Self-control is something all people struggle with in some area of their lives. Even people whom you consider the most successful. The difference between the successful and the unsuccessful is the successful acknowledge the fact they lack self-control in some areas and continuously work on improving them.
There will be some areas of your life that are almost perfect and other that are far from it. It’s the areas that are far from it that you will tend to have poor self-control over.
Self-control is primarily fuelled by willpower. I used the word fuelled purposely here because it’s been tested time and again that willpower depletes during the day. There are two things you can do about this, the first is avoid situations that will consume your willpower and the second is to replenish it.
It is inevitable that there will be times when you cannot avoid having your will power depleted the important thing is not to let this affect you so much that you give up. Just look at it as a bump in the road on your journey to success.
Having limited resources to deal with the challenges you face is a fact of life so the best thing to do is accept it for what it is and find a way to work around your limitations. There are many reasons why we may need willpower and for most of them this alone will not be enough, you’ll need a support system and some education but having the tools for being able to increase the amount of self-control over the situation is a big step in the right direction.
Just having the awareness that your self-control fuel is limited is often enough to increase it but I want to give you the tools to make you as successful as possible in whatever challenge you face.
The first thing you need to do is set yourself up for success so I’m going to use the example of losing weight for this one but the same rules can be applied to anything you may need self-control for.
You may start the day with good intentions of not overeating but many times the temptations are just too much. You may notice that at first you can resist any temptation that is thrown at you but over time you start to weaken, the temptations you see the worse it gets.
Your willpower is not just limited to the temptation you’re focusing on, if you were attempting to stop smoking at the same time your chances of success will be greatly diminished because your willpower fuel encompasses all of your temptations, as you use your willpower reserves to resist one thing you are also depleting your reserves for everything else
The best way to slow down the depletion of your willpower reserves is to plan your day in such a way that you avoid as many temptations as possible. If you walk past a shop daily where you would buy cigarettes, change your route so you don’t go past it.
Remove all temptations like crisps and biscuits from the house. Never go shopping on an empty stomach, we’ll come back to the reasons for this later. If you go to the staff canteen daily and are often tempted to purchase something high in calories, take a packed lunch so you have control over your consumption and you don’t even need to go near the chocolate.
Write a list of all of the times when you feel a temptation, including the ones you don’t normally cecum to because these are also depleting your willpower. Once you have your list find five ways in which you can avoid putting yourself in this situation.
The goal here is not to rid yourself of the temptations but reduce the amount of time you’re subjected to them so that your willpower holds out against the ones that are either unavoidable or unplanned.
Now that preventative measures have been covered it’s time to look at replenishment. Studies have shown there are two sure fire ways to replenish willpower once it’s been depleted.
The first one will probably come as no surprise and that is sleep, the second is glucose. Studies have shown that exerting willpower also exerts physical energy. The replenishment of this lost energy also brings back your willpower.
Now if you’re trying to lose weight this may not sound like a bright idea but when you think dieticians generally recommend eating little and often, having a continuous small supply of food to re-energise you it aligns well.
Studies have also been done into the impact of caffeine on willpower, however, the results have not been encouraging, it seems that only bringing your glucose level back up will do the trick.
To recap, when trying to exert willpower over anything, you need to set yourself up for success by arranging your days so that you have the least amount of temptations to prevent energy depletion, but inevitably there will be times when this is unavoidable and you must continuously use your willpower to resist.
In times like these go for the glucose drink or some other way to raise your energy levels which in turn will replenish your willpower. Finally, make sure you get a good night’s sleep otherwise you may find all the preventative and replenishment measures you put in place will be futile with the exception of a power nap.