Study: How to Achieve Better Self-Control and Retrain Yourself

  • Self-nudging is a behavioral science technique that can be used to increase self-control.
  • The idea is that people can design and structure their environment, so that it is easier for them to make the right decisions and ultimately achieve long-term goals.
  • Training yourself via reminders and visualization.

Coronavirus changed the trajectory of certain behaviors. The conditions of self-isolation are forcing people to adapt to changes around the globe. There are many who are self-reflecting and even looking to change their business course. For example, a popular enterpreneur from Ukraine, Andrey Burenok, who is an owner of TripMyDream travel service launched his own Youtube channel about self-reflection.

Due to the travel industry experiencing large losses, he is also looking to rebrand and venture into other industries and find a way to keep his team. This has been a reality for many, as travel won’t be the same for sometime. The predictions are that it will take up to two years to rebuild and embrace the new normal and social distancing.

For many people quarantine caused gain weight, due to over indulging and lack of exercise. Some were laid off and are experiencing depression. Social distancing has created isolation and loneliness. All this makes it difficult to resist certain temptations, even though as a human we will regret the consequences of such indulgence. The couch surfing is a new norm for many and reaching for an abundance of snacks. Is it weak self-control?

Director of the Center For Adaptive Rationality at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development Ralph Hertwig.

This is why new research that has been published is very relevant to present times. The Finnish and German researchers worked on how to achieve better self-control during these very challenging times. For example, when an advertising agency works on commercials, they deploy social engineering tactics in order to make it attractive for the target audience to indulge or over indulge in certain products. This is the Nudge Theory: the ability to influence the decision-making process through positive reinforcement and indirect guidance.

Ralph Hertwig, Director of the Center For Adaptive Rationality at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development and Samuli Rejiula, a philosopher and lecturer at the University of Helsinki developed a “self-repulsion” theory.

The Max-Planck-Institute for Human Development is an internationally renowned social science research organization. Located in Berlin, it was initiated in 1961 and officially began operations in 1963 under the name Institute for Educational Research in the Max Planck Society, before receiving its current name in 1971.

Self-nudging is a behavioral science technique that can be used to increase self-control. The idea is that people can design and structure their environment, so that it is easier for them to make the right decisions and ultimately achieve long-term goals.

There are two stages:

1) Architecture of choice, which means how the surrounding environment affects the choice of the solutions.

2) Nudging yourself in the right direction, meaning changing the architecture around yourself. A super simple example would be changing the routine to tailor it to make positive choices, that can lead to long term interests and success.

The research identified the four necessary tools to train self-repulsion in oneself:

1) Reminders, and tips. It could be from simply setting an alarm on your smart phone or setting a reminder to actually self-reflect and remind yourself of certain actions not to take, due to a previous fiasco.

2) Mental representation of the larger picture. This technique is popular with athletes and certain spiritual studies. One visualizes the finish line during a sporting event and the time that is desirable to complete a race or a tournament. Another prospective is power of thought and concentration on setting goals and its completion, while putting effort into reaching the desired outcome.

3) Reducing the availability of potentially harmful items. It could be from clearing your pantry of unhealthy snacks to getting rid of toxic, hateful people from your environment. Such as getting rid of substance abusers and enablers, if your goal is to cut down on alcoholic beverages consumption.

4) Using “social pressure” for your own good. Surrounding yourself with like minded people and announcing the goal and making sure the goal is achieved, since you publicly declared it.

According to Rahula “in our minds and bodies, there is a constant struggle for priority between different needs and desires. Self-repulsion can help us overcome these internal conflicts. This is a practical method, which at the same time helps us to better understand ourselves.”

Finish Philosopher and Lecturer Samuli Rahula.

Self-nudging, as we have already mentioned, is an offshoot of the “nudge theory” which has become increasingly popular among psychologists, economists, and politicians in recent years. The idea is to help people make more rational and healthier decisions without using restraining measures, or punishments and fines, but only by “pushing” their behavior in a certain direction. Many researchers regard “nudging” as a form of manipulation and do not fully approve of its use by power structures.

Social engineering strategies have been deployed by politicians and their advisors. The populous does not even realize they are being nudged in certain directions, instead they are social engineered to believe that they need such measures, embracing the positivity of them.

One example is a push for cashless society. On the global scale and for individual nations, cashless transactions means the government can control and have access to every transaction on demand an individual makes. That is a form of control, but it has been sold to people as convenience, safety, etc. Coronavirus made it extra convenient to push only digital transactions. At this time, a majority of service providers will not accept cash, under the guise of sanitary conditions. In reality, it is not safer to use a plastic card at a venue.

On the corporate scale a nudging example includes the positioning of certain snacks and products by the cash register in an attempt to induce you to impulse buy.

The study pushes the people to push themselves to exercise control of their desires and thoughts and it is especially valuable at these challenging and difficult times.

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Christina Kitova

I spent most of my professional life in finance, insurance risk management litigation.

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