For part 3 of this series, I have one simple idea to share – the idea that self-control is bullsh*t! Sometimes people say they don’t know how I accomplish certain things and that they could never have the self-control to do the same. The sad truth is I have little self-control!
Research shows that self-control is finite and it’s one of the precious resources we rebuild while we sleep. I imagine it as a gas meter - when I wake up for the day it’s at roughly 90-95%. I’ll explain why it’s not 100% in a minute. Many of the most successful people in the world’s top 1% of any field have the same idea about themselves, namely that it’s the habits they’ve built and the way they make “self-control” easy in their lives that makes them successful.
The secret to self-control is simple: prepare your environment to limit the need to use self-control. The most successful people don’t have to worry about self-control because they don’t keep temptations around to deplete that gas meter!
Here’s an example: You’re in the kitchen about to rush to work and need some breakfast. You know you shouldn’t eat out of the box of cookies for breakfast, but you haven’t made any eggs and you don’t have anything healthy quickly accessible. You have a decision to make now, make the eggs or grab a cookie. You’ve lost some of the gas in your self-control meter just by thinking about the decision and instead of making the eggs you grab a cookie anyway. The only way to avoid this decision and the loss of self-control is to get rid of the cookies and have a healthier option readily available prepped from a day before.
Other common examples include keeping alcohol out of sight, your phone out of reach and out of mind, getting your gym clothes and morning ready the night before, and my personal favorite, putting your alarm away from your bed so you have to walk across the room or house to turn it off.
Now here’s the “bad news” – you still need to have and use self-control in many of your daily decisions. The goal is to limit these decisions to important ones and avoid the possibility of bad decisions like cookies for breakfast. If your daily habits are sound you won’t have to worry about the little things that compound and make life more difficult. Sleep, diet, hygiene, physical fitness, and even the clothes you wear should be on autopilot as much as possible. You’ll have more self-control in the gas tank every time you can automate the simple things and more gas available for important things like business, financial, moral, and family decisions.
Now, why do I start the day with 90-95% of my gas? It takes me a decent amount self-control not to hit snooze. I will literally sleep on the hardwood floor, naked, in the cold if I have the option to. It takes the first bit of self-control not to get back in bed every single day. I’ve always been a late sleeper and I can sleep almost anywhere so it takes the from the night before plus the first bit of my self-control to get the day started. My biggest and first task for every night is, “get up on time.” The good news is that it takes slightly less self-control each morning because I build the habit of getting up and getting more meaningful sh*t done every day.
My task for you today is simple:
- If you’re reading this at night, use the last bit of self-control you have for the day to prepare your morning. Write the first 1-3 tasks you need to accomplish in the morning, prepare your clothes for the gym or work, set your phone and alarm out of reach of your bed, and read 2 pages of a book while you fall asleep.
- If this is your morning, write out the high-level tasks you have for the rest of the day and make a few small environment changes to limit your need for self-control. Throw away the junk food, fill up your water bottle, organize yourself enough to get to tonight, and prepare even better for tomorrow. Make the habits of self-control part of your habit stacking routine and go crush the day!