Improving Impulse control is difficult for many to develop and becomes more and more difficult each year but it is vital in dealing with issues with procrastination, addiction and productive action.

No one begins their life with good impulse control as it is a learned behavior. The ability to resist acting on something you want immediately, even when the consequences are very negative, can take years to develop. Our advanced technological world makes this even more difficult to obtain. So, many things are now fast and easy to obtain: instant credit, fast food, feelings of success via video games, instant celebrity on YouTube or reality television, not to mention medication and illegal drugs.

There are two stages in impulse control: the ability to pause to think it through, and the discipline to maintain the resistance after the initial pause. A breakdown in either of these stages produces problems that can have a great impact on your life.

Most of us have a tendency to do easy, quick tasks instead of more difficult tasks, even if the more difficult ones are immensely more valuable. If you control that impulse to do that easy job and stop to think about what action would give the most benefit, you will be more effective in reaching your goals.

Improving Impulse Control

Here are a few simple ways to do handle those 2 stages.

Interrupt the Impulse

  • Setting up conditions to delay your ability to perform the act immediately is the first part of improving impulse control. If the temptation is not readily at hand and takes extra effort to satisfy, the chances are much greater that you will be able to control the impulse.  Here are a few examples:
    • Remove snacks from your house when you go on a diet.
    • Throw away the cigarettes.
    • Remove bookmarks from your web browser so it takes more effort to go to your favorite distracting sites (Face Book, games….).
    • Lock up the video gamesl
    • Unplug the TV or just put the remote in a hard to reach spot.
    • Drive a different route to bypass the tempting store where you want to stop.

Maintain the Impulse Control

  • Maintaining impulse control is the second part. It involves not giving in to the desire after the impulse is interrupted and is just as hard, if not harder, to do as interrupting it in the first place. It is also much more complex but there are a number of ways to do this.
    • To fight temptation, try substituting a healthierm more immediate reward for the less desirable treat you crave. For example, put a dollar into a vacation fund every time you resist the urge to have a drink.
    • Make a bet with yourself, ir with others is even better, that you will resist temptation and reach your goal.
    • Satisfy the need in a controlled manner. Allow yourself 1 desert each week. This can keep the desire from becoming too intense to resist, which can lead to an uncontrolled binge.
    • Leave yourself notes expounding the reasons to maintain the resistance.
      • Put notes about the health benefits of healthy eating on the refrigerator or snack cupboard.
      • Put notes on why you should not smoke in your pocket where you keeopyour cigarettes.
      • Wrap your credit cards up in such notes.
    • Poison those inducements by imagining them as completely disgusting or horrific. You can be quite creative here.
      • Imagine that those potato chips are old and stale. They are so greasy and soggy! Eating them will give you major indigestion. Throwing up until you are too weak to crawl into bed.
      • Think of the TV or Video games as time vampires sucking your limited amount of time out of your life. When you pick up the remote control, it is a tube stuck in your hand. The more you watch and play, the moe life is sucked out of you. You fade away, out of existence, even while your mind is screaming that you didn’t do what you always wanted to do.

 Reduce Stress

  • For both of the above stages, it’s important to reduce stress. When you are over stressed the part of the brain that is responsible for impulse control cannot do its job effectively. You brain is too busy to react in anyway except by habit when the brain is overtaxed. The more you’ve got on your mind, the easier it is to give in to temptation.

Improving impulse control is like strengthening a muscle, the more you exercise it, the more it can handle. But it can also become over used and strained if continuously pushed, so use these tips judiciously.

Can you think of any other tips for impulse control?

RELATED: Four Procrastination Myths Debunked

Featured photo credit: Swimmer launched into water in a diving competition via Shutterstock

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