We’re so triggered by invitations to formulate New Year’s resolutions to join the many claiming to be on the fast track to success. But the push gets tiresome, and we find ourselves back in our old ruts and habits.
A team of psychologists from Duke University, the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Colombia in Bogota recently studied people’s beliefs about self-control. They found that when it came to making choices between going out dancing and studying for a test, students depended on self-reliance exercises of self-control to resist temptation. They didn’t reach out to friends for support to help them.
This isn’t surprising since we live in a society that takes pride in self-reliance. Yet it’s worth considering that people are more likely to break an addiction when they enlist community support. They are also more likely to stick to an exercise program when they are part of a group.
Support from a community, more than self-reliance, is what contributes to success.
A strong temptation breaks our resolve. It takes willpower to fight a temptation. But an even better solution is to position yourself to feellesstemptation in the first place.
Here are 5 strategies to build community support and connect with the power of your environment:
- Earlier is better. Understand the situations likely to create temptations, and come up with a plan to avoid them. Enlist the help of friends and colleagues to avoid tempting situations and events.
- Tie yourself to the mast. There is a story in Homer’s Odyssey, that Odysseus must steer his ship past a group of magical sirens who lure sailors into the ocean with enchanting songs. Odysseus asks to be tied to the ship’s mast so he can’t be lured into the dark and deep waters. This shows the power of seeing a situation and making it hard to act on its temptation. Take as a modern example the fact that you might want to cut down on time you spend on social media. You might try to unplug your Wi-Fi for a few hours or use a social media blocking app. Find ways to make your environment work with you and for you.
- Focus your attention on what you intend to achieve or experience. Look at the end goal. Be very specific. Declare what you intend to do, who you’re going to do it with, when it will be achieved, etc. Picture your dream achieved. Pictures are much more powerful than words.
- Focusing on something other than the temptation will pull your attention away from what’s tempting you.
- Let your imagination work for you. Sick of the exercise bike? See it as an opportunity to listen to music or a podcast. Hungry for fast food? Think of how you want your clothes to fit better.
Granted, there is no one-size-fits-all strategy that will work every time. What’s important is to consider getting others involved. Allies who want you to achieve provide support that confirms you don’t have to get the winning goal by yourself.
Learn to ask for help. Get beyond the myth that self-improvement and self-control are valid only when they come from within and are achieved alone.