I always thought I had willpower and could resist temptation easily…. till I read the following paragraphs from the book Atomic Habits by James Clear.
Willpower & Tempting Situations
My willpower was severely tested a few days back. I pride myself on not having a sweet tooth and truly I don’t. Can go without eating sweets forever and not miss them at all. The exceptions are certain sweets that are difficult to obtain.
With this information in the background, I have no way of explaining why I ate four laddoos :):):).
We had been to a friend’s house and they gifted us a pack of laddoos. I got it back home and didn’t open the pack that day. The very next day, Amma wanted to eat one piece and so I opened the pack, gave her one and popped one into my mouth.
In the next hour I had popped three more into my mouth… all the while saying I don’t like sweets. What happened to me ? According to James Clear, my environment was filled with temptation :). I just distributed the laddoos to many people and suddenly I was back on track. No temptation and good behaviour returned.
Understanding willpower and the environment will help us avoid temptations. Here are a couple of excerpts from the book Atomic Habits by James Clear that will help us understand how this works –
“A habit that has been encoded in the mind is ready to be used whenever the relevant situation arises.
When Patty Olwell, a therapist from Austin, Texas, started smoking, she would often light up while riding horses with a friend. Eventually, she quit smoking and avoided it for years. She had also stopped riding. Decades later, she hopped on a horse again and found herself craving a cigarette for the first time in forever.
The cues were still internalized; she just hadn’t been exposed to them in a long time.”
“Researchers refer to this phenomenon as “cue-induced wanting”: an external trigger causes a compulsive craving to repeat a bad habit.
Once you notice something, you begin to want it.
This process is happening all the time—often without us realizing it. Scientists have found that showing addicts a picture of cocaine for just thirty-three milliseconds stimulates the reward pathway in the brain and sparks desire.11 This speed is too fast for the brain to consciously register—the addicts couldn’t even tell you what they had seen—but they craved the drug all the same.”
How do we use temptation to boost our willpower ?
Another excerpt from the book “Temptation bundling works by linking an action you want to do with an action you need do.” Basically it means you bundle a “need to do” action and a “want to do” action. If you want to watch your favourite soap series on TV, you need to sit on a stationery cycle and keep cycling while watching.
I used this technique to good effect during the pandemic. Every time a got a call, I got up and started walking. I would add 2000 to 3000 steps while happily chatting away with friends. The habit is so ingrained in me, that its almost automatic now – I get a call, I get up and start walking :).
Read this fantastic article to understand more – Boost Your Willpower by Using “Temptation Bundling”
BLOT – Don’t depend on your willpower to overcome temptation. Create an environment sans temptation and ofcourse use temptation bundling to develop effective habits !!