Last year my son did a body building competition. Here he is fully ripped and tanned! 😊
Preparation for an event like this requires a HUGE time commitment in going to the gym. My son would spend 1-2 hours a day at the gym. The self-control he had to get up at 4:30 or 5 AM, go the gym, work out, and be to school on time was astounding.
But that wasn’t even close the most amazing piece of self-control that my son exhibited in prepping for the show.
The most amazing part is eating. And the severe lack of eating! Especially anything with any variety.
Over the course of months, he would eat on the strictest food plan you can imagine. Very limited carbs. No sugar. No treats. Lots of chicken breast. Every day. Grilled chicken breast with no dipping sauce!
No cheat days. No breaks. No slips.
There were birthdays. He wouldn’t eat the dinner or dessert. Family parties. He would cook his own chicken breast. We’d go out for a family dinner. He would come and not eat at the restaurant.
I will never forget the night he graduated from high school. No after graduation dinner at all! I also got to chaperone at the all-night party at a local event center. Pizza, pop, candy, treats of every kind for the kids all over the place.
I found my son at a table late that night with all his friends. Pizza, pop, candy, treats of every kind all over the table. And my son, sitting, laughing, and eating a piece of turkey jerky I had brought him.
More self-control than I have ever seen.
I really wanted to be like that. I decided right then and there, I was going to eat WAY better.
I did not eat way better. I eat the same now as I did then. I weigh the same now as I did then. And I have just about the same amount of muscle.
Why can’t I have the same level of self-control?
Well, turns out self-control is pretty tough.
And it is wildly important.
Recent research found that “childhood self-control predicts physical health, substance dependence, personal finances, and criminal offending outcomes, following a gradient of self-control.”
What that means is, the more self-control you have, the better your health, the less likely you are to do drugs, you will have better finances, and you will have committed less crime in your life.
I need to get me some more self-control!
The first problem is that self-control is a limited and depleting resource. As you go throughout your day, making decisions, taking on challenges, keeping up healthy eating, not buying things on Amazon, not grabbing your phone and scrolling Facebook, all of these things take self-control.
By the end of they day, it’s like you’ve run a mental marathon and you often find yourself collapsing at the finish line.
Then you get home and the most important people in your life need the best of you.
Maybe you have been through this, too.
You are trying so hard to be good, you just don’t seem to have the “it” that will get you through.
Or maybe you are like me and my overwhelming desire to eat cereal. All day I can keep that at bay…until 10:00 and I eat three bowls of cereal before heading off to bed. 😊
What can be done?
Well, turns out that you can improve your self-control.
Dr. Roy F. Baumeister found that “the important thing is to practice overriding habitual ways of doing things and exerting deliberate control over your actions. Over time, that practice improves self-control.”
Your habits are getting you to where you are. Self-control is all about “overriding habitual ways of doing things.”
One way to do that, change the environment! (I talk about it in this blog post).
If you have a self-control problem in one area of your life, completely change the environment around that behavior and the behavior will likely change.
Throw out junk food, take the batteries out of your TV remote, delete negative apps, put your treadmill right in front of your TV, whatever it takes.
Recharging your self-control:
I’m currently working on two things to recharge my self-control:
Drinking lemonade on my way home. (More on this below)
Listening to uplifting music on the drive home
These two things have helped me to feel that little reset to feel more control over self and stay committed to my best self. Find one thing that you can do today to feel a refresh.
Another way to make a habit visual is to use a habit tracker. I will write about that in my next blog post and give you the tracker I use. The more you practice new ways of doing things, the easier they will become. I’ll show you how!
For now, if you are aware of the times where you have difficulty…try lemonade. One more idea from Dr. Baumeister that you can apply today: “Acts of self-control reduce blood glucose levels. Low levels of glucose predict poor performance on self-control tasks and tests. Replenishing glucose, even just with a glass of lemonade, improves self-control performance.”
Sounds silly? Well give it a try. If you know you are heading into a tough self-control situation, drink some lemonade or other drink to get you some glucose and face it with the improved power of a fully-glucosed brain!
Give it a try. And check out my next blog on the habit tracker!