Happiness tip 3: self forgiveness and willpower

By Jena Griffiths | February 20, 2013

“Please don’t be too hard on yourself!”
Most of us think that letting yourself off the hook is a recipe for disaster but fascinating new research from Standford University shows that actually the opposite is true.
Kelly McGonigal, author of the Willpower Instinct, says, “The harder you are on yourself when you have a willpower failure the more likely you are to have the same failure again and the bigger its going to be when you do.”
Your two minds

“Even though we have one brain we actually have two minds. We are completely different people depending on which mind is active. A willpower challenge is anything where those two versions of yourself have completing goals.” For example, an impulsive side and a goal setting side. Depending on your mindset, energy or stress levels you’ll make very different choices.
And all these variables can be changed. Mindset is largely due to self talk and self perception. Which version of yourself do you identify with? The weak or the strong? This can be changed with dramatic results, simply by being more kind to yourself.
Can you be gentler on yourself when you make mistakes? Rather than give up on yourself entirely.
Here’s an awesome lecture by Kelly McGonigal on self forgiveness and willpower.
two minds, addiction, giving up smoking, procrastination, over eating
This video is really worth watching but it’s nearly an hour long. Here’s what McGonigal covered:
(Click the image above if you want to watch the full video.)
Willpower Rules
The 5 keys to improving your willpower:
1. Train your willpower physiology (exercise, sleep, good food, meditation.)
2. Forgive yourself
3. Make friends with your future self
4. Predict your failure
5. Surf the urge

1. Training your physiology:
Willpower can be dramatically increased by doing one or more of the following:
– getting an hour more sleep a day
– meditating 10 minutes a day
– daily exercise and
– eating better (more fresh plants)

After a few months of doing any one of these activities your brain looks totally different. Also theses activities impact on each other.

2. Self forgiveness
This sounds counter-intuitive but research proves time and again that responding to setbacks with forgiveness or self compassion is far more effective than criticism.
During the research, the women who were given the self forgiveness message ate half as much candy as the women who were not given this message. The same applied to smoking, gambling and procrastination.
Shame and guilt drives people back to repeating the very behavior they feel guilty about.
Why is this?
Because the more you feel guilty the more comforting you need.
1. Choose encouragement over criticism.
Usually we are far harder on ourselves than even our worst enemy would be.
2. Be mindful of what you are thinking about yourself.
If you are feeling self critical note this.

3. This is all about mindset and self perception.
Reminds me of those tribes one reads about who heal antisocial behavior by changing the person’s self perception.
How do they do this? Everyone from the village gathers around the guilty person and they all take turns remembering all the good things that person did in the past. Over and over the person is reaffirmed for being good rather than bad. They may have made a mistake but they themselves are not their mistake.
It’s human to make mistakes or be imperfect and what matters is we don’t identify with the behavior so that we can make different choices next time.
4. McGonigal says guilt is stress and is therefore an enemy of self control. She recommends giving yourself instead a “self compassion message” such as:
“don’t be too hard on yourself”
“remember everyone does it”
“don’t worry about it, it’s not a big deal”

3. Make friends with your future self
This is fascinating. “The more you see your future self as different to who you are today the less likely you are to do things to protect the health and happiness of your future self. Why would you bother spending money on some stranger when you could spend it today on someone you know and love!” asks McGonigal.

4. Predict your failure
More counter-intuitive advice!
Everyone tells us to focus only on the positive outcome but research shows that people who look at both possibilities take far more action to make sure the worst possibility doesn’t occur.

5. Surf the urge
I love this concept – “Surf the urge”
This is a highly effective 4 step strategy taught by McGonigal for overcoming craving.
Here’s what to do:
1. Notice the craving, thought or feeling
2. Accept the inner experience
3. Breathe. Give yourself a chance to pause and plan.
4. Look for an action that will help you achieve your goal.
Turns out craving comes in waves. If you know this you can ride out these waves.
Just by pausing and waiting you surf the urge. The feeling washes over you and you come out the other side.
Self control is a muscle that can be trained.
Brilliant stuff!
How do addiction show up in your hands?Here’s an example

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Topics: Can't say no, Dealing with the inner critic | 1 Comment »

One Response to “Happiness tip 3: self forgiveness and willpower”

  1. Are you an addict? « Hand Analysis Online Says:
    February 25th, 2013 at 3:41 pm

    […] and then breathe – giving yourself a chance to pause and plan. 4. Choose a different action. More about this and other techniques here. Share and […]