You're not lacking willpower. Your lacking an optimized environment.
Have you ever wanted to STOP doing something you know you shouldn't be doing?
Like eating too much chocolate or too many cookies? (Guilty.)
Have you ever wanted to START doing something you know you should do?
Like exercising or reading more?
If you're like me, you've probably thought to yourself, "If only I had more self-control or will-power then I could stop (or start)."
But scientific research is proving that's inaccurate.
(Which makes the marshmallow test a skewed study... a new idea that just came to me, and was verified when I did some research.)
What science is showing instead is that addictions or temptations can spontaneously dissolve if there is a radical change in the person's environment.
This was demonstrated in one of the most extreme ways possible.
Un-Addicted From Heroin Overnight
During the Vietnam War, it was discovered that 15% of soldiers were heroin addicts.
As a result, a Special Action force was created to prepare to deal with addicted service members when they returned home from the war.
But what happened instead was surprising.
Only 1 out of 10 veterans became re-addicted to heroin when they returned home. A whopping 90% of them "eliminated their addiction nearly overnight."
"In Vietnam, soldiers spent all day surrounded by cues triggering heroin use: it was easy to access, they were engulfed by the constant stress of war, they built friendships with fellow soldiers who were heroin users, and they were thousands of miles from home. Once a soldier returned to the United States, though, he found himself in an environment devoid of those triggers.
When the context changed, so did the habit."
Compare this to a typical drug user (or to anyone else who suffers from any sort of addiction -- screens, food, porn, etc.)
You become addicted in your home environment. The stimuli that prompt your usage surrounds you on a daily basis.
If your problem is serious, you may be removed from your environment to receive treatment, but then you return home to the cues that created the addiction in the first place.
It's no wonder that the numbers are opposite from those in the Vietnam study. Nearly 90% of heroin addicts become re-addicted once they return home from rehab.
This is counter to the basis of one of our cultural beliefs -- that bad habits or addictions mean you are a morally weak person. You lack self-control or willpower. Maybe you are even a bad person.
A little bit of discipline would solve all your problems.
But that is a lie.
The truth is that 'disciplined' people are better at structuring their lives and environment in a way that does not require a lot of willpower or self-control.
They spend less time in tempting situations.
When scientists analyzed people who appeared to have tremendous self-control, it turns out, at the core, these people are NO DIFFERENT than those who struggle with giving in to their addictions and temptations.
The ONLY difference is how they structure their environment.
So if you want to be a more disciplined person, the secret is to creating a more disciplined environment. If you change the 'cues' around you, you can stop negative behaviors overnight.
Likewise, if you're not careful about the cues in your environment, you can inadvertently cause the very behaviors you want to stop.
"Simply resisting temptation is an ineffective strategy... I have never seen someone consistently stick to positive habits in a negative environment.
Self-control is a short-term strategy.
Instead of summoning a new dose of willpower everytime you want to do the right thing, your energy would be better spent optimizing your environment. This is the secret to self-control.
Make the cues of your good habits obvious and the cues of your bad habits invisible."
[Source: Atomic Habits by James Clear]