Banish the Bully

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Blog post - Banish the Bully  

It’s not easy to act consistently towards your longer term goals.  Our willpower circuits are a fairly new addition to the brain’s evolution, and lots of things can reduce how well they work.  Willpower is a finite resource - it’s driven by an energy-hungry brain region, and your brain’s designed to conserve energy where possible.  

Studies have shown many ways in which our willpower reserves can be depleted, including filtering out distractions, fighting an impulse, weighing up options, making yourself do something difficult, and even feeling hungry.  So with all these potential drains on resources, it’s not surprising that things don’t always go smoothly.  What do many of us do under those circumstances?  Get tough…

Perhaps you give yourself a stern talking to, reminding yourself of what’s really important.  Perhaps if you’ve strayed a little, you give yourself a guilt trip in the hope that you’ll learn your lesson.  That inner bully means well, but it can backfire.  Because being bullied, even when it’s by yourself, creates stress.  And stress shifts your body into a reward-seeking state, which can make short term gain appear more attractive than long term aims.

So how might you do things differently?  Start by checking in on how you’re talking to yourself as you wrestle with temptation.  Keep that inner voice calm and level – so it can still point out a decision’s pitfalls, without creating the stress - keeping you feeling calmer and more resourceful.  Then, to get your auto-thinking speaking more helpfully all by itself, repeat that change of tone and pace a few times, giving it the clear guidance to how you'd like it done.  Sometimes, that clear step-by-step guidance is all you need to get real breakthroughs in how you're thinking and feeling.  

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