Some have the most insane plans come true, while others suffer dyeing. Almost always, it is not a matter of people's success, but of willpower and desire to achieve victory. The fundamental principle of strengthening willpower.
In the 1960s, scientist Walter Michel - the great researcher who is called the Pope of Self-Control - together with his Stanford students conducted an interesting experiment with preschool children. The children entered the room where they were offered such a choice: either they are now eating a marshmallow / cookie / lollipop, or they learn to restrain their impulses and get two marshmallows / lollipops / cookies in 20 minutes.
How did the experiment end? Who were the children who already had willpower at preschool age? And how to strengthen it? About this - in the book by Waller Michel "The Development of Willpower."
Results of the experiment
Suddenly, it turned out that the actions of preschoolers, when they tried to force themselves to wait for the delayed double reward, can predict a lot in their future life. The longer they could wait at ages 4–5, the higher the grades on the academic assessment test and the more successful social and cognitive behavior in adolescence.
Those young people aged 27–32 who showed the greatest endurance during the marshmallow tests as preschoolers, had an optimal body mass index and more pronounced self-esteem, achieved their goals more effectively and coped with frustration and stress more successfully. In middle age, those who knew how to wait hard in childhood (long delay) and those who could not (short delay) had completely different brain scans in those areas that are responsible for addiction and obesity.
The fundamental principle of strengthening willpower: "cool" the present, "warm up" the future
This strategy is effective regardless of age. You need to move the temptation in front of you further in space and time and think about the long-term consequences of giving in to the temptation. My colleagues and I have demonstrated this in experiments with smoking and unhealthy food consumption. When we told the participants to focus on the long-term effects of overeating (“I can get fat”), the urge to eat immediately subsided - as indicated by both their sensations and brain scans. When heavy smokers focused on "sweat" and the long-term effects of smoking ("I could get lung cancer"), their cravings for tobacco diminished. Focusing on "now" and an immediate, short-term result ("I'll have fun"), of course, had the opposite effect: it was impossible to resist strong desires.
Outside the laboratory, when our hot emotional system forces us to focus on real temptation, there is no one around us to tell us how to make the long-term consequences emotionally significant and the immediate gratification abstract.
To master the skill of self-control, we must instruct ourselves. And this will not happen naturally, because in the face of temptations, the hot system becomes dominant. It devalues the delayed effects, is activated faster than the "cold" cognitive system. It is gaining strength, and the "cold" system is weakening. This dominance of the "hot" system may have served our ancestors well in the wild. But it forces us to succumb to temptations, as a result of which smart people can behave stupidly. When we regret lack of self-control, it is rather fleeting: our psychological immune system protects us well, giving rational explanations (“I had a crazy day”; “This is her mistake”) and not allowing us to berate ourselves for a long time. This makes it less likely that we will learn to behave differently in the future.
If-then plans provide automatic self-monitoring
How do we deal with this problem? If we want to exercise self-control, we must find ways to activate the cognitive "cold" system automatically whenever we need it, that is, exactly when it is most difficult, if we are not ready for it. Remember how small children resisted the seductive Mr. Clown-Box, who urged to talk and play with him now instead of continuing with the task and playing with him later.
They prepared to overcome this difficulty by rehearsing first of all the “if-then” action plans. For example, “If Mr. Clown-Box makes a sound“bzzt”and asks to look at him and play with him, you can look at your work, not at him, and say:“No, I can’t. I am working".
These plans helped the children stay focused on their goals, persevere in their work, and resist cunning persuasion.
In real life, using if-then plans helps adults and children control their behavior better than they ever imagined. If we keep these well-rehearsed plans ready, then the self-control response will automatically be triggered by the stimulus with which it is associated ("If I go to the refrigerator, I will not open it", "If I see a bar, I will cross the street.", "If my alarm goes off at seven in the morning, then I'll go to the gym"). The more often we rehearse and apply such plans, the more automatic they become and allow for effortless control.
Plans that will surely fail
When people feel that they will not be able to control themselves, they often try to take precautions to weaken the temptations: they remove attractive but unhealthy foods from the house, get rid of alcohol or throw away cigarettes, and do not allow themselves to bathe any more of them - and if they do, they do. then in small quantities and at a higher price in the expectation that in the future it may not be affordable. Precautionary strategies - from Christmas savings clubs to insurance policies and retirement plans - are relatively low-cost ways to reap the benefits.
But when these strategies are tested without a deterrent commitment, without a concrete plan, they are likely to be as “successful” as trying to start a new life on the New Year. We sometimes get creative when we make vague commitments, but then find various ways to avoid fulfilling them.
Plans that might work
For preventive action strategies to work, turn them into if-then plans. Many such examples can be found in cognitive behavioral therapy. For example, you can use this strategy to quit smoking: leave a few written checks to your therapist with the obligatory condition to send him one of them by mail whenever he begs or smokes at least one cigarette. If you have a strategy that you want to try out without a therapist, you can ask to mail your checks to an accountant, lawyer, worst enemy, or best friend.
Severe depreciation of future benefits negatively affects everything from health to pension. For example, millions of people in the United States are shocked by how little money they have accumulated when their distant future self turns into the present at the age of 65.
Recognizing the scale and severity of this problem, researchers are helping employers deal with the limitations of human self-control by making pension contributions a must for every new employee. In one large company, 401 (k) plan enrollment after a year was 40% when non-enrollment was the default; when the default was to participate in the plan or formal notice was required to refuse, the rate rose to 90%.
If we do not have such far-sighted employers, then in the days of serene existence we can try to establish a close connection with our future self, understand who we will become, build our life story, continuous and purposeful, and set long-term goals that will become visible. not only when we look back, but also when we look forward. We can use if-then plans to select the option with the highest savings rate we can afford in a retirement plan that goes into effect the day we give written consent to participate in a new job. Or, if we remain in our old job, we can implement a plan whereby we register our application with the HR manager on Monday
at 10 am to ensure that the desired savings plan is in place and that funds are automatically deposited into the account. These strategies help us deal with the depreciation equation - provided that our pension fund doesn't let us down by the time we need its funds and that we ourselves are alive to use them.