When it’s far too difficult to deny yourself that cigarette, that doughnut or that new coat, tell yourself to instead wait just 10 minutes before you give in. This “mini” delay in gratification will help you build more self-control over time.
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I’ve read a lot of self-help advice on boosting your self-control, but this one from Kelly McGonigal’s The Willpower Instinct can be particularly powerful and put to immediate practice. She calls it the 10-minute delay rule. Any time you have the urge to do something you know is counterproductive to your goals (but you just can’t help it!), delay your gratification by just 10 minutes.
During what may be the longest 10 minutes of your life, you can distance yourself from your object of desire or keep yourself distracted by chatting with someone. Knowing you have to wait just 10 minutes rather than outright telling yourself “no” also reduces the anxiety you cope with. If you find that the urge is still there after 10 minutes, go for it.
Ten minutes doesn’t seem like a lot of time, but with more practice, 10 minutes can turn into 20, 30 or 60 minutes, and soon you might be able to put off gratification for as long as you want. According to McGonigal, with this strategy the brain treats this like a “future reward” and takes away the overwhelming need for immediate gratification.
So, by the simply telling yourself “wait 10 minutes”, you are training your brain bit-by-bit to delay gratification and help you reach the goals that truly matter to you.
The Willpower Instinct | Kelly McGonigal