoying a massage and pouring yourself into a creative activity or hobby.

4) A Spoonful of Sugar

If you’re dreading a particular task, find a way to associate it with a reward. By tapping into the reward center of the brain, you can get your dopamine neurons firing and transform a mundane project into an adventure.

Don’t want to do those dishes? Start blasting your favorite music and get your groove on while scrubbing plates.

The yard needs weeding? Challenge your partner or a friend to a weeding contest. Whoever fills their bucket first gets to choose the dinner menu—and the loser cooks it.

Get creative and have fun, and you’ll find yourself flying through those chores.

5) Practice Willpower Exercises

Here are a few simple exercises you can use to strengthen your self-control muscle:

  1. I won’t. Pick something small like refraining from saying “um” or “like,” not crossing your legs while sitting or using your non-dominant hand for a specific task like brushing your teeth or setting the table.
  2. I will. Incorporate one task into your daily routine that you don’t currently practice. It might be keeping a one-sentence journal, doing a yoga pose upon waking or reading a poem every night before bed.
  3. Self-monitor. Start tracking yourself so you have a clearer picture of how you spend your money, time or energy. If you are trying to reign in your spending, use a financial application to analyze how much you spend on what. If you want to cut your carb intake, keep a food journal to help you identify your weak spots. If you find your evenings disappearing into thin air, track how much time you spend watching television.

Need Someone to Hold Your Feet to the Fire?

Chris Cook can help you clarify your life goals and build the willpower to achieve it. Call 541.601.0114 or email Chris today.

But Wait, There’s More

We’ll share the next five secrets to bulking up your willpower in our next post.

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