The 6 Secrets of Self-Control

self control

 

What is it about self-control that makes it so difficult to rely on? Self-control is a skill we all possess (honest); yet we tend to give ourselves little credit for it. Self-control is so fleeting for most that when Martin Seligman and his colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania surveyed two million people and asked them to rank order their strengths in 24 different skills, self-control ended up in the very bottom slot.

When it comes to self-control, it is so easy to focus on our failures that our successes tend to pale in comparison. And why shouldn’t they? Self-control is an effort that’s intended to help achieve a goal. Failing to control yourself is just that—a failure. If you’re trying to avoid digging into that bag of chips after dinner because you want to lose a few pounds and you succeed Monday and Tuesday nights only to succumb to temptation on Wednesday by eating four servings’ worth of the empty calories, your failure outweighs your success. You’ve taken two steps forward and four steps back.

With this success/failure dichotomy in mind, I give you six strategies for self-control that come straight from new research conducted at Florida State University. Some are obvious, others counter-intuitive, but all will help you eliminate those pesky failures and ensure your efforts to boost your willpower are successful enough to keep you headed in the right direction for achieving your goals.

Self-Control Secret #1 – Meditate

Meditation actually trains your brain to become a self-control machine. Even simple techniques like mindfulness, which involves taking as little as five minutes a day to focus on nothing more than your breathing and your senses, improves your self-awareness and your brain’s ability to resist destructive impulses. Buddhist monks appear calm and in control for a reason.

Self-Control Secret #2 – Eat

File this one in the counter-intuitive category, especially if you’re having trouble controlling your eating. Your brain burns heavily into your stores of glucose when attempting to exert self-control. If your blood sugar is low, you are far more likely to succumb to destructive impulses. Sugary foods spike your sugar levels quickly and leave you drained and vulnerable shortly thereafter. Eating something that provides a slow burn for your body, such as whole grain rice or meat, will give you a longer window of self-control. So, if you’re having trouble keeping yourself out of the company candy bin when you’re hungry, make sure you eat something else if you want to have a fighting chance.

Self-Control Secret #3 – Exercise

Getting your body moving for as little as 10 minutes releases GABA, a neurotransmitter that makes your brain feel soothed and keeps you in control of your impulses. If you’re having trouble resisting the impulse to walk over to the office next door to let somebody have it, just keep on walking. You should have the impulse under control by the time you get back.

Self-Control Secret #4 – Sleep

When you are tired, your brain cells’ ability to absorb glucose is highly diminished. As I explained in Secret #2, your brain’s ability to control impulses is nil without glucose. What’s worse, without enough sleep you are more likely to crave sugary snacks to compensate for low glucose levels. So, if you’re trying to exert self-control over your eating, getting a good night’s sleep—every night—is one of the best moves you can make.

Self-Control Secret #5 – Ride the Wave

Desire has a strong tendency to ebb and flow like the tide. When the impulse you need to control is strong, waiting out this wave of desire is usually enough to keep yourself in control. The rule of thumb here is to wait at least 10 minutes before succumbing to temptation. You’ll often find that the great wave of desire is now little more than a ripple that you have the power to step right over.

Self-Control Secret #6 – Forgive Yourself

A vicious cycle of failing to control oneself followed by feeling intense self-hatred and disgust is common in attempts at self-control. These emotions typically lead to over-indulging in the offending behavior. When you slip up, it is critical that you forgive yourself and move on. Don’t ignore how the mistake makes you feel; just don’t wallow in it. Instead, shift your attention to what you’re going to do to improve yourself in the future.

Putting These Strategies to Work

The important thing to remember is you have to give these strategies the opportunity to work. This means recognizing the moments where you are struggling with self-control and, rather than giving in to impulse, taking a look at the Six Secrets and giving them a go before you give in. –Travis Bradberry, Ph.D.

