4. Dwelling on willpower itself
If you’re trying to quit junk food, then spending time imagining how the potato chip breaks apart in your mouth or the minty chocolate melts on your tongue is going to make your job a lot harder. Distraction is key. Back in the 1960s, Columbia University professor Walter Mischel studied the willpower of four-year-olds by having them sit in a room in front of a marshmallow. The deal was, if they could wait 20 minutes until he came back, they could get two marshmallows. Many crumbled within minutes, but he found that those who lasted the 20 minutes distracted themselves with such things as singing songs or playing with their shoelaces. The same held true for imagination—more kids were successful if Mischel suggested to them that they think of the marshmallow as something altogether different, like a cloud.
Translation: If you feel yourself obsessing over the taste of food, or the long walk to the gym, then recognize what’s going on and be quick to distract yourself with something as simple as a phone call, putting on your favourite song, or packing up your gym bag. Alternatively, visualize the object of your willpower as something entirely different—perhaps turn your bag of candy into a packet of toxic waste.