Why do we often act against our long-term interests?
Nearly every person has experienced moments of an internal fight when it comes to waking up early, quitting smoking, eating healthier, or developing more positive habits. Lack of self-control occurs when we face immediate impulses and our intuitive, emotional mind overrules our rational mind to achieve instant gratification, even if the decision goes against our ideals, values, morals, and social expectations.
“Self-control refers to the capacity for altering one’s responses, especially to bring them into line with standards such as ideals, values, morals, and social expectations, and to support the pursuit of long-term goals.” – Baumeister, et al., (2007, 351)
So, what can we do to exert better self-control over our decisions? Here are three simple tips that should help to foster your willpower and get control of your decisions:
1) Reward Substitution: Give yourself a reward for overcoming laziness
In the early 20th century, advertising man Claude C. Hopkins introduced Pepsodent, a product that would help Americans to develop the habit of brushing their teeth daily. By teaching consumers a cue – feeling for tooth film, which is a crust that naturally coats our teeth when we don’t clean them regularly – and by offering an immediate reward – a minty tingle in their mouth – Pepsodent changed people’s behaviours dramatically and made teeth brushing a daily habit for Americans.
Giving yourself an immediate reward for doing things that are tough can have a great impact on creating new habits.
2) Develop social pressure
There is a scene in Homer’s Odyssey in which Ulysses (Odysseus) resists the bewitching song of the Sirens by having his ship’s crew tie him up and by ordering them to block their ears to prevent themselves from hearing the song.
Ulysses and the Sirens in a 1909 oil painting by Herbert James Draper
Creating social rules, such as prohibiting smoking at home or promising a deadline to deliver a particular project, can help us to overcome immediate temptations since failing to do so would result in social judgment and embarrassment.
3) Manage your energy
Exerting self-control requires energy, so chances are that if you are tired or stressed your ability to resist immediate impulses will be depleted. To learn more about how to better manage your energy, check out this blog post we published on this topic.
Do you think these tips can help you become more focused and make better decisions?
Let us know what specific problems you are having now and what specific actions you can take to improve your willpower…. rafael@thebusinesstherapist. com