Craving cookies? Been eyeing that jar in your kitchen for far too long? Try to resist. According to a latest study, published in the journal society of Personality and Social Psychology, those who can make plans to avoid or handle temptations may be more likely to achieve goals, such as academic and weight loss goals. "Proactively planning to manage temptations may be more effective than simply responding to temptation when it arises," said Ben Wilkowski, Associate Professor, University of Wyoming in the United States.
It was found that people rely on many self-control strategies. One can plan these strategies ahead in advance before a temptation is directly experienced. Planning self-control ahead of time may be critically important in achieving long-term goals, they added.
For the study, researchers conducted two studies of undergraduate college students to assess the effectiveness of five self-control strategies in their pursuit of long-term goals.
These were the five self-control strategies, researchers examined:
- Situation selection - Avoiding situations where temptation is present. If a dieter knows there are cookies in a kitchen, he/she might stay in a different room.
- Situation modification - How does one alter one's situation to minimize the influence of temptation. For example, if the dieter remains in the kitchen to help cook, he/she could ask the host to move the cookies to the living room.
- Distraction - How well does one divert his/her attention away from a temptation. For example, the dieter might choose to not look at tempting cookies, even if they are lying in front of him.
- Reappraisal - Changing the way you look at the temptation to make it seem less appealing. For example, the dieter might tell himself/herself that cookies are of bad taste and may upset his/her stomach.
- Response inhibition - Putting effort to shun the temptation when confronted with it.
The first four strategies, which might be more easily planned in advance, were generally more effective than the fifth, the researchers revealed.
"We found evidence suggesting that participants sometimes formed plans for how to manage temptations and that these plans were indeed related to the initiation of diverse self-control strategies," said researchers.
"People can, indeed, proactively initiate self-control. And those who do so are better able to make progress toward their long-term goals," they concluded.
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