Use If-Then Statements To Exert Better Self-Control

Use If-Then Statements to Exert Better Self-Control

Self-control is hard to learn. Keeping yourself on task, forming a habit, or even just avoiding certain foods sometimes feels impossible. Over at The New York Times, author Pamela Druckerman suggests using if-then statements to rein things in.

Photo by Paul Keller

The idea here is pretty simple:

He explains that there are two warring parts of the brain: a hot part demanding immediate gratification (the limbic system), and a cool, goal-oriented part (the prefrontal cortex). The secret of self-control, he says, is to train the prefrontal cortex to kick in first.

To do this, use specific if-then plans, like "If it's before noon, I won't check email" or "If I feel angry, I will count backward from 10." Done repeatedly, this buys a few seconds to at least consider your options. The point isn't to be robotic and never eat chocolate mousse again. It's to summon self-control when you want it, and be able to carry out long-term plans.

It's all about boosting your willpower in the end, but it's easy to lose sight of what you want along the way.

Learning How to Exert Self-Control [The New York Times]


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