… And What You Can Do About It
Have you ever told yourself that you wouldn’t do something? Maybe you said you wouldn’t eat too much at a party. Maybe you told yourself that you wouldn’t speak too soon at a meeting. Or maybe you just told yourself that you wouldn’t break the speed limit on the way home from work.
Whatever it was, you told yourself that you wouldn’t do something that you either normally do, wanted to do, or habitually do, and you eventually “gave-in” to the temptation.
Well, there’s a good reason for this behavior, and Dan Heath gives more details about it in this article over at Fast Company. I suggest that you check out the article for more details. For now, here’s the short version: self-control eventually runs out. In other words, you can only resist so long before you “run out” of self-control.
Your limit might be different from mine, and we all have a limit.
So, what does this observation have to do with this blog?
Since one of the recurring themes here is “get over yourself,” the concept of depleting self-control is vitally important to understand.
Whether you are trying to change your behavior, your team member’s behavior, or your child’s behavior, remember that everyone has a self-control limit, and when you exceed the limit you invite failure.
You invite failure to comply with rules, failure to cooperate, and failure to do things in new and different ways.
This is an observable and repeatable psychological phenomenon. Like so many of the things I write and speak on, I don’t suggest hiding behind the behavior. Rather, I suggest understanding the behavior and then making plans that recognized the reality of life instead of wishing that things were different.
So, what do we do with this observation?
Here are three suggestions to get you started with applying this principle in your efforts to change your behaviors or to influence another person’s behaviors:
- Get away from tempting situations as quickly as possible.
Since we know that self-control will eventually run out, if at all possible, remove the temptation to do things the old way or to partake in some forbidden behavior.
- Give people (or yourself) a break.
If you ask someone to change their behavior in a particular situation, make some time for them to get away from it for awhile so that they can replenish their “supply” of self-control.
- Make big changes in small steps.
Smaller steps do many things to make change easier to accept. One benefit of smaller steps is the reduction of effort required to remember the new way of doing things. If the effort to remember the new way is small, the time to “self-control” exhaustion is longer. This longer temptation resistance time increases the odds that the new way of doing things becomes easy to remember before our self control runs out.
Photo by NomadicLass.