Controlling your impulses and urges is a skill that can be learned.

Self-control is the chief element in self-respect, and self-respect is the chief element in courage.” Thucydides (History of the Peloponnesian War)

We are all guilty of giving in to our urges and desires. Sometimes, we end up feeling sick afterward. It’s like eating that sinfully good slice of cake when we know that we are trying to lose weight.  Although we feel a twinge of regret after impulse spending, we usually console ourselves that we are too weak to resist the temptation.

But guess what? Impulses can be controlled. We can very well postpone the gratification of what we want for a much better reward. How is it done? It’s quite simple. However, it needs a lot of serious practice, discipline, and a deeper understanding of our motivations. Be a master of your impulses by remembering these tips:

You are not born with it. You learn it.

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The ability to control our impulses is not something that we’re born with. Neither did we inherit it from our parents. It is a way of thinking and skill that can be learned and practiced to perfection. It is conditioning your mind each time you’re faced with a situation that tests your self-control.

However, you should not feel at the losing end because, at the end of controlling the impulse, you’ll have trained your mind into thinking that there’s a better outcome by delaying gratification of what you want. One example would be fighting the urge to buy an item that you may not actually need or is way off your budget. By not giving in to the temptation to snap up the item, you can either use the money for a more important purpose or, perhaps wait for the item to go on sale.

Impulses can be controlled and we can very well postpone the gratification of what we want for a much better reward.

Arrest the impulse before it even happens.

Set up conditions to delay your ability to perform the impulsive act immediately. This technique is very useful in situations where the temptation is not readily available and takes some time to satisfy. Here are some examples:

  • Taking a different route to avoid your favorite shopping mall.
  • Getting rid of junk food in the house if you are on a diet.
  • Switching off your mobile phone and keeping it in the drawer when you’re at home.

You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”  Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Self control

Maintain control through rewards and affirmations.

Arresting the impulse is hard, but maintaining control is even more challenging. Having lapses and excuses is easy. You say to yourself, “Just this once, I will finish this tub of ice cream because I’m feeling depressed.” You can maintain your self-control by rewarding yourself with affirmations. For example, if you’re trying to quit smoking, post a note to yourself that quitting now will add twenty more years in your life. Also, you can put a dollar in a jar each time you win over your impulses. Another way to maintain self-control is by satisfying your need in a controlled manner (though you should do this judiciously). For instance, allowing yourself to eat a bar of chocolate each week may stave off the intense sweet tooth craving of eating desserts daily.

Look for other alternatives that you like.

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You enjoy going to the store to window shop, but whenever you find a thing that you like, you can’t seem to resist the urge to make an instant purchase. The result: your budget is ruined, and another unnecessary item becomes part of your room clutter.

Knowing that you’re prone to be an impulse spender, then find the next best thing that gives you joy and go ahead and do it. It may be watching a movie, having coffee with friends, or taking a stroll in the park. Opt for any one of your other favorite things to shift your focus from your shopping streak. That way, you’ll feel more pleased with yourself and proud of what you have achieved (regain control). What’s more, you will have saved some money that can be put to better use later.

Everybody in the world is seeking happiness—and there is one sure way to find it. That is by controlling your thoughts. Happiness doesn’t depend on outward conditions. It depends on inner conditions.” Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People

Let your mind wander.

Keeping yourself always busy will make you forget your impulses. Well, perhaps for a little bit, but as a result, you tend to lose sight of the long-term and bigger things. Studies reveal that people who take a mental break and daydream not only give their mind a breather but also make them reconnect with the more important things in life. As a result, you pay less attention to things that are instantly gratified. Instead, you focus more on the bigger picture.

Practice gratitude.

Just learn to count your blessings and be grateful for all the physical and abstract things you have. Also, be thankful for the people in your life. Believe it or not, this is a big step towards controlling your impulses and delaying gratification. Keep a journal of all these things that you’re thankful for. You’ll be surprised at how your wants and desires pale in comparison.

All of us have the power of self-control. We just need to harness it well to make it work for us and make us the master of our life.



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