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Friday, January 15, 2016

This Time of Year We Can All Use Mental Strength

I have been having a particularly bad case of seasonal affective disorder this year. It's been very hard for me to drag myself out of bed, and every inevitable annoyance ticks me closer to the time bomb going off. I can't focus on writing, can't seem to get anything done, and then feel guilty about it. Just in time, along comes my good friend Rayne Hall, writing with co author James O'Donnell. I just love the British flavour.

Rayne has been kind enough to provide this excerpt, 'Withstanding Temptations',  a timely topic at a time when many people struggle with their New Year's resolutions. Mental Strength is on sale for 99 cents! Let's get some discussion going!


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How are your resolutions holding up in the face of temptation? Do you remember your goals when it really counts?

How well a person is able to control their impulses reveals their mental strength and predicts how successful they will become.

Temptations sabotage our goals and undermine our resolutions. They come in many forms. A husband may want to stay faithful to his wife, but if another woman sets out to seduce him, he may succumb. A woman may resolve to stick to a diet to look great in her wedding dress, but when her friend presents her with a sumptuous home-baked chocolate gateau, she may set aside her resolution and indulge.

When the lure is strong, can you resist the pull?

Your mind needs to weigh instant gratification (sex with the seductress now, the melting sweet creaminess of the chocolate gateau on the tongue) against bigger future benefits (your wife's trusting love, stunning looks for your wedding and in photos) and delay gratification for the greater gain.

Here are three techniques to help you win.

• Keep your motivation in the forefront of your mind. Remind yourself of the reasons why you want to achieve something. The more you think about your reasons—during acute temptations as well as at other times—the more power your rational mind will get over your impulses.

• You can strengthen your impulse control (your won't-power) by exercising it constantly. Expose yourself to temptations a little and often in light challenges, and you will grow stronger.

• Observe at what times your willpower (you may call it your 'won't-power') is weakest. Avoid meeting major temptations when these circumstances apply. Here are the nine patterns to watch out for:

1. The time of the day plays a big role. For many people, willpower is strong in the morning but gradually lessens during the day, and is weakest in the evenings and at night. Your personal pattern may differ.

2. The influence of drugs and alcohol can make it difficult or impossible to control your impulses. If you absolutely have to meet the woman who has the hots for you, make sure you're sober.

3. The weather, temperature and phase of the moon can erode your resistance to certain temptations. For example, may be quicker to rouse to violence during the full moon, or crave calorie-laden food when it's cold.

4. An empty stomach reduces impulse control. This is a big factor when shopping. Hungry people buy more and spend more. So if you want to stick to a budget, do our shopping after you've had a meal, not before.

5. Other people have a major influence on your behaviour. During your struggles between rational choice and impulse, their words and actions will sway you. This is especially important if you want to break habits or recover from addictions. If you want to quit smoking, don't hang out with people who puff continuously, and if you want to lose weight, stay away from those who keep offering you chocolate and say "come on, just one".

6. When you're feeling dejected, exhausted, frustrated or lonely, you're likely to crave instant gratification, especially in the form of comfort food or alcoholic drink. Your willpower is lower than usual. You can deal with this by treating yourself to some other soothing comfort.

7. Anger tends to lead to impulse actions before the rational mind has a chance to step in.

8. Hormonal changes can intensify cravings and lessen your resistance for example during PMS or pregnancy.  Observe what effects you, and be prepared.

9. Willpower is a limited resource. When you've used a lot of it, you may not have enough left to withstand temptation. After you resisted the allure of the temptress all evening, you may not be able to say 'no' to a cigarette, even though you meant to quit.

Action Point

Create a manageable temptation and expose yourself continuously to it. For example, if you have a sweet tooth, place a cookie jar or a box of chocolates on your desk where you see it many times all day long.

Since you're aware that this is a temptation and are prepared to encounter it, your impulse control will be strong. You will almost certainly be able to resist. But it will take an effort, and this effort will strengthen your willpower.

Progress Assignment

Identify the times and situations when your willpower and impulse control are lower than normal. Late in the evening? During rainy weather? On the first day of your monthly period? Write a list and keep it on your computer or in your appointments diary.

During those phases, seek to avoid all temptations. At other times, you may choose to actively seek them out.

Strategy

You can't escape all temptations, they are part of life. But you can prepare for them. Anticipate them as far as possible, and fortify yourself. Remind yourself of your motivations, and visualise that bigger goal with its benefits.

If you have to meet the tempting seductress and know she'll use the opportunity to try to seduce you, hold a picture of your living wife in your mind on the way there. Before arranging a visit to the gateau-baking friend, visualise yourself looking slim and stunning in a figure-hugging wedding gown.


Rayne's Author Page