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6 Bad Habits Holding You Back From Success

Bad Habits

 

You always imagined your career would be like a rocket ship shooting you straight to the stars, but instead you seem to be stuck in one place, already out of gas. Before you blame your company, your coworkers, or your boss, it’s time to take a good look in the mirror. Your bad habits might be the culprit holding you back from the corner office you’ve always dreamed about.

We all have bad habits, but bringing your baggage along to the office can be the difference between soaring or stalling in your career. Below are six common workplace bad habits to break if you want to continue moving up the career ladder:

Being a Lone Wolf

Collaboration is the key to workplace success, but you prefer to work solo. While being able to work independently is a valuable commodity in any workplace, working alone shouldn’t be your only speed. If you are constantly ducking out of team projects or asking to tackle a task without any help, your coworkers will take notice.

While those around you put their heads together, brainstorm great ideas, and form connections, you’re being left in the dust. You need to show you can play well with others. After all, managers and those in charge need to be able to lead a team. Getting ahead in any office is one part skills and one part connections, and your lone wolf nature means you’re contracting your professional network instead of expanding.

Break the habit: Find a project you’re interested in and ask to be part of the team. Do your best to keep everyone involved and in the loop, and stretch those collaboration muscles. It’ll show managers and coworkers you’re more than just a lone wolf.

Saying Sorry

Are you apologizing too much in the office? According to recent statistics, the word sorry is uttered approximately 368 million times per day in the UK. Women in particular seem to have a tough time ditching the word sorry, and apologize far more frequently than men. Saying sorry about every little thing implies you are constantly making mistakes, and can undercut your position in the office and with managers.

Break the habit: You need to take ownership of your mistakes. It’s time to stop over-apologizing. Reserve the word sorry for big mistakes and cut it out of your everyday vocabulary.

Taking on Every Project

Do you get excited by new projects? Do you like jumping in with both feet and finding new challenges? These are great attributes to any employee, but it’s time to learn your limits. If you say yes to every single project, you might soon find yourself unhappy, burnt out, and badly overworked.

Break the habit: The word “no” is a powerful thing. It doesn’t make you look like a slacker or weak to turn down a project you just don’t have time for. Be protective of your time and abilities, and know when one more task is just too many.

Being Negative

No one likes a Debbie Downer, and if you come into work with a rain cloud over your head each morning, it’s not surprising you haven’t moved up in your company. Enthusiasm and passion are traits managers look for in superstar employees who get promotions and excel within the company. No one wants to promote someone who looks miserable to step into the office each day.

Break the habit: Sit yourself down and ask the hard questions you’ve been avoiding. If you hate your job, it might be time to look for another opportunity. Or maybe you feel stalled and want to learn something new, in which case you can talk to your manager or boss about opportunities to shadow in different departments or take professional development courses.Ask yourself what would make you wake up excited about your workday, and chase after your dreams.

Doing Things the Way They’ve Always Been Done

Innovation is the lifeblood of any company, yet many workers just come into the office to punch their time cards and collect their paychecks. And this isn’t only on employees:according to a survey by Fierce, Inc., less than one-third of employees felt their company would change practices based on employee feedback. Lack of innovation in companies, it turns out, is a two-way street.

Break the habit: Sit down with your boss and ask for an open-door policy for employee feedback and ideas. Once a month, try to submit an idea for how your company can improve and grow. Not all of your suggestions will be implemented, but you’ll make yourself stand out as someone with big ideas who really cares about the company’s future.

Being Disorganized

Every year, Americans spend on average nine million hours looking for things they’ve misplaced. Imagine how much of your work life is being frittered away every time you misplace a report under a pile of desktop debris. People walking past your cluttered workspace are judging you for your organizational chaos.

Break the habit: The next time you have a slow day, spend it organizing your office. Set up a plan to stay more organized and stick to it. Keep in mind, the hardest part of being organized is initially cleaning up the clutter and putting things in their places. Once the hard work of cleaning up is done, it should be a breeze to keep your work space in good shape.

Your bad habits don’t have to hold you back from career success. If you tackle these habits head-on, you might just find yourself moving on up the ladder. _ Ilya Pozin