Neuroscientists have discovered that when you ask the brain to meditate, it gets better not just at meditating, but at a wide range of self-control skills, including attention, focus, stress management, impulse control, and self-awareness. People who meditate regularly aren’t just better at these things. Over time, their brains become finely tuned willpower machines. Regular meditators have more gray matter in the prefrontal cortex, as well as regions of the brain that support self-awareness.
Meditation lead you to clear your mind and to think about nothing, this technique of forcing your mind to stop thinking and keep focusing on one thing just by observing it, expand your willpower and improve your ability to resist temptation.
Guilt vs Self-forgiveness
We usually tend to feel bad and guilty whenever we don’t keep our promises to ourselves, which make us fall in the trap of self-blame, assuming that by focusing about how bad is to do or not do whatever we committed to do, is going to motivate us and make us go back on the right track. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), the most commonly used strategies for dealing with stress are those that activate the brain’s reward system: eating, drinking, shopping, watching television, surfing the Web, and playing video games. And why not? Dopamine promises us that we’re going to feel good.
Consider, for example, a study at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, that tracked the procrastination of students over an entire semester. Lots of students put off studying for the first exam, but not every student made it a habit. Students who were harder on themselves for procrastinating on their first exam were more likely to procrastinate on later exams than students who forgave themselves. The harder they were on themselves about procrastinating the first time, the longer they procrastinated for the next exam! Forgiveness—not guilt—helped them get back on track, Psychologists call it “What the hell effect”.
As coach, encouragement support and “allow to fail “attitude is the key, the coach takes the role of the best friend or the mentor, who believes in his client, and who can see the best of him.
The power of imagination and the future self
A skilled coach would not mind take the client in a journey to the future, not only to feel how achievable the goal is, but also to motivate the client, and create his own a tool to self-motivate himself whenever he needs to. Neuroscientists at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf in Germany have shown that imagining the future helps people delay gratification and resist temptation. One of the best ways to practice imagination is visualization, the more we practice to more we get better at, and the more we feel how real and close the goal is, how good it feels to achieve it.
As paradoxical as it may seems, the future self might be a trap. We think about our future selves like different people. We often idealize them, expecting our future selves to do what our present selves cannot manage. Sometimes we mistreat them, burdening them with the consequences of our present selves’ decisions. Sometimes we simply misunderstand them, failing to realize that they will have the same thoughts and feelings as our present selves. However we think of our future selves, rarely do we see them as fully us. Princeton University psychologist Emily Pronin has shown that this failure of imagination leads us to treat our future selves like strangers. We need to think about our future self as someone we are creating NOW, every single task, detail, decision we take or make is going to influence that future self.
Structure and support team
Like a scared child who is riding a bike for the first time needs to use training wheels to gain confidence, and be comfortable with the new vehicle, we need a structure and support team to make the willpower challenge lighter
Some behaviors are contagious, self-control is one of them, creating a support team during a change process is as critical as to check who do we hang out with, if your friends are quitters you’re likely to become one, a 2010 report from the National Bureau of Economic Research found that poor fitness spread through the U.S. Air Force Academy like an infectious disease.
Research from the fields of psychology, marketing, and medicine reveals that our individual choices are powerfully shaped by what other people think, want, and do and what we think they want us to do. At first sight it may seems an incontinence but when we look at it from pride/shame view, things might be different, when making a choice we often imagine ourselves the object of other people’s evaluation. Studies show that this can provide a powerful boost to self-control. People who imagine how proud they’d feel, and how they’re going to be perceived are more likely to accomplish their goals and persist, the fear of shame works too People are more likely to use condoms when they imagine feeling ashamed if others knew that they had unprotected sex.
The power of shame is tricky though, there is no guarantee, we don’t fall into guilt stress and “what the hell effect”.
Self-control like many expression that begin with “self” requires a full understanding of the self, and since we’re different, we need to be approached differently.
Willpower survey: 2010 American Psychological Association.
People who think they have a lot of self-control don’t: Nordgren, L. F., F. van Harreveld, and J. van der Pligt.“The Restraint Bias: How the Illusion of Self-Restraint Promotes Impulsive Behavior.” Psychological Science 20 (2009): 1523– 28.
See also Saito, H., Y. Kimura, S. Tashima, N. Takao, A. Nakagawa, T. Baba, and S. Sato. “Psychological Factors That Promote Behavior Modification by Obese Patients.” BioPsychoSocial Medicine 3 (2009): 9.
McGonigal, Ph.D., Kelly (2011-12-29). The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do To Get More of It Penguin Group.