This article follows on from our interview with semi-professional poker player Nate Chance. Click here
to read the interview. In this article I will now draw out some of the key lessons we can learn from Nate’s experiences concerning how to manage our impulses better.
I think we all struggle with addiction of some sort. And this is why Nate’s interview is so important for us.
Some of us eat more fatty foods than we might like. Others of us drink too much. Others of us can’t help criticising or arguing with other people. Some of us talk too much. Whatever our ‘addictive’ habits might be, our life outcomes would improve if we could manage them better.
In this article I am going to outline 2 lessons we can learn from Nate. Nate’s remarkable level of insight concerning his addictive tendencies have enabled him to make a lot of money. I believe that each of us can significantly improve our life outcomes if we become better at managing our addictive tendencies.
2 simple ways to control our impulses
- Admit We Have a Problem
At Live Life Satisfied, our motto is ‘Know yourself better …Be your better self!’ Nate says, ‘I am very introspective. I think I understand myself very well.’
The first barrier to overcoming addictive tendencies is learning to admit that we struggle. As humans we hate criticism: and that includes self-criticism.
Sigmund Freud’s believed that if we feel criticised, we defend ourselves.
We typically try to tell ourselves that we are stronger than we truly are. This is because it hurts to admit we are weak.
Freud also believed that 'defences' (denying the truth) stop us from learning to manage our feelings. They stop us from being able to be realistic about a problem. If we wish to learn how to tackle a problem, then our first step must be to admit that the problem exits.
If you have a problem with some kind of impulsive behaviour, you will not learn to manage it better until you are fully able to accept the reality of the situation. So quit trying to pretend you haven’t got a problem.
Find How Impulsive You Are: Try our Impulsiveness quiz: CLICK HERE
- Defence: A defence is the mind’s attempt to push painful thoughts out of our conscious awareness. We tell ourselves that we are not to blame.
- Know Your 'Triggers'
Nate says the following in relation to controlling our impulses:
‘You often hear advice on how to manage yourself at these times. A lot of this advice is just like (faux paternal voice): "Control yourself – don’t feel things."’
‘People try to solve their problems through strategies. …These techniques may put the problem at bay. Like one of the strategies I have is “Play short sessions”. Or I tell myself, “If you start to feel weak, then stop playing!”.’
‘And I can do that up to a certain point. And then it’s like your body takes over and says “nope! I’m not listening any more!”’
How do we know our triggers?
The following is one of my life mottos:
We’ve got to be realistic with ourselves. Former alcoholics often cannot go to pubs anymore. And former smokers often know which environments trigger their problem again. For example, I heard one former smoker say that she always ends up smoking when she drinks alcohol.
I also know that I more likely to act impulsively after alcohol.
- ‘The best way to predict my future behaviour is to look at my past behaviour.’
If we want to manage addictive tendencies, it is crucial that we know our triggers. If there is a certain environment which regularly triggers our addictive behaviours we need to admit this. This follows on from Priciple 1: ‘Admit you have a problem’.
This then becomes the key to managing our addictive tendencies. It’s a pretty simple equation. If we know that:
I know that when I drink alcohol, my capacity to be self-controlled goes out the window. So I have to be careful not to drink if I am going to be entering an environment where I need to be self-controlled.
…then we can stop our addictive behaviour if we avoid trigger A.
- Trigger A = Addictive behaviour
This works at a basic level. However managing our impulses involves taking our current emotional state into account as well. We will discuss how our emotions effect our ability to be self-controlled in Part 2.
Do you want to learn how to control your impulsive behaviour?
Live Life Satisfied
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Part 2 - 3 Ways to Avoid Making Big Mistakes
In part 2 of this series I will share 3 principles we can learn in order to help us avoid making 'Big Mistakes'.CLICK HERE
or click the yellow button below to have part 2 sent directly to your e-mail inbox.
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Photo: Sheila Sund