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Exercising Self-Control

Many studies have supported the concept that self-control is like a muscle. In Making Habits, Breaking Habits author Jeremy Dean looks at how to rewire our bad habits, maximize our willpower and use good habits to increase our productivity.

Dean says, “Everyone’s self-control is a limited resource; it’s like muscle strength: the more we use it, the less remains in the tank, until we replenish it with rest.” When our self-control is overused, it becomes depleted then disappears. We may find it easier to resist eating sweets early in the day but have a tougher time after encountering several stressful situations throughout the day.

So what are some strategies we can use to keep our depleted self-control from derailing our goals? If we exercise self-control regularly, we form good habits. Those habits will help us to stay on course in times of self-control depletion. Another strategy recommended by Dean is “pre-commitment—a way of ‘restricting the choices of your future self’ by removing the stimuli that you know would trigger your bad habits.”

Sometimes awareness eliminates the battle. If we know we’re experiencing self-control depletion—an empty tank—we can keep ourselves from self-destructive (or other-destructive) behavior by recognizing our limits and setting up safeguards to keep us from danger.

None of us know exactly why we do what we do, but learning new strategies helps us to grow and make better life choices.

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