Self-control is challenging. I know this from trial and error. I am fasting desserts and candy for a year (I started on March 26, 2017) and it has taken every bit of self-control that I have. Through this process, I have learned a few practical techniques that allow you to work smarter instead of harder when practicing self-control.
- Avoid opportunities to self-indulge.
A few times during my sugar fast, I have found myself standing in the pantry, staring at a bag of marshmallows. Many people dislike marshmallows, but I am certainly not one of them. If I am to avoid devouring mass amounts of marshmallows, staring at them for long periods of time is the wrong way to go about it! One of the best ways to resist temptation is simply to avoid. In a temptation stare down, you are likely to lose!
This technique applies to every area of self-control. If you always end up spending gobs of money at the mall, do not allow yourself in there in the first place. If your phone has an irresistible draw, then power it completely off. Avoiding temptation is vital in resisting it. Romans 13:14 says, “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” When we don’t provide for our temptations, then they have less of a chance of winning over us. Also, putting on Jesus in our everyday lives gives us the added strength to defeat our temptations.
- Create a game plan.
When you can’t avoid your temptations, planning out your resistance beforehand becomes essential. You need to give yourself instructions before the temptation comes along. After all, self-control is simply you telling you what you are going to do. Before birthday parties (or any other sugar filled event), I already know that I will not be indulging in cake and ice cream. Creating a game plan before faced with a temptation will increase your chances of winning.
- When you fail, try again.
A few weeks before I started my current sugar fast, I had woken up on a Sunday morning, determined to fast sugar for the week. I started out pumped and excited. Unfortunately, I only hung in there for three hours. I definitely felt like a complete failure. That’s how self-control works. In our attempts to rule over our flesh, we will experience some failures. After a fall, second nature says to take on an all or nothing attitude. After all, if I ate one cookie, why not eat three more?
We must learn to have grace for ourselves. I have tried to eat healthier many times, but this is one of the first times where I have experienced long term success. In fact, the only way you can truly fail is if you 1) don’t learn from your mistakes 2) give up. That means that a “failure” isn’t really a failure! When you fall, it is the time to dig in; success is around the corner for those who persevere!
- Use your energy and strength wisely.
As we consistently resist temptation, we will become stronger and stronger. Temptations that previously held us at their mercy will lose their seductive power. However, it takes time to gain that ground. At first, even resisting the simplest of things can feel like climbing Mount Everest. The key here is to not resist fifteen things all at once: just focus on the one. While I am fasting candy and desserts, I have not banned myself from all unhealthy foods. Why? Because my resolve would completely crumble if I tried to live on kale and cucumbers! I would soon find myself devouring a quart of ice cream. However, I am able to save my strength to resist the one temptation.
Victory is insight!
We can triumph over your biggest temptations. While self-control does take perseverance and hard work, avoiding temptation and creating a plan make resistance a million times easier. During the process, we must have grace for ourselves and not overestimate or resistance strength. Practicing self-control is challenging, but not impossible.