Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Getting Ready to Get Ready to Make Changes

I'm thinking and talking and writing about change; change that I am choosing, not change that is being imposed upon me.  Theoretically, we prefer change that we have control over to that which we do not. But, we can't necessarily stick to change even change we choose. The will or skill to do so is labeled in many ways: will power, self-control, strategic allocation of attention. I started last week to avoid the onus of New Years resolution. I'm meditating for 20 minutes 5 days a week in my pjs as I roll out of bed, followed by 10 minutes of stretching, back exercises,  and finally followed by coffee. So far so good.

Along the way I found this  article on Psyblog. I like it because research is routinely included so you can easily verify the tips. Although ten techniques are mentioned, I'm only including the first two right now because many are redundant. Here's the opening.

"1. Respect low ego
Research has found that self-control is a limited resource (Vohs et al., 2000). Exercising it has clear physiological effects, like lower glucose levels (Gailliot et al., 2007).
At any one time we only have so much self-control in the tank. When you've been tightly controlling yourself, the tank is low and you become more likely to give in to temptation. Psychologists call this 'ego-depletion'.
Recognise when your levels of self-control are low and make sure you find a way to avoid temptation during those times.
Unfortunately, as we all know to our cost, self-control frequently fails. Part of the problem is we overestimate our ability to resist temptation (Nordgren et al., 2009)."

Here's a link to an article on this blog about decision fatigue, ego depletion etc. http://intelligentwomenonly.blogspot.com/2011/08/decision-fatigue.htmlA shot of sugar helps — sometimes. But if you're temptation is sugar, best to try something else.

"2. Pre-commit 

Make the decision before you're in the tempting situation. Pre-committing yourself to difficult goals can lead to increased performance. In one study by Ariely and Wertenbroch (2002) students who imposed strict deadlines on themselves performed better than those who didn't.
Only take a limited amount of money with you to curtail spending, or only have healthy foods at home to avoid the temptation to go astray.
It's difficult to pre-commit because normally we like to leave our options open. But if you're harsh on you future self, you're less likely to regret it."

We'll all find different ways that work with our different brains and habits. The shot of sugar doesn't help me, even if I don't have an overeating or sugar temptation. Pre-committing works even though I'm not sure why. Maybe because I like to know I can count on myself ?
What works for  you?
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