How Can I Resist My Temptations? 3 techniques for tilting the emotional battle in your favour

We all struggle with temptations – resisting unhealthy food, making sure to exercise, and not acting on our irritations with others. 

Fighting our temptations is an uphill battle. But can we tilt the struggle into our favor so we don’t have to rely only on our willpower? 

Yes, we can! I have found three techniques to be particularly effective:

  1. Observe your emotions
  2. Imagine only the long-term consequences
  3. Feel proud here and now for choosing right

Let’s see how we can use these techniques to get us to exercise – even when we don’t “feel like it”. 

1. Observe your emotions

We often feel let our emotions control our behavior because we feel them so strongly. But here’s the thing:

You are not your emotions. 

Your body has emotions. Your body can feel hungry, tired, pleasant, or sad. But those are just hormones interpreted by your brain. 

If you think: “I am tired”, you have just stated that you are tiredness. How are you going to get to the gym in that state? 

But if you instead think: “My body is experiencing tiredness”, then it’s just your body that is tired – not you! And even with a tired body, you can still choose to exercise. 

To observe your emotions, I recommend these two steps: 

  1. “Distance” yourself from your emotions
    First, you must imagine your emotions as separate from yourself. My personal trick is to imagine myself as an aura of light in my chest. This ‘soul’ is who I really am. I then find it easier to view my emotions as separate from myself.
  2. “I am…”   My body is experiencing…”
    Next, observe the emotions in you body. While observing, actively reframe the emotions from
    I am [hungry/sad/angry]” to
    My body is experiencing [hunger/sadness/anger]”. 

2. Imagine only the long-term consequences

Another way we sabotage ourselves is by focusing mostly on the short-term pleasure or pain. It usually sounds something like this:

I know I should exercise. I know it’s good for me. But AHHHH! I really don’t feel like it!”

If you frame exercising as being extremely unpleasant here and now – in exchange from some abstract reward many months later – your chances of getting to the gym are slim to none. 

Instead, focus only on the long-term consequences. What if we framed the choice of exercising like this: 

“Do I want to be a sick and sluggish couch potato who can’t even get out of bed?
ORDo I want to be fit, vibrant person who takes on each day with boundless energy?”

It’s not even a choice. Of course you will choose to be fit, vibrant and filled with boundless energy! When you notice yourself getting tempted by short-term pleasure or pain, focus your attention solely on the long-term result. 

3. Feel proud here and now for choosing right

When the reward is some abstract notion far in the future, it feels less worthwhile to do what we know is the right long-term. 

But while the tangible reward will take time to materialize, we can can choose to feel proud right here and now for making the right choice. 

This is another technique for switching our attention away from the tempting short-term to a more healthy long-term perspective. When you do decide to go to the gym, allow yourself to be proud for making that choice. Think to yourself “I am happy that I am a person of principle. I am proud to be a positive role model for others.” 

By reframing the question of exercising as:

“Do I want to be an impulsive person who is a slave to their emotions?
ORDo I want to be a principled person who chooses to do what’s right?”

When framed this way, there is no decision to be made. 

Battling temptations with willpower alone is a sure way to defeat. Our emotions are just too powerful. But if we instead: 

  1. Observe your emotions
  2. Imagine only the long-term consequences
  3. Feel proud here and now for choosing right

We can tilt the playing field in our favour. Now, it’s our temptations that must battle uphill against us!

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