Do you remember how sad love songs took on so much more meaning after a breakup? Why was that? You heard the song many times prior with no reaction, but following a heartbreak, the newly realized deeper meaning stimulates such a stronger emotional response. The reason is because the song has become personally relatable .Knowledge and insight are much easier attained when we can relate it to our own personal experiences. That is why understanding the volcano model(see prior posts) is so important because you can constantly relate and apply your circumstances and challenges to it and you will have better clarity on your approach.

We shift this concept to building self discipline and self control.Studies have thoroughly demonstrated that children possessing these attributes were more successful in adulthood. Research conducted and revealed in Charles Durhiggs book The Power of Habit showed that kids who successfully delayed gratification by resisting to eat marshmellows in favour of a future greater reward ,were more successful in later development. But how do we build this figurative muscle? Especially if we are constanly tempted by immediate gratification or have no accountability to anyone other than ourselves?

Answer- Look to the model! Remember all 3 faces are constantly present and interacting with each other. If the mindset is weak, fearful or challenged, focus on leveraging the structural environment and action habit. If you are successful, the mindset catches up and newly built competency breaks the limiting belief that self control is unattainable. Confidence ensues and you can apply the process to the next challenge. Fear levels will drop from repeated actions because the perceived threat is unfounded. After all, you’ve proved to yourself that you can do it.
Let us illustrate this example. You have a weakness for rich desserts but have decided from your personal values that they are not healthy for you and you wish to abstain from them( remember this must be an individual choice based on a personal value or belief).

  1. Acknowledge that you a have a strong sweet tooth. Rather than accepting this limiting belief that you have no willpower or self control when it somes to desserts,, consider this shift in mindset. You may have a strong desire for desserts but are a capable of slowly building a resistance to temptation. Acknowledge that you haven’t built enough willpower yet and may succumb to temptation at first. This is normal. it will be most challenging at the beginning.
  2. Plan and set up your structural environment to remove all rich desserts and sweets from the house so that they are never in view.James Clear calls this choice architecture. Maximize your surroundings so that you minimize taxing your willpower muscle.(out of sight ,out of mind)
  3. Choose to replace rich desserts with fruit. This way you are still satisfying the desire for sweet food but are substituting refined sugar with fruit sugar. This is in fact biochemically the same fructose substance, but fruit is largely encased in fiber which means it is digested more favorably.
  4. Set up a habit streak which rewards all the consecutive days that you have abstained from rich desserts. You practice this over and over and over again.
    Most importantly, you acknowledge and mentally prepare for streaks to end. It is not an indication of weakness if you give in at the start. That is the most challenging period because you haven’t conditioned yourself to change yet and you cant expect to rely on willpower. Studies also have shown that willpower levels , like muscles, are finite when overtaxed. So don’t beat yourself up if you succumb to temptation at first. Understand and expect this to happen. Especially at the beginning and at social and family gatherings.
  5. Acknowledge the small wins. Raising your awareness of your triumph over your temptations will authentically reinforce and fuel the mindset to believing that one can successfully overcome temptation and exhibit self control. Repeat this daily and eventually you will find when offered cake at a party, you will automatically say no thanks, Ill have some fruit.

Can you think of an example of how to set up your environment to make executing an objective more favourable.? What could you arrange if you wanted to watch less tv?  Avoid excessive social media ? Eat smaller portions? Get up or go to sleep earlier? . Make extra time to spend with family or friends ? Please share