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Self-Awareness: The Key to Self-Control and Lasting Change

How many times have you asked yourself, during your morning routine, did I already put on my deodorant? Only to attempt to sniff your own armpits (I know…gross!!) in search for some evidence either way. Have you even been in a rush, at your local mall only to come out searching for your car only to discover you can’t find it? Are you going crazy? Is it early onset dementia? Most likely it’s none of these, it’s more likely that you are distracted with your thoughts and forgot to take notice. Unfortunately, distraction is an epidemic in our busy culture. There are so many things fighting for our attention that we fail to pay attention and miss out on so many great moments.

Brain

Actually, distraction might be costing us more than we realize. Having our head in the clouds, or in other less desirable places, might even be contributing to our bulging waist lines! Studies show that distracted people are more likely to make poor food choices. In her book “The Willpower Instinct” Kelly McGonigal points out how Baba Shiv, a professor at Stanford Graduate School of Business, has shown that people who are distracted are more likely to fall to temptation. In a study, they found that students, attempting to learn a telephone number, were 50 percent more likely to pick chocolate cake over fruit at a snack cart. How many times have you popped a few chips in your mouth as you worked to get your kid’s lunches ready for the school day? Or during your favorite team’s big game, you looked down into an empty bag of chips only to ask yourself “When did I eat all those chips”. Actually, you might not even be able to answer these questions, because you were too distracted to notice.

The good news is that you can train your brain to be less distracted and more aware of your actions in the moment. Here’s my challenge for you, pick 1 thing you struggle with having more self-control with and be more mindful of it. For example, if you feel like you are eating too much during the day, write down all the food you put into your mouth for 3 days in a row. Notice when you are more likely to eat mindlessly and note what you are doing and how you are feeling? Are you rushed? Are you tired? Are you stressed? No matter what willpower struggle you are facing (smoking, drinking or maybe shopping too much), try to take notice of your feelings and actions, related to this struggle, and note both your actions and emotions. If you track for 3 days, I believe you will be shocked at what you will discover.

As Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D. states “self-awareness is the ability to realize what we are doing as we do it, and understand why we are doing it.” Without self-awareness we are always going to struggle with self-control. The brain is much like a muscle you exercise at the gym. If you force your brain to focus more, your brain will get better at focusing. Therefore, I encourage you to exercise your mind by being more aware of your actions on a daily basis. Retraining your brain will not be easy, but I believe it is the key to self-control and reclaiming the life you were created to live!!

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