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10.03.2011

regaining self-control.

We all know how easy it is to slip into bad habits. You stock up your candy dish at home for guests, but find yourself dipping in several times a day. Your boyfriend leaves his phone at home when he goes to the gym so it's practically begging you to snoop, right? Your Sunday football season routine went from promising you'd pass up drinking at all, to throwing back 2-3 beers every single Sunday. You told yourself you'd cut your shopping habits out for the next 2 months so you can put some dough away into savings, but after 4 weeks decided to sign up for a monthly shoe subscription. Every week when the Sunday flyer for Best Buy comes out, you drive over to buy the newest tech deal. You can't stop stalking your Ex on facebook. You went from eating dessert once/week to every single evening. Your once cut throat gym routine is practically nonexistent lately. Your promise to avoid the junk food aisle at the grocery store has disintegrated. Your post-6pm tech detox has turned into 3 hours of web surfing three nights a week.
Consider this; "A recent study by colleagues at Duke demonstrates very convincingly the role that self control plays not only in better cognitive and social outcomes in adolescence, but also in many other factors and into adulthood. In this study, the researchers followed 1,000 children for 30 years, examining the effect of early self-control on health, wealth and public safety. Controlling for socioeconomic status and IQ, they show that individuals with lower self-control experienced negative outcomes in all three areas, with greater rates of health issues like sexually transmitted infections, substance dependence, financial problems including poor credit and lack of savings, single-parent child-rearing, and even crime. These results show that self-control can have a deep influence on a wide range of activities.  And there is some good news: if we can find a way to improve self-control, maybe we could do better." (Scientific American Online)
Step One: Reconnect with why you wanted to have control over this bad habit in the first place. This means considering the BIG picture. Most likely, this habit is defying one of your larger goals. Crushing desserts, candy, junk food, and alcohol in excess is certainly not doing your goal of dropping 15 pounds any justice. Facebook and phone stalking isn't helping you get over your ex boyfriend, nor is it helping you get over your jealousy complex. Skipping your workouts is not going to help you get back into shape. Dipping into your savings account for a weekly shopping spree isn't going to prepare you for your future or an unexpected financial emergency. Surfing the web for 3 hours in the evening probably means you aren't logging any real quality time with friends, your significant other, or family. Simply slowing down, looking at the big picture, and revisiting your goals is going to help you focus on why you wanted to kick the habit in the first place and will help you take back control.

Step Two: Consider why it is you've lost your sense of self-control recently. Were your diet changes too rigid to actually follow? Are you using food or alcohol to deal with emotional issues? Are you afraid to power down because you might miss something? Are you having trust issues? Are you skipping the gym because your bedtime habits have recently changed, so you no longer have energy to get up? Is there something on your mind that you should be bringing up to your significant other? Is the jealousy monster rearing its ugly head? Is impulse shopping your way of coping with a larger issue? Is it impossible for you to pass on food if it's placed in front of you? Do you drink more because you felt awkward in front of your friends when you stopped? Once you can pinpoint what has caused you to lose your self-control, then you can put together a plan to get back on track.

Step Three: Focus on regaining control as soon as possible while considering what went wrong in the first place. If your diet plan was too rigid, consider easing up and allowing yourself a treat once in a while. If you can't walk by the candy jar or snack cabinet without picking out something unhealthy, consider not keeping those items in your house in the first place. If you struggle with curiosity as to who your significant other is in touch with, have a conversation with him/her about your concerns; most likely simply communicating with him/her will help put your worries aside. If you aren't convinced you need to save money, consider a scenario where your car needed repair, you lost your job, or your apartment was broken into; and just how much it would cost you to recover from the mishap. 

Self-control is a challenge for everyone, and we can all make a reasonable sounding excuse for every misstep. Excuses just feed into the problem. In the long run, the only person you are hurting is yourself. So the chocolate bar is some instant gratification for your taste buds, but what about for your waist line later? Peeping through your boyfriends phone may give you an answer now, but think about how disappointed he might be if he finds out later? Shopping for a new outfit might mean looking fabulous tonight, but will it do you any good when your car engine blows? That extra beer might be fun today, but how will it affect your day tomorrow? Stocking the house with treats will be great for when your friends come over, but will the goodies be half gone by the time they even show up? Surfing the web is a great way to entertain your brain occasionally, but will your relationship suffer because you do it every night?

When it's time to get back on track towards reaching your goals, think less about instant gratification and more about the long term rewards if you maintain self-control in the eye of temptation. Try not to act so impulsively. Most decisions don't need to be made in a flash so instead of indulging in that chocolate bar, the phone peeping, the money spending, the gym skipping, the beer drinking, or the mouth stuffing, think about how your firm decision now will make you a stronger person in the long run.

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