Or rather, make it as hard as possible to do them. . .
Our whole society is based on instant rewards and this has been a case for quite a while now. While functioning in this way has it’s advantages, there are a number of drawbacks that also come into play. The cost of instant rewards is most usually addiction, which has its’ own consequences. These instant rewards can come from food, sex, social media and many other things, as long as it releases high amounts of dopamine as soon as you do it. This is why many more people are addicted to Instagram than are to reading books. How does one go about getting rid of these dopamine addictions?
There are many great ways that take advantage of different ways the body works in:
- Dopamine Fast
- Incremental Dosage Reduction
- Dosage Periodization
- Habit Replacement
- Forced Distraction
- and finally, Reward Postponement
There is also a classical, old-fashioned way called quitting cold-turkey. This means that you realize how your habit is affecting yourself and others around you and you immediately quit. A habit that has been accumulated recently can be removed through this technique, but it is easy to see why a smoking habit of 20 odd years would present a much greater challenge. Since we cannot change the difficulty of the task at hand, we can change the way in which we approach it.
Enter Reward Postponement.
This method is overwhelmingly simple to perform and it takes much less willpower than all of the aforementioned ways of quitting a habit. What you do is the following:
- Choose the habit to quit, e.g. smoking
- Once you feel the urge to do it, tell yourself: “I’ll do it in 10 minutes!”. Once the time is up, the urge should already be off your mind.
- If not, delay the instant reward with another ten minutes.
- Do