I’ve recently been giving my attention to self control, or maybe the occasional lack of it in my life! I guess I’ve always seen myself as somewhat impulsive, being quick to act and do. I’m pretty comfortable with that most of the time, in fact I think it’s been a useful characteristic for making things happen and generating constant progress in my life and business. However, sometimes it’s a real pain! It’s true isn’t it, our greatest strengths are often our biggest weaknesses?
What if self control was our super power. So finally balanced that we knew exactly when to exercise it, but also when to go with instinct and impulse. That would be mighty useful!
So here’s my thought, if we develop a better understanding of when to exercise self control, in other words; we give our self-control a clear focus, then that would be a very practical aid throughout any day, week, month or year.
Motivating target v depletion idea…
Two ideas that often surface when you dive into the academic view of self control are that of setting a motivating target, but also the finite depleting nature of the resource.
These two things work against each other, knowing this however can be really helpful.
It’s clear that giving our self control a singular focus can prove to be very powerful. By defining a clear goal we find it easier to stick to it. The counter problem however is that by exercising our self control on that focused area, it depletes our ability to have self control elsewhere. It seems self control really is a limited resource we have to manage.
This is why many people can exercise significant self control in one area of their lives, but very much struggle in another. A simple example of this would be when someone is very much in control of an exercise routine, but struggles with a lack of self control when it comes to food. Of course, it could be that the two areas are totally unrelated, so I might have good control of my diet, yet really struggle to control spending etc.
Developing greater self control
Whilst we can struggle, it is very much possible to develop our levels of self control to reduce the troublesome areas of depletion. We still have to watch though, that we aren’t simply moving a struggle to another area lacking self control. Here are four strategies for improving your self control:
1. Focus on one goal at a time
Work at developing your self control one area at a time. Choose that area and make it a strong focus for change. Trying to progress multiple areas is really difficult, so give yourself a chance and make small gains in an area that is valuable to you.
2. Plan for situations that might break your resolve
Try to identify your moments of weakness, what triggers the set back? Then set a plan in place as to how to deal with that situation when it arises. Make this a practical as possible, change your routine or disable that situation if at all possible.
See the development of your self control as something to practice. Practice requires understanding, repetition and failure. A failure is part of the step, so don’t cave in when it happens. Recognise that it’s part of the process, pick yourself up and go again.
4. Avoid Temptation
The last strategy requires us to remove the temptation. It’s far easier to exercise self control when we don’t have to! So can you extract yourself from the possibility of failing. If that’s a possibility we should try and pursue it.