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BAC Sermons

Self-Control II: Inhibit or Exhibit an Impulse

2007-12-09 2Peter 1:6


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I. To avoid relapses after stopping the unwanted behavior

Dr. Clay Tucker-Ladd http://www.psychologicalselfhelp.org/Chapter11/


A: Identify the high-risk conditions for you, including the externals and your internal moods and thoughts. Analyze your needs and motives.

B: Avoid the high-risk situations if you can; otherwise, learn to cope with them; meet needs; avoid self-deception.

C: Temptation resistance training; Extinguish old response.

D: Be forever on guard against the old urge.


II. To increase your drive and determination to achieve your important goals

A: Read about motivation in chapters 4 and 14 (psychologicalselfhelp.org above), looking for methods that might help you achieve your goals.

Increasing motivation may involve a wide variety of self-help methods: decisions about values, goal-setting, scheduling, self-confidence, assertiveness, rewards, intrinsic satisfaction, fantasies, "games and life scripts," thinking about "ultimate consequences", etc.  (1) making a list of reasons for changing,   (2) thinking of the ultimate consequences, and   (3) effort training.

B: Be very clear in your mind why you are eager to accomplish your major goals and keep the desired final outcome firmly in mind.

C: Learn to be hard working.  "Effort training" consists of reinforcing hard, serious trying on many tasks over a long period of time by rewarding well

D: Measure the results of your efforts with pride and reward


III. To stop unwanted thoughts, especially depressive ideas, anger-generating fantasies, and worries. To increase your confidence in self-control

A: Plan in advance how to disrupt the unwanted behavior.  Mostly this consists of making "rules" which you then have to enforce. One of the most common methods for dealing with temptations or unwanted thoughts is self-distraction.

B: Practice the disruptive process mentally before having the real experience.  Try to accurately anticipate situations where an old unwanted habit will occur, a strong emotional impulse will erupt, or an unwanted obsession will continue and continue. Practice until the idea of when and how to interrupt the process is well ingrained (see method #2). In the case of an obsession, say a worry, you need to select and prepare in advance alternative topics to think about. Scripture Memory quote and pray.

C: Try out the method several times, starting with the next opportunity; observe the results.

Don't expect instant results. Keep improving your method. Continue until a better way of handling the situation is well established.


IV. To recognize a lack of confidence and do something about it. To reduce the inner critic so one can do one's best.

A: Become aware of self-doubts. (Self-talk, write it down) Reduce the doubts. They’ll remain until proven wrong, i.e. until you start performing

B: Make the assumption that your performance can be improved with more effort, more practice, and/or fewer emotions.

Where does this hope come from? (1) Skills training often increases optimism (see chapter 13). (2) Insight into attitudes and self-defeating "games" might help (see Chapters 9 and 15). (3) Generally feeling better about oneself will increase motivation (see chapter 14). (4) Talking to someone who has been successful in the same area or getting encouragement from relatives, friends and others may do the trick. (5) Maybe you can just make a firm commitment to yourself to give it a good try and see what you can do.

Experiments clearly indicate that expectations (our own and others') influence our performance; this is called a "self-fulfilling prophesy." So, a new, honest expectation of gradual improvement should encourage practice and facilitate improvement (see next method).

C: With an optimistic or open-minded or non-critical attitude, prepare well and try to do your best.



There are several critical aspects of self-directed motivation: One is deciding what you value--what you want to achieve--and how much you are willing to invest to be successful. Second is making a commitment to change, which includes arranging and recognizing the wonderful pay offs of changing and the terrible disappointments of failing to change (see step 4). Third is giving up the old way of behaving and deciding how--step by step--to accomplish the goals you value highly. This requires self-discipline, self-control, scheduling, practice, and reinforcement (see chapters 4 and 11).

A: Decide what you really want to accomplish. What price are you willing to pay? Deal with early distractions and your own resistance.

B: Acquire the skills you will need to succeed. You aren't likely to be motivated and enthusiastic about your work unless you are competent.

It is eye-opening to realize that Howard Gardner describes seven intelligences. Schools only teach two math and language. There are five more: spatial orientation and art, psychomotor skills and athletics, musical talent, an understanding of others and an ability to work with them, and an understanding of yourself and the ability to handle your own problems. Develop all your intelligences. This is the highest level of motivation--self-actualization.

C: Make changes in the environment, learn the self-instructions, and provide the rewards necessary to get done what you need to do.

D: Enrich your self-concept: both with wonderful fantasies of possible successes and with visions of ways you might fail.

E: Avoid continuing distractions, especially hedonistic temptations and strong emotions. Keep focusing on the important-for-the-future-tasks at hand.

F: Enjoy the fruits of your labor. A major motivation is self-enhancement, i.e. treasuring your strengths and feeling good about your accomplishments. If you lack motivation, how can you do the things recommended in this method? Perhaps you can start with a very simple, easy method, such as scheduling your time a little better, rewarding some desired behavior, or daydreaming about the future.

Other complex factors are intertwined with motivation--values, emotions, skills, expectations, self-esteem, irrational thoughts, unconscious motives and so on. This method gets at the crux of the matter, in my opinion. That is why chapter 4 deals with motivation so much. With enough motivation you could produce almost any self-improvement you wanted. I suspect the eventual key to having "will power" lies in our philosophy of life, our dreams about the future, and our willingness to take responsibility for our lives.


Questions for Reflection/Discussion/Response:

1. What changes have you made in your life and what motivated you to make them? Does that same motivation apply to spiritual things?

2. What would help you to develop and keep the motivation to make a change that’s currently gathering dust on your TOYL goals?