5 Ways to Increase Your Willpower
It's time for a new book review! I just finished up this book by Walter Mischel called The Marshmallow Test: Mastering Self Control. It's super informative and great for anyone who is looking to improve their willpower or quit a bad habit. The best part is that all of the information in the book is based on years of research so you know that the tips that he gives have been proven to work.
I highly recommend picking up a copy of this book so that you can really get into all of the advice and information, but today I have summarized five of my favorite tips from the book for improving your self control.
PS. be sure to check out all of my current book recommendations here, and if you get any of my recommendations, post a pic on Instagram with the hashtag #HCbookclub.
Okay, onto the tips!
1. Cool the now, heat the later
The author talks about how our minds have a “hot” system (NOW! GIMME! WANT THAT!) and a “cool” system, which is more rational and clear headed with decision making.
Push the temptation in front of you far away in space and time, and bring the distant consequences closer in your mind. (don’t focus on “it will taste so good” - focus on “I will gain weight”!).
2. Make it automatic
Plan ahead! Willpower is a muscle and the more decisions you have to make, the weaker your willpower gets. So, make your willpower decisions automatic by creating “if___ then ___” plans. For example, “if it’s a Monday, I will write a blog post”, “if my friends offer me dessert, I will say no thank you”, “if my alarm goes off, I will go to the gym” etc. This makes the willpower automatic. It requires less thinking, and you’re less likely to make an impulsive (hot) decision.
3. Make your commitments binding
In addition to removing the temptation, which lots of people do (not purchasing cigarettes anymore for example), also tell people to refuse to give you cigarettes no matter how much you beg. Otherwise, even though you’re no longer buying them, you will just mooch them off of a friend. You have to do the second part in addition to removing the temptation, or you will find a way to get to the temptation when you’re feeling weak. Another example - signing up to a gym. Signing up isn’t enough. Set up appointments with a trainer so that you have someone holding you accountable.
4. Cognitive Reappraisal
Start thinking of the temptation as a negative. If you struggle with sweets, watch a detailed documentary about the dangers of sugar. If you are trying to quit smoking, look at images of lungs with cancer. Bring those consequences, which often seem abstract and far away, into the forefront of your mind so that when you see the temptation, you automatically associate it as “poison” or something bad.
5. Self Distancing
The last tip has to do with managing stress and depression. We all know that when we’re stressed out or feeling down, all of our willpower goes out the window and we immediately turn to the quick fix that will make us feel better. Typically these types of quick fixes are not good for us, but when you’re stressed or depressed, you just don’t care.
In those moments, the author recommends temporarily looking at your situation, whatever it is, as if you were observing it from a distance like a fly on the wall. It sounds kinda weird, but this helps you to understand your situation in a different way. Adding “psychological distance” from the event reduces your stress “cools” your “hot” system, and helps you to see things more rationally and move on. When you’re looking at your situation from a very personalized point of view, it makes you more stressed / depressed because all you can think about is how hurt you are or how someone made you feel, etc. Try to think about it as if you were watching a movie, and your situation is one of the characters. It sounds crazy but it works!
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Okay now I have a question for you - what is your biggest negative temptation that you're dealing with at the moment? I've been eating way too much cheesy pasta and carbs - it's becoming a problem haha So that's my current struggle. Let me know yours in the comments! xo