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How To Stop Yourself From Giving In To Temptation

Jul 01, 2021

Have you ever found yourself weighing up a temptation, whether it’s to do, eat or drink something and found yourself saying "Oh Stuff It!" and then making that choice anyway? 

Would you like to know how to increase your chances of resisting these temptations? Well today we want to share a couple of strategies that will help you to do just that.

1. Shift your focus to the future debt that you'll have to pay.

The first strategy is to remind yourself that if you say "yes" to that temptation, what you're actually saying is two ‘yes’s’. One 'yes' for right now, and one 'yes' for later - the instant pleasure now, and the long-term pain or consequences later.  

Generally, we're not focused on that second 'yes', we're just focused on the instant pleasure or gratification. If something feels good in the moment, that’s generally more attractive than wanting to do something that’s going to be good for us at some point in the future. This isn’t helpful though when we consider that when it comes to our health and wellbeing at least, the actions that feel good in the moment and give us instant pleasure often aren’t the actions that will help us move towards our health goals. On the flip side, the actions that will support our health and wellbeing don’t always feel good in the moment, but have massive positive payoffs in the future. So, eating the chocolate, missing the walk, avoiding the meal prepping, staying up late etc. is much more tempting than doing the opposite. 

Humans are constantly being controlled by the perceived forces of pain and pleasure - we will always seek to move away from pain and towards pleasure. The experience of 'pain' can come in different forms too - physical pain, like an injury or illness; mental pain, like stress, boredom and tiredness; emotional pain, like anxiety, fear and anger; and spiritual or existential pain, like having a sense of hopelessness, or a lack of purpose or meaning in life. 

We are constantly seeking homeostasis - a state of balance - between pain and pleasure. So when we choose quick pleasure and instant gratification in the now, we’re also avoiding having to deal with pain in the current moment too - we’re putting it off until the future because our future self will have to handle it.

"Whoops...Sorry future self!"

The trouble with this approach however is that the more we choose instant gratification and pleasure now, those decisions add up for a whole load of future pain and consequencesRight now, you’re dealing with the consequences that your past self set you up for with his or her instant pleasure choices!

"Grrrrrr... Thanks a lot, past self!"

When you say "Stuff it!", what you’re really saying is "Stuff the consequences!", and everything that you do after saying ‘Stuff it!’ becomes a debt that your future self has to pay off. 

So it's really important to consciously remind yourself of the long-term consequences of saying 'yes' to that temptation - to focus on the pain that your future self will have to deal with.

Take a moment to ask yourself a few powerful questions:

  • What are the long-term consequences of this action?
  • What will my future self have to deal with if I continue down this path?
  • What will I miss out on in life?
  • How will I feel about myself afterwards?

The more you can poke the pain of the long-term consequences, the more likely you'll be able to resist the choice for the short-term pleasure. 

Focusing more on the long-term pleasure of making the healthy decision will also help.

Ask yourself:

  • How will my future self benefit from making the healthy choice now?
  • How proud will I feel when I reach my health goals?
  • What will be a more empowering choice/action to take right now, that will have a positive impact on my future?

2. Be aware of decision fatigue.

So, how else can you make it easier to make the more challenging choice - to choose some challenge in the moment in exchange for pleasure later? Well the next strategy that we want to share with you is to be aware of, and avoid, decision fatigue. 

Every day we’re making hundreds and thousands of decisions and choices in every moment about how we live our lives - what we say, do and think. Our mental capability to make decisions however, declines as the day goes on. 

Two scientists, Danziger and Levav did some research in 2010 into judicial decisions in relation to granting parole to prisoners - what they found was that the judges' decisions on whether someone was granted parole or not was not actually based on the prisoners’ background, crimes or sentences, or laws and facts. It was in fact based on the time of day that the judge heard the case - cases heard earlier were generally granted parole whereas cases heard later in the day were not. 

We are all vulnerable to decision fatigue. The more choices you make throughout the day, the harder each one becomes for your brain, and eventually it looks for shortcuts, usually in one of two ways. One shortcut is take risks: to act recklessly instead of thinking through the consequences. The other shortcut is to do nothing, which takes less mental effort in the moment but can create bigger challenges in the long-term. So, a mentally fatigued judge sends the prisoner back to prison because it’s easy

It’s no coincidence that supermarkets put the lollies near the checkouts - where decision-fatigued people, who have made multiple shopping choices, finally give in and make the reckless or easy choice. It's also absolutely why a mentally-fatigued person who has resisted the work birthday cake or office kitchen cookies earlier in the day, or the biscuits in the kitchen cupboard or the stash of chocolate in the fridge, and made all sorts of healthy and challenging choices... ends up blowing it at night!

So, doing what you can to make healthy choices easy for yourself, especially as the day goes on, is going to go a long way to supporting you to avoid choosing reckless and easy instant pleasure!

This may mean having pre-prepared meals, or getting food shopping done earlier in the day for example. Getting adequate rest and sleep will also have a huge impact on your willpower and cravings.

The good news is that the more you practice saying ‘no’ to instant unhealthy pleasure and 'yes' to your health and weight goals, you’ll start to feel more able to lean into the ‘pain’ or challenge of making healthy choices more and more - and this will feel pleasurable! After a while, it becomes a lifestyle and the results are so worth it that the benefits outweigh the pain of taking the actions. 

So remember, the next time you’re tempted to say ‘Stuff it!’ and eat something that’s not going to nourish you, remember to do your future self a favour, and choose you and your health instead.


If you'd like any assistance around crafting a healthy mindset the supports a healthy lifestyle, to be able to resist temptations and move towards your health and weight goals, then you might like to check out our Stay On Track Coaching options here.

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