Top 10 Ways to Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions #7 – Increase Your Self-Control
Often times, the biggest obstacles to achieving our goals are not acting on the moments we do have to
act on them. One of the most successful ways to help increase your odds of sticking to a new routine
(whether that be workout habits, new eating habits, etc.) is to stay a step ahead by some simple “If-
Before we delve into if-then planning, let’s quickly discuss what self-control is.
There’s often a myth that in order to reach our goals, we can or have to rely exclusively on self-control.
The reality of the situation is that self-control, just like any other habit is a habit. If we practice self-
control (in any area of our lives), we increase self-control overall. If our self-control habit is sluggish
though, then when we try to use it, we often falter.
Many of the main researchers on self-control or willpower have compared it to a muscle. As such, the
more you train a muscle, the stronger it gets in the long-run. In the short-term though, using self-control
in one aspect can tire that “muscle” out and are therefore less likely to exert self-control in a different
task. For example, if your goal is to workout, but you’ve had a stressful day at work, your “self-control
muscle” may be tired. Due to this “fatigue” if you go home before you go to the gym, you increase your
odds of missing your workout. In fact, any time you make a decision, you use your “self-control muscle”
and therefore, partially fatigue it.
So how do you push past that fatigue and continue on with your goals? As mentioned above, through
some simple “If-Then” planning.
By pre-planning your actions and therefore decrease the amount of decisions you have to make
beforehand, you allow yourself to conserve energy for your self-control muscle and increase your odds
of sticking to a new habit.
Your to do:
Here are the 5 steps to set up your If-Then planning.
1 – Think of an action you need to take to reach your goal (step #5 from up above).
Example: You need to go to the gym and workout.
2 – Next, think of when and where you take that action.
Example: After work and on Saturdays.
3 – What situation will normally cause you to not complete that action?
Example: When I’m tired from work and come home before heading to the gym.
This is the “If” part of the If-Then equation. If ________ occurs, then…
4 – Think of an action that you can do to make sure you complete the action you want. This is the
Example: I could head straight to the gym before going home – even if it’s for a little stretching and
5 – Combine the two into an “If-Then” Statement.
Example: If I’m tired from work, then I will head straight to the gym before going home.
Now recall step #5 implementation step and combine them. In other words, what will you need to do in
order to go to the gym straight from work? Are you going to rent a locker at the gym, pack a gym bag
the night before and bring it to work with you or some other creative aspect that I haven’t thought of.
Take the time to solidify this step so you’re not left without the appropriate tools to implement you
Things needed to do implement this step:
Remember, by taking part in this if-then thinking you allow yourself to have a built-in self-control reserve and you allow yourself to build that “muscle” by doing things even when they’re not the most convenient.