Having a degree of self-control is central to living a happy, productive life. Yet, most people live completely at the whim of their impulses. They're jerked around by their most immediate desires, and wonder why they find themselves stuck in the same patterns again and again.
We don't take control of the things we do have control of: how we respond to things, what we think, what our emotions are trying to tell us to do in life. Rather, we try to control what happens, what others think, and what we feel, rather than how closely we listen to our internal guidance systems. This is the essential reason we do not have self-control. We're preoccupied by trying to alter and change that which is unchangeable, and consider that "having control."
The way this comes out most typically is by trying to self-monitor ourselves in social situations so people react to us in a way we desire, by trying to control our bodies and how they look, or who loves us and to what degree. These are all things we ultimately do not have control over: we can only do our part to be healthy, show up, be loving, and see what happens.
The first step to developing real self-control, therefore, is accepting what we do not inherently have control of. (There's a lot.) But there's even more that we can be autonomous of, if we only take the necessary steps to practice and develop our abilities. Here are five really productive, healthy ways to do just that.
Practice Meditation As A Means Of "Brain Training"
Force yourself to focus on one thing and one thing only for extended periods of time. Start with one minute, then five, then ten. The point of meditation isn't just "to feel good," it's to develop your ability to choose what you think and what you focus on.
Expose Yourself To Your Impulse Items And Let Yourself Feel The Want, But Choose Not To Act On It
To successfully function in this world, you cannot live in avoidance of the things that tempt you. You have to be able to look them in the face, admit that you want them, but then choose otherwise — choose something more important, like your bank account or your health.
Place Time Restrictions On Any Of Your Impulse Activities
If you have to go shopping, wait three hours. If you need a new blouse for an event, wait a day before you head out searching. If it's actually something you need, you'll be able to withstand the time delay.
Develop A Really Solid List Of Alternative Activities And Things To Think About
You cannot expect to dissolve and then create a whole new mindset simply by staring at the ruins of what you're trying to move beyond. You must create something new, you must have alternatives at-hand no matter what. When you want to impulse shop, or smoke, or binge think, have alternatives right on deck. Meditate, shower, go for a walk, re-budget your money, and so on.
Be Selective Of Which Behaviors You Want To Control
You will not feasibly be able to exert self-control over every thought, action or moment of the day. What you have to do is decide what's most important to you, and then let yourself off for the rest. Practically, this could look like setting a rigid schedule in the morning where you get done exactly what's necessary, and then keep your time a little less planned throughout the rest of the day.
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