Action Catalyst Blog

7 Solutions to Sustainable Self-Control

Ahhhh….January. Its that time of year again where we all are optimistic about our resolutions and all that the New Year has in store for us. In the past I’ve spent time focusing on what we can do to increase our self-discipline to make the year great. Just to switch it up this year, I thought I’d provide a couple ideas on the sister of self-discipline, which is self-control.

If self-discipline (my entire area of study) is how to get yourself to do the things you know you should be doing when you don’t feel like doing them, then the sibling (self-control) is how to get yourself to STOP doing certain things that you know you shouldn’t be doing when you do want to do them.

Self-discipline is mostly about overcoming procrastination and self-control is mostly about overcoming temptation. The psychology of both is closely related and all of the “Take the Stairs Methodologies” and solutions apply to both. I’m not telling you what you shouldn’t do; I’m just sharing some ideas for how you can stop doing things that YOU decide you don’t want to do anymore. So here are a few tips for those of you trying to resist the temptations of food, substances, spending money, or other light addictions in 2012. (BTW in case you didn’t know, I’m not a doctor so use at your own discretion)

1. Leverage long-term vision to endure short-term sacrifices: The amount of your resistance will be directly proportionate to the clarity of your vision and the strength of your why. Set a mental alarm so that whenever you are tempted by something, the vision of what matters most to you immediately pops into your head. Focus on the change that you want to see in yourself by envisioning what your life will be like once you’ve made the change. You’re likely to find that it immediately deadens some of the power that temptation has over you in the present moment.

2. Move away from the line: We tend to flirt with temptation a lot. We think “I’ll just have a little more” or “I’ll just have one” or “No one will even know if I do it now”. The seductive nature of temptation draws us near and we slide down the slippery slope until one day we wake up and find ourselves somehow having crossed way over the line. So as my friend David Avrin would say, take pride in running the opposite direction of the line! Don’t try to fool yourself into the façade of “a little bit” just avoid it altogether. Celebrate the fact that you rejected the temptation and are running the complete opposite way from it!

3. Pass on the first round: Momentum is a force that we tend to drastically underestimate. When the flight attendant comes by asking if you’d like a drink tell her “no, I’m good for now, maybe later”. At the party when they are passing the slices of cake around (or insert any other substance) say, “actually, I’m not quite ready for that but I might take some in a few minutes”. Make a deal with yourself that if you resist temptation during the first round and later you still decide that you want it that you’ll allow yourself to go for a little (assuming its something legal here). What you’ll discover is that if you can say no to the first round it is WAY easier to say no to each of the subsequent rounds. The power of momentum sets in and before you know itwhat was once a sacrifice to give up, later isn’t even a temptation.

4. If you don’t really want it, don’t go for it: Its amazing how unsatisfying so many indulgences are. We finish cookies that we don’t event like. We buy more drinks when we’re already wasted. We do stupid stuff just because the people around us are doing it. Stop that! Its one thing to look forward to a piece of cheesecake that you’ve been working out hard all week for. It’s another to just be indulging in something because it’s right in front of us. If you’re going to do it, make sure that you really do want it. You might realize that it’s not worth that much to you after all. In the event of peer pressure my mom always taught me that you can always use “The Medical Excuse” by saying “I’m not feeling good right now” or take a vitamin and then tell your pressuring friends “I can’t do it because I’m on medication.”

5. Get control of your environment: Let’s be honest. If you look at the activities that are on your self-control list they are probably all likely to happen around a certain time of day, group of people, or specific location. Don’t put yourself in compromising situations, don’t be around people or places that you know are going to push you the wrong direction, don’t have that crap in your house, and men – when a woman bends over to pick something up immediately look the other way! Get rid of, and physically remove as far away as possible all reminders and inklings of this past temptation.

6. Go old school on it!: There is a strong case to be made for good old fashioned will power. We don’t like to challenge each other on stuff as much these days because our “escalator mentality” is one of “you leave me alone and I’ll leave you alone”. But we’re disserving each other by not stepping up, slapping one another around a bit and instead dictating a challenge like, “Suck it up dude. This is bogus. I’m calling shenanigans on you. You need to get your crap together. Seriously? C’mon. You’re better than that.”

7. Take the Stairs In Pairs: Not only is everything more fun with accountability but its also more effective. Each time we check in with our accountability partner it renews our commitment moving us back to the top of the Law of Diminishing Intent curve. As part of the Take the Stairs book launch this February we’re challenging everyone to pick an accountability partner for 2012 to get serious with about self-discipline. Then write a blog, post some tweets, share somestatus updates, and create some pictures and publicly announce who your #TakeTheStairsInPairs partner is going to be in 2012. Make sure you announce what your goal is for the year to hold each other accountable to!

You can start by going to and submit a post on our fan page of what your goal is going to be and tagging who your accountability partner is! Make sure to include the hashtag #TakeTheStairsInPairs when talking about it on Facebook or Twitter. Good discipline to you in 2012!

See you in the “stairwell”,
Rory Vaden

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