05
Dec

In my previous post, I talked about some really interesting research I heard presented by Dr. Mark Fenske.  His talk focused on the brain mechanisms associated with self-control. Take a read through it before reading today’s tips for how to increase your self-control.

Self-control—Exercise for your Brain

Maintaining self-control requires attention and energy, which we can only achieve for so long. It turns out that brain exercise (like physical exercise) is taxing and requires that we have ample fuel to power the engine. In the case of the brain, the fuel is glucose.

Think about times when your self-control lost the battle; where you let the forces of instant gratification win.  Had you slept well the night before? Were you 6 hours into a meeting? Had you worked through with no lunch? Were you on a sugar crash after the afternoon cookies wore off?  Probably.

You need to remember that winning the self-control war literally takes energy.  When you make the conscious or unconscious decision not to resupply the troops in the frontal-lobe army, you leave them very vulnerable to attack by the wily, self-serving pleasure platoon.

Some guidelines to help win the war

  1. Invest in your own resilience with sleep, exercise, and nutritious food. When things get hectic and pressures increase; just when you might be tempted to reduce your amounts of all three—double down!
  2. Provide a quick “check in” with your teammates at the start of a meeting if you’re feeling stretched, distracted, or worn down. “I’m going to need your help today, I’m feeling a little frayed.”
  3. Resist the temptation to skip breaks and lunches—particularly if you are overloaded because it’s a stressful time! Your team will get more work done and do less damage if you take the breaks. Set an alarm if you have to.
  4. Make important decisions and have difficult conversations early in your meetings.  Save housekeeping stuff for the end of meetings when you’re getting worn down.
  5. Talk to the person who caters meetings and fill the room with better options: protein for lunch, nuts and whole grains for snacks.
  6. Pay attention to fatigue. When you feel it, take a break. Grab a quick walk to the cafeteria. Listen to an energizing song on your iPod. Watch a 10 minute TED talk. Heck, show an inspiring short TED talk to the whole team. For your convenience, here are three talks each under 10 minutes that might just give your team the break it needs.
    1. The best gift I ever survived (poignant for when you need to remember we’re all human)
    2. High tech art (fun and ingenious when you need to lighten a heavy mood)
    3. Tracking our online trackers (interesting and informative when you need to increase creativity)
  7. Call it when it happens “guys, I’m worn out and I didn’t handle that very well.”

I’d love to hear what you’ve learned about keeping your resilience up and maintaining self-control. Share any tips in the comments.

Further Reading

Strengthen your Self-Control Part I

In the Mirror: Where do you get you Self-Esteem

Wasted Time in Meetings

2 Responses to Strengthen your self-control Part II

  1. Tiina

    Hi Liane….one thing that I have found that works with my coaching clients who struggle with self control is to give themselves a ‘zero tolerance goal’ for losing it. By that I mean, they set themselves a goal of never losing it in front of people. Now…no one is perfect and we sometimes lose it but for the person who thinks they can’t control it they find out quickly that by having the goal they can have control and make better decisions. One of my coaching clients who had this problem and set the goal told me that it did result in them having to go home early on numerous occasions so that they didn’t lose it in the office but at least no one witnessed it and it didn’t destroy their credibiity.

  2. Lisa L

    I have recently discovered setting a limit (depending on what I am struggling with) is a good way for me to help win the small battles in the realm of self-control. For example, if I’m not living up to my goal of exercising/eating healthy everyday then I tell myself: “You’re allowed to have 2 cheat days a week. Yesterday and the day before were your cheat days – now it’s time to get back on track.” It can be difficult to be good all the time, and knowing that I am going to get a break/reward helps me at times. Then I work towards lessening my reliance on the reward to keep me motivated.

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