How many times have you said to yourself I need more self-control to (fill in the blank: eat better, get to bed earlier, have a challenging conversation, workout more and the list goes on)? It is often a discouraging and frustrating process because you feel like you should be able to do it and you feel like you are trying but then you fall back in your same pattern.
That is because self-control can only be strengthened when we realise it is more a result than a cause.
What is Self-Control?
In other words, when people tell you, “Look, it’s just a choice. All you have to do is choose to get up earlier, not eat sweets, etc.,” they are missing the point. The reality is that our self-control is the problem. You can’t will your way to success and health.
It is much more effective to think of self-control as a mental mechanism that needs to be fed and developed into a strength. Most people with great self-control are doing the behaviors that require this.
Improve Your Self-Control
1. Find Your Purpose
We tend to only do things that are important to us. It helps to focus our energies on things that we care about and find purpose in. Start by asking yourself what the why behind the activity is. For example: Eating better, because I want to be healthy enough to enjoy activities with my family. Or I want to feel better about myself and be able to do things I enjoy. The purpose behind the goal helps you succeed at accomplishing it.
2. Let Your Support People Encourage You
It is important for you to have people in your life that you trust and are encouragers for you. These are your Support People. Tell them what you want to accomplish so that they can come beside you by encouraging you to change your habits. This can be done with a text or phone call. Research has proven that energy and motivation come from simple caring encouraging statements from others.
3. Stop Judging Yourself
Often, when we fail at something, we call ourselves names like I’m such a loser or I’m so stupid. Which causes us to be demoralized and stops us from trying. Instead think of failure as a life lesson instead of a judgement. If you have tried in the past and you haven’t succeeded look back on it and think what you did well and things you could have changed.
Self-control is a great tool in your hands. Strengthen it and you will make better choices and change your habits. You will end up being amazed at how much energy and motivation can come from increasing your self-control by learning to find purpose and accept and give yourself encouragement.
Trish Pauls, MA RP
HELPPS Psychotherapy Services