BY KEISHA JOHNSON
In this issue we continue with Part 3 of our series on tried and proven keys that successful people have adopted to produce extraordinary results in their business and personal lives. You may also view Part 1 and Part 2.
Discipline and Self-Control
Self-discipline and self-control could be the most boring and unsexy things we ever have to deal with in life. Yet Michael Lee Chin says that control of emotions is among the top three keys in his proven model to create and replicate success.
“Our behavior today is our history tomorrow,” the business mogul said in an interview. “We have control over the history we are writing for ourselves because we have control over our behavior, so the only question is what I want my legacy to be. Once you define that then let your behavior give you your goals,” he coached.
“Successful people make sure that everything they do in the short term is consistent with where they want to end up in the long term. They practice self discipline at all times,” Brian Tracy writes in No Excuses: The Power of Self-Discipline.
The ability to resist short term temptation to fulfill a long term goal is how the American Psychological Association (APA) defines self-control or willpower.
It is the ability to delay gratification. It is a discipline; the mastery of which redeems many rewards on the personal and professional levels as demonstrated by Walter Mischel’s marshmallow experiment in which preschoolers who employed self control and delayed immediate gratification of a treat in lieu of having two later consistently maintained better life choices and outcomes over fifty plus years.
Follow-up studies on the participants from the 1960’s to the 2000’s revealed that those who had delayed gratification longer as a child, had also later in life performed better academically, earned more money, were healthier and happier and were less inclined to engage in certain deviant or self destructive behaviors.
The initial response of the children illustrated not only the internal fortitude and creativity it takes to exercise self control under pressure and in the face of temptations but the impact delayed gratification has on our other executive functions over time.
So how do you delay gratification and become more disciplined to advance your goals? Here are three suggestions:
Have you ever heard the saying we are transformed by the renewing of our mind? In other words, behavior is more likely to change when our thinking changes. If battles are won first in the mind then infuse your mind and thoughts with whatever information will confirm and affirm your desired end. Create affirmations with this information and consistently verbalize them frequently. Since the advent of the pillow speaker, my husband for example, sleeps with one that plays motivational messages into his subconscious nightly. Overtime, as your belief changes it triggers corresponding changes in your behavior. Leadership guru the late Miles Munroe said his car was a university on wheels as he was always learning and growing from audio books or messages when driving. He also read four books per month.
- Nutrition, Sleep and Exercise
Balanced nutrition, adequate sleep and regular exercise are reputed to help the body function optimally. This puts us in a better disposition to control our emotions. I won’t go into it here but there are several foods that you can research that help with self control. In regards to sleep, Daniel Kripke who established one of the first sleep centers in North America, deduced from a 2012 sleep study that “people who sleep between 6.5 hr. and 7.5 hr. per night, live the longest, are happier and most productive”. Sleep depravity impairs the brain function, which dulls our ability to focus and thus retards our control of our emotions.
- Manage Stress
As you journey towards your goal avoid or minimize the temptations that could derail you. Psychologists suggests two approaches to fortify your resistance: The out of sight out of mind approach and the Implementation Intention approach.
Out of Sight Out of Mind
This technique suggests that you distance yourself (physically or figuratively) from the temptation or divert your attention to something else while keeping your long term goal in mind. This was the tactic the kids who were able to delay gratification longest employed in the Marshmallow experiment.
Doing so Mischel says mentally “cools” the “hot” aspects of your environment, i.e. the things that pull you away from your goal and this is a significant key in delaying gratification.
I’ve had to rely on this approach oh so often from choosing not to buy certain foods that I love when I’m detoxing to turning off my phone or internet so as not to be distracted when I’m pressing to meet a deadline.
Planning ahead on how to deal with certain temptations is the genius of Implementation Intention. “Usually these intentions take the form of “if-then” statements that help people plan for situations that are likely to foil their resolve,” an APA article on Strengthening Self Control noted.
My niece for example has two years remaining in college that she would like to finish without a student loan. But she is also a shopaholic. Fully aware of her weakness she has this past summer decided to only purchase essentials and resolved that if invited to go shopping she will leave her bank cards at home and only travel with limited cash if and when she goes.
The first time we went out without her purse she said it was the most frustrating experience and that it took all the fun out of shopping. It also did not help that she wore her “I shop for exercise” T-shirt. But she has so far finished the fall semester debt free and is reveling in the pride of ‘having done it’. That sense of accomplishment is motivating her to continue with the plan in the New Year. This leads me to the final nugget for helping you to meet your goals in 2016.
Celebrate along the way
As you make strides, take time to celebrate the small victories. Reward and encourage yourself to continue to the next milepost of the journey. Have you ever noticed that people are strategically positioned along a marathon route to give the runners water? This keeps them from dehydration and fuels them for continuing on the journey. Likewise, intentionally celebrate the victories along the route to your vision in 2016. Celebration is like a refreshing drink of water, it will trigger production of the happy hormones that help to keep you motivated towards your goals and fuel you to finish the year strong and empowered.
Cheers to your success in 2016!