by: Steve Gillman

Self control means the ability to motivate ourselves to do the things we need to do. It also means stopping ourselves from doing things that we see are bad for us. It may seem that it is a problem of willpower, but pushing ourselves to do things when we feel miserable, or fighting temtation may just be a recipe for stress. There are better ways.

Self Control With Easy Steps

One trick to doing what you need to do is to start using what motivation you have. If you really feel stressed when you think about doing your tax return, for example, just put it out where you can work on it later. That’s a start. Later, you might just do one form. If you think about it, whatever the task, you can usually find enough motivation for some small step. Take that step as soon as you think of it, and the next steps become easier.

Another trick is to create motivation. Find ways to energize yourself. Willpower tends to go up and down with energy levels. Sleep well, play energetic music, move around, or start an interesting conversation. When you find the things that work for you, keep a list handy to use as necessary.

Self Control Through Self Awareness

Maybe that piece of cake calls to you. Isn’t it sometimes hard to resist temptation? Stronger willpower is a nice idea, but a simpler solution is to stop standing in front of the cake! Stop looking at it too. Don’t go to the bar alone if you want a faithful marriage. Don’t have whiskey in the house if you don’t want to drink it. Stay away from people that lead you to trouble.

Don’t buy into the idea that self control means being immune to temptation. True self control is not the willpower to say no, but the wisdom to avoid temptation. Be aware of where your resistance is low, and don’t put yourself in those situations. Doesn’t that make more sense than fighting useless battles with yourself?

Of course there will be times when you didn’t choose the situation you are in, or at least that’s the excuse you’ll use. What can you do to be ready for the temptations that come up unexpectedly. Here are a few tips.

1. Ask people for help. If you can’t stop complaining, for example, have friends point out when you are doing it.

2. Use substitutes. If you shouldn’t drink that beer, quickly get a glass of your favorite juice or soda. For best results, have substitutes in mind that give you some real pleasure.

3. Imagine the consequences of your actions. Do this imediately when you are tempted, and be vivid in your imaginings. Give yourself a good scare, if you have to.

4. Try to relax. Willpower is low when you are stressed. Close your eyes and take three deep breaths.

5. Discover some of the causes of your temptations, and deal with them. For some people, boredom can lead to all sorts of stupid ways to find “excitement,” for example. Involvement in something productive and intereasting can make the temptations disappear. Find some of the underlying causes, and change what you can change.

“Strengthening” willpower by fighting your feelings is a losing battle. It is more effective to learn about yourself. How are you motivated? What are your strengths and weaknesses? Learn, and use what you learn to make the behavior you want easy. That’s the key to self control.


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