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How Do I Improve My Self Control

How do I improve my self control?

Self control is a very interesting subject.  There are some misunderstandings about self control that can make it more difficult for someone to improve in this area.  

  1. We each have a reserve of self control energy (willpower)
  2. Studies have shown that this energy gets depleted as we use it and needs time to build back up.  Having two back to back tests of willpower will cause the second to perform worse because the first already used much of the self control energy.
  3. Habits can be misunderstood as willpower, when in fact it uses other resources in our body.
  4. 100% is a breeze and 99% is a bitch.  That means that when you are trying to eat healthy it is better to leave junk food at the grocery store than to surround yourself with it until you finally cave.

Because of these characteristics of self control, I always try to use as little willpower as possible to accomplish goals.  I find that it is much more beneficial to look at habits (systems) to accomplish goals.  This leaves willpower for the times when you need it most, rather than using it up on a large number of tasks and then losing control.

If you ask someone to throw 1 ball in the air repeatedly and catch it, they usually have no problem.  Ask them to throw 2 at the same time and they can still normally do it but they tend to slow down the rate at which they throw them.  Give them 3 and a strange thing happens.  They normally (unless they are skilled at juggling) drop all three.  

How do we overcome this?  By practicing juggling until it becomes a habit.  That is the only way to have 3 or more balls flying through the air at the same time from one person.  The mental resources are no longer exhausted by the 2 balls.  

Doing something until it becomes habit is nothing new.  Football coaches force their players to go through drills to hone their skills and turn specific fundamental actions into habits.  Musicians have to learn the technical aspects of the instrument first, but once it becomes habit they can then create music.  

We do this daily.  We turned brushing our teeth, driving to work, getting the kids ready in the morning, and taking our daily vitamins into habits.  We don’t have to think about each one and use energy to evaluate each step.  We simply allow ourselves to move in that direction.  If we can learn to control our habits (systems) we can then take control of our lives and simply let go and allow ourselves to move in the direction we choose!