You can control yourself better

Image for article titled You Can Control Yourself Better

PhotoTrue Touch LifestyleShutterstock

Sometimes we make very bad decisions that mess up our lives for a period of time. We stay in the wrong job or a toxic relationship for too long. We’re dealing with the wrong people, or making a risky investment that doesn’t work out. There are times when our mistakes and failures can be traced back to a specific decision or event that sent us off course.

And there are times when our personal and professional sluggishness is due to the small, almost imperceptible ways we behave on a daily basis — subconscious micro-decisions that, taken alone not much, but compounded over time, have a major impact on our lives. lives: Namely our habits – and the skill they master: I’m talking about self check (or lack thereof).

While we often come to believe that a lack of self-control in the form of inattention, procrastination, or laziness is endemic to who we are, in fact we have more agency and power over our impulses than we think. Far from being mere victims of our habits, according to the Stanford neuroscientist Andrew HubermanImpulse control is a skill you can train.

Becoming aware of your “go” vs. “no-go” features

In an interview with The knowledge project, Huberman explains how a part of the brain called the basal ganglia affects our daily lives. Responsible for integrating thinking and acting, the ganglia, which are regulated by dopamine, either propel us toward action-oriented “go functions” such as breakfast and bed-making — or “no-go functions” that inhibit behavior.

While as children we learn many “no-go” behaviors — such as sitting still and not disturbing others — as we get older, our lives revolve around go, go, go. E-mailing, calling, instant messaging, alternating between the 17 open windows in our computer dock and generally multitasking as if our lives depended on it.

There are fewer opportunities to practice pausing this “go” function as adults, huberman says:† “We rarely practice our no-go functions…which are simply about suppressing behavior.” But suppressing our less-than-productive behavior is necessary if we are to stick to our plans, complete difficult tasks in a timely manner, and achieve long-term goals.

How to Flex Your “No-Go” Muscle

In his own life, in an effort to amplify the circuitry that controls his impulses when he is about to engage in reflexive action, Huberman tries to create 20 to 30 “no-go moments” throughout the day. “What you need to understand about neural circuits is that it’s generic,” he says† For example, if you set up a no-go circuit around not biting your nails, it will carry over to other areas where you want to establish more self-control.

Huberman listed several examples of how to create “no go’s” (which can be trivial) in your everyday life.

Resist grabbing your phone: How many times a day do you reach for your phone? (Don’t answer that, I don’t want to feel worse about my addiction.) The next time you’re bored, stuck, or procrastinating and feel the urge to mindlessly scroll through social media or check the news, resist. At least for a while.

Enforce the regime (aka, stick to your plan): If you have a plan in mind—say, a workout routine at the gym, or an order in which you need to run errands—complete it as intended, rather than failing at something more spontaneous and switching it up right away.

90 minute work blocks: Work 90 minutes at a time, resisting the urge to get up and get coffee, grab a snack, fold the laundry, or anything other than the task at hand. Create a tunnel vision focus and keep your butt in the chair unless there is an urgent need to interrupt your work.

Controlled snack breaks: Put off getting the snack you want when the impulse or craving first arrives. (Huberman notes that this isn’t a good option for those in the food-disorder recovery.)

MeditationExercise: Forcing yourself to complete any kind of mindfulness practice when you’d rather get up is one way to train your no-go muscle.

Huberman warned against getting neurotically attached to these no-gos, but rather to use them as exercise, like lifting weights for our brains. Since there’s no one to supervise us as adults, it’s up to us to train the neural circuits that interrupt unproductive behaviors like wasting hours of our day scrolling or flitting between projects without completing one.

“We need to keep these no-go circuits trained. Today there are so many opportunities and rewards for ‘go’ that we don’t train the no-go paths.” In the age of smartphones and instant access to information, Huberman adds, “You quickly have hours of your day that were not structured.”

Leave a Comment