We all struggle with temptation. Humans are born with very little self-control. As we grow, the part of the brain that regulates self-control develops. But as adults, we still lack self-control and sometimes act in self-destructive ways.
You probably know the damage that task-switching causes to your productivity. But you still give in to the temptation. It’s hard to resist the urge to google something that suddenly comes to mind out of nowhere.
In her book, “Get It Done: Surprising Lessons from the Science of Motivation,” Ayelet Fishbach, a Professor of Behavioral Science and Marketing at the University of Chicago, Booth School of Business, shares scientifically proven ways to improve self-control and patience.
In this blog post, I’ll cover five tips for resisting temptation based on Fishbach’s book to help you stick to your goals.
🔢 Temptation Tip #1: Small Actions, Big Consequences
The Domino Effect: One of the main excuses that we give when we are tempted is, “Doing this a little bit won’t hurt me.”
❌ You end up going down a rabbit hole of checking Wikipedia.
❌ Before you realize it, you’ve eaten a whole pint of ice cream or a bag of chips.
❌ A whole week has passed since the last time you went to the gym or worked out.
1️⃣ Think about the action in bulk.
2️⃣ Before you give in to temptation, multiply the action: Visualize the cumulative effects of repeating the action.
3️⃣ Reconsider if it takes you away from your goal: If you think the multiplied action will take you away from your goal, resist the temptation.
Extra Tip: Reverse it
This principle works in reverse as well. Think about small chunks of time you waste, such as between meetings or on a commuter train. If you do something useful during that time like reading or listening to books, and if you multiply it, what kind of impact can it have on your life?
🏷️ Temptation Tip #2: The Actions We Take Define Us
Identity Matters: Once you associate an action with an identity that you don’t want to have, you will think twice before taking the action.
💪 If you associate skipping the gym with being a lazy person, you will go to the gym more often.
📱 If you associate constant phone checking with being an easily distractible person, you’ll stop checking your phone all the time.
✅ Reflect on the action you’re about to take and determine what kind of identity that action represents.
✅ If you realize you don’t want the identity, it’s easier to convince yourself not to take the action.
🗣️ Temptation Tip #3: Talking to Yourself in the Third Person
Distanced Self-Talk: When you’re facing a temptation, use “distanced self-talk.” Ask yourself a question in the third person, such as “How would [your name] handle this situation?” instead of “How would I handle this situation?”
🔍 Asking yourself in the third person can help you distance yourself from the situation.
🔍 It makes you feel like it’s happening to someone else.
🔍 This detachment can help you calm yourself, see the situation from a different perspective, and allow you to make a better decision.
🤔 If you happen to know a good decision-maker who stays focused, you can also ask yourself, “How would [that person] handle this situation?”
🔮 Temptation Tip #4: Caring for Your Future Self
Future You Matters: Remind yourself that your future self is actually “you.” Think about what kind of actions the future “you” would appreciate you taking now.
👩🏼🤝👩🏻Best Friend Approach:
Treat the future “you” as one of your best friends. You care about your best friends and wish them the best, right?
👵 Building Connection:
If you don’t feel close to the future “you,” try to increase the feeling of connection to your future self by imagining yourself as a 70 or 80-year-old “you.”
They’ll definitely appreciate a gift of good health, great memories to cherish, and enough money to live comfortably. What else would they appreciate?
⏳ Temptation Tip #5: Patience is a Virtue
Sleep on It: You’ve probably heard the adage to “sleep on” a big purchase. You give a day or week before you actually make the decision.
📝Apply This Technique:
You can apply this technique in other situations. When you get an urge to google something unrelated to work, instead of checking it immediately, add the item to the “things to check later” list.
You can check them once you’ve finished your current task. This way, you can avoid constantly switching tasks, and you might not even be interested in half of those things by then anyway!
📚 Additional Resources
In addition to these five tips, I’ve written several posts related to temptation & distraction dilemmas.
👉 Use the Pomodoro technique to focus on a task in front of you.
👉 Plan ahead for the temptation you’ll face when your self-control resources are limited. Making “commitment contracts” in advance is one way to plan ahead.
🤔 Putting It All Together:
The next time you’re about to give in to temptation, pause and think if you can use one of these strategies to avoid giving in to temptation.
1️⃣ Think about how the tempting action adds up.
2️⃣ Evaluate what kind of identity the action represents.
3️⃣ Distance yourself from the tempting situation.
4️⃣ Increase connection to your future self.
5️⃣ Wait to choose.
These five tips to avoid temptations and the ten tips to create better goals and stay motivated, which I shared in my previous post, will help you get what you want out of life. Use them to your advantage and live the life you deserve!
📣 Call to Action
I’d love to hear about your experiences in resisting temptations and making better decisions. Please share your stories and tips in the comment section!