Inside: You’re so tired of caving to every little temptation. But you don’t know how to develop self control! These 5 tips will change your thinking in no time.
I was sitting in church on Palm Sunday, when the deacon began talking about the Gospel. On Palm Sunday, the masses were laying out palms for Jesus to walk across. But by Thursday, they were calling for His death.
It struck me that the human struggle to stay focused on our life purpose is not new. It’s innate human behavior that we all have to work hard to rise above.
Christians, for instance, have to fight their entire lives to avoid “feels good now” temptations in order to get what they want the most in the after life. But there are many smaller journeys in life that are a good reflection of that. Maybe we have been given the gift of practice rounds as we go. What if we’re missing it?
Think about the last diet you tried. You decided to start a journey of healthier eating, with your end goal being a number on the scale or the shirt tag. It probably started great, until you were tempted by your favorite treat. Or there was a celebration that you needed to take part in (and that always involves delicious food!).
It’s not long before you lose whatever self control you had and fall right back into old habits.
How to Develop Self Control
Maybe you’re wondering what this has to do with saving money or paying off debt, but I think you’ve probably already connected the dots. Reaching your big financial goals is all about developing self control.
I haven’t always had self control when it comes to money. But we never would have made it to this point in our debt free journey if we hadn’t learned some tricks about self discipline. Learn from our mistakes, and put these ideas into action in your own life. You’ll be amazed at the difference it makes!
5 Tips for Learning the Importance of Self Control
1. What You Want Most
I used to hear the words “self control” and thought it meant the same thing as “no”. But then I read this saying, and it changed everything.
“Never give up what you want the most for what you want now.”
Isn’t that fantastic?? It reframed everything about my decision making. I’m not saying no to that super sized Dr. Pepper, as much as I’m saying yes to having no credit card payments.
What do you want the most? I’ve said this for a year, but I’ll say it again. Always have a bigger goal in mind. If you can’t give yourself a specific reason to avoid buying the candy bar, you’ll find yourself munching on chocolate. Don’t think “I need to save money.” Think “If I don’t buy this candy bar, I’ll be less afraid to check the mail and find another bill I can’t pay.” Or (more fun) “If I skip buying this chocolate, I can go on a beach trip instead.”
2. Daily Practice
If your goal is a huge one, it’s even more important to take things a day at a time. Look at each day as a chance to practice your new habit. It’s like a muscle that needs to be toned. You might start with a smaller weight so you don’t hurt yourself, but later you’ll be pumping some serious iron.
On the first day or two, look for a chance to tell yourself no once or twice. We face temptations to spend day in and day out. Pick one or two things to look at and specifically think to yourself, “No. I really don’t need this thing. I’ll pretend I bought it and put that money towards my big goal instead.”
See how that feels. Did you get a boost of pride or happiness from overcoming your impulse to buy? Pay attention to that feeling. Tomorrow, set a goal to get that feeling again.
3. Learn to Deal With Your Emotions
There’s a lull in the conversation while you wait with the other parents to pick up your kids from practice. What’s the first thing you do? I bet you reach for your phone.
Technology these days is amazing! I wouldn’t tell you to go without it. But sometimes I worry that it is stunting us from dealing with emotions. When you’re mad, you vent on social media (sometimes before you have the whole story). If you’re happy, the first thing you do is get a photo or video. Sadness calls for retail therapy (just a click away!).
I’m not judging. In fact, I’m sharing those examples from my own personal experience. But I wonder if it’s a healthy habit we’re reinforcing?
We’ll do anything to escape the uncomfortable feeling of having emotions. It’s another thing to be aware of and to practice every day. When you feel anxious, excited, or irritated, try to work through the emotion. If you have to reach for a crutch to handle your emotions (whether it’s retail, ice cream, or Netflix therapy) you’ll suffer for it in the long run.
Take a long walk (or do a more intense workout if that helps), read a book, or actually talk to a friend. Look for an emotional release that you can work through rather than hiding from.
4. Think Big
Learning about hedonic adaptation gave me the starting block I needed to launch myself on the race to debt freedom. It’s a simple concept. According to Wikipedia, it’s “…the observed tendency of humans to quickly return to a relatively stable level of happiness despite major positive or negative events or life changes.”
You spend your time thinking, “If I could just get a big raise at work, I’d be happy.” Then, lo and behold you get that raise. But within months you’ve adjusted your spending and find yourself no better off. Before long, you find yourself thinking, “If I could just get another raise, I’d be happy.”
How happy are you now (in general)? That’s your resting place. It might seem like a nicer car or would make you happier, but it’s really just a short boost of happiness that could never live as long as the final payment.
Be happy on purpose in your current circumstances.
5. Think Small
Hygge is a Danish concept. According to Hygge House, it’s recognizing a moment as cozy, sweet, charming, special, or nice. Isn’t that a fun idea?
How many small moments of happiness pass us by each day without us noticing? Your morning cup of coffee is part of your routine. Take a moment to enjoy it! The beautiful sunset fades away while we hurry the trash cans to the curb.
Replace your desire for more, more, more with an appreciation of many small moments of happiness all day long.
These 5 ideas will show you how to have self control so you can reach the goal you want the most.
Look at your next temptation as another practice round! The benefits of self control are completely worth it.
For more on this topic, check out Is It Too Comfortable In Here?
How do you handle temptation?