2 Simple Ways to Overcome Temptation

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Temptations and bad habits derail success and happiness. They instill a sense of lack of control and lead to us beating ourselves up over and over again because we can’t seem to keep them in check.

All of us have at least one bad habit we would benefit from overcoming. If you are tired of having temptations and bad habits negatively impact your success and happiness and are ready to fix them for good, here are 2 simple ways to get the upper hand.

Dr. Vanessa Patrick, a marketing professor at the University of Houston, has written papers on her research about temptation and the power of self-talk. Through this research she has discovered two techniques to nip this problem in the bud.

1.       Postponement

Usually, we try to manage temptation through sheer will power, abstinence, and denial. Sometimes this works but most of the time we cave to the temptation because life is too short to go without, right? Dr. Patrick’s research suggests there may be a better way to manage temptation by simply postponing a temptation until an unspecified time in the future.

Let’s say you want to purchase a really cute, but really expensive handbag to add to the collection of 20 other handbags you have at home. You muster up all your will power to walk away but then you feel deprived and sad. Switching the response to something like, “Sure I can get this handbag, but maybe later” will allow you to walk away without feeling deprived.

“If we postpone consumption at peak desire, in the heat of the moment, we are less likely to want to consume later,’’ Patrick says of the research. That goes for handbags, ice cream, etc.

2.       “I don’t”

Sometimes a change in language can make all the difference in the world. In multiple studies, Dr. Patrick and her colleagues looked at the difference between framing a refusal with the words “I don’t” vs. “I can’t.” What their research found is that using “I can’t” immediately moves us into a place of deprivation and disempowerment. It’s as if there is an outside force that is not allowing us to have something.

However, using “I don’t” signals a sense of empowerment and determination which makes this refusal strategy so much more effective. Plus, it allows us to identify with the group who has already mastered this positive habit. For instance, I want to live a healthier life and if (in my mind) healthy people don’t eat processed food, then saying, “I don’t eat processed food” allows me to demonstrate the attributes of the group I want to be a part of.

“I don’t” is so much stronger than “I can’t”. As a matter of fact, the research shows that “I don’t is three times more effective than just saying “no” and eight times more effective than saying “I can’t”. And it works for everything!

Both postponement and “I don’t” give you a better chance to make a better choice. What’s one temptation or bad habit that seems to derail your success and happiness the most right now. Please leave it in the comments below and rescript it using “I don’t.” I’m eager to hear how you are no longer going to allow it to disempower you.

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