A Simple Trick to Overcome Temptation

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I am a firm believer that willpower doesn’t work. We cannot count on it, especially when we are tired or stressed. It is much more useful to shape our environment, but what do we do when the situation is not something we can control.  For example, how do we stop ourselves from eating free food left in the breakroom? The reason we find that cake or cookie in the breakroom tempting is that we associate it with PLEASURE. Pleasure is a powerful motivator, but even more compelling than pleasure is PAIN.

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Pain is a potent agent of change. Our desire to avoid pain is intense. When I was a chubby kid trying to lose body fat, I was continuously tempted with desserts. The trick I used to overcome the temptation was the “pinch test.” At the time Kellog’s Special K cereal was running the “pinch an inch” add campaign to encourage people to eat healthier to lose weight.

Whenever I was tempted to eat dessert, I looked at the temptation, and I pinched my waist. I consciously began to associate the temptation with being trapped in a body I was not proud of. I equated that dessert with PAIN instead of pleasure. Whenever we engage in the self-sabotaging behavior, it is because we are letting our associations of pleasure and pain form at the subconscious level.

As human beings, we can understand the long-term consequences of our actions, but only at the conscious level. At the subconscious level, our mind exclusively focuses on the immediate result of our actions. Awareness is the beginning of transformation.

We cannot allow ourselves to sleepwalk through our decisions by making them at the subconscious level. We must see that cookie or cake in the breakroom as a problem. We must control our linkages of pleasure or pain if we want to change our behavior long term. Willpower doesn’t work, but if you equate pain to an activity, you can change your behavior. It is that simple. A big part of discipline is not engaging in self-sabotaging behavior.




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