If-Then Plans To Take The Effort Out Of Effortful Control

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In The Marshmallow Test, Dr. Walter Mischel tells us:

In life, employing If-Then implementation plans has helped adults and children control their own behavior more successfully than they had imagined possible. If we have these well-rehearsed plans in place, the self-control response will become automatically triggered by the stimulus to which it is connected. (‘If I approach the fridge, then I will not open the door’; ‘If I see a bar, then I will cross to the other side of the street’; ‘If my alarm goes off at 7 a.m., then I will go to the gym’). The more often we rehearse and practice implementation plans, the more automatic they become, taking the effort out of effortful control.”

I love IF-THEN plans, which are easily among my top 3 favorite tools of all time.

IF I am doing something boring, THEN I am learning by listening to a podcast, audiobook, or class.

IF it is 10 hours before bed, THEN I am done drinking caffeine.

IF I tell myself I don’t feel like working out, THEN I will just get started for at least 10 minutes before I am allowed to quit.

IF I feel fear, THEN I say, “Bring it on!” because “my infinite potential exists just outside my comfort zone.”

If I call myself an idiot, then I will practice self-compassion (self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness) and remind myself that there are no perfect human beings, and I will not be the first.