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2 proven ways to increase your willpower — courtesy of the Cookie Monster - The Week

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The two methods -- distraction and delay by focusing on the reward -- are summarized here:

After testing so many kids, Mischel had learned a good deal about what does and doesn't improve willpower. So what's really important? Attention is one of the most essential elements of self-control. Distraction is a powerful tool.

How we focus holds the key to willpower, says Mischel. His hundreds of hours of observation of little kids fighting off temptation reveal "the strategic allocation of attention," as he puts it, to be the crucial skill. The kids who waited out the full fifteen minutes did it by distracting themselves with tactics like pretend play, singing songs, or covering their eyes. If a kid just stared at the marshmallow, he was a goner (or more precisely, the marshmallow was). [Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence]

So Mischel gave Sesame Street a few strategies related to attention that might help Cookie Monster.

One was a type of refocusing: "Think of the cookie as something else."

Mischel proposed teaching Cookie cognitive control strategies like "Think of the cookie as something else" and reminding himself of that something. So Cookie sees the cookie is round and looks like a yo-yo, and dutifully repeats to himself over and over that the cookie is a yo-yo. But then he gobbles anyway. [Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence]

So that didn't work for Cookie Monster.

But then they tried another method: Delay and focus on reward.

To help Cookie take just a nibble — a major triumph of willpower — Mischel suggested a different impulse-delay strategy. Alan tells Cookie, "I know this is hard for you, but what's more important: this cookie now, or getting into the club where you'll get all kinds of cookies?" That did the trick. [Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence]

Success! Cookie Monster was able to hold out for the bigger plate of cookies.

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Love it!! The impulse-delay strategy has been something that has worked well for me over the years, and I was lucky enough to stumble upon it. I think this sort of relates to the idea of 'death awareness'. Projecting yourself to the future and realizing that any of us have a limited amount of time on earth and we don't want to regret anything on our death bed.

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