Can We Change Ourselves?
Hi <<First Name>>,
For five weeks I have been brushing my teeth with my nondominant hand. I started my left-handed toothbrushing after hearing Uri Galimidi, the president of The Will To Change Inc., say he did it to practice developing willpower.
"Self-control performance may be improved by the regular practice of small acts of self-control," Mr. Galimidi said during a presentation on willpower and its power to shape us. "It will serve us if we work on it."
I have always been in awe of people with great willpower (those that awake without an alarm clock at 5 a.m. and go to the gym on a daily basis, for example) and had long known that there was value in doing the opposite of everyday habits.
While I had no problem remembering to brush my teeth with my left hand, after three weeks I couldn't remember why I was doing it.
Mr. Galimidi reminded me over email:
"The idea behind using your nondominant hand to strengthen your willpower is that doing this requires added attention and self-discipline on a regular, daily basis. These activities strengthen the synaptic connections in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) part of your brain (which is also called the 'executive function' of the brain). Researchers found that a stronger PFC provides a better balance between our emotional self and our rational (thinking) self."
He also suggested two lectures on the topic of willpower, available via YouTube.
In one, Kelly McGonigal, a health psychologist, talks about how the willpower challenge is really a competition between two parts of yourself and how depending on your mind-set, your energy and your stress level, your brain will meet the challenge in a different way. (See Ms. McGonigal's tips on how to ride out discomfort and the steps to employ defensive pessimism in the images below.)
In the second, Roy Baumeistert, a psychology professor, talks about how self-control, like a muscle, only works for so long before it starts to fail. But it can be strengthened through exercises, such as brushing your teeth, opening the door and using your computer mouse, all with your nondominant hand.
So now that I am comfortable with my new toothbrushing habit, I'm going to add opening the door with my left hand to the mix followed by the mouse manipulation, all with the hope that these small acts will have a larger impact on my ability to change.
What do you think of the idea of changing small habits to create greater life changes? Feel free to post a comment on Connect the Dots Coaching's Facebook page or drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.