Zeroing in on Self-Awareness Can Help Tame the Beast of Impulsivity; Dear Carolyn: [Derived Headline]

Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, March 20, 2016 | Go to article overview

Zeroing in on Self-Awareness Can Help Tame the Beast of Impulsivity; Dear Carolyn: [Derived Headline]


Dear Carolyn:

Although I've never had any problem with infidelity or addictions such as alcohol or narcotics, I've struggled with procrastination, tardiness, perfectionism and being overweight. I've often felt a vague affinity with the term "addictive personality," as that is how I feel when immersed in a good book, TV series, interesting website or meal. The enjoyment of the moment -- one more page or episode or bite -- turns into 10 or 20 or more because the next is so tantalizingly available.

If I (or a loved one) can interrupt me with a reminder of the regret I will feel later -- say, disrespect to the person waiting for me, or feeling bloated after overeating -- I can shake myself loose.

But if the only consequence is my short-term enjoyment subsuming a longer-term "good for me" goal like health or career advancement, the odds are not in my future favor.

Am I just failing to set compelling goals? For someone who doesn't demonstrate good impulse control, do you have advice on how to exercise that mental muscle?

-- Impulse Controlling

Muscles might be a counterproductive analogy, because we don't necessarily get stronger willpower just by repeating our resistance. If anything, rote resistance can amplify cravings.

Instead, I think it's a matter of getting better at knowing, anticipating and working around your vulnerabilities. For example, if having one cracker means you hose the whole box, then stop bringing the box with you and, instead, put 10 crackers in a bowl before hitting the couch. Basically, use your self-awareness to shift decision-making to a point where you're less tempted. …

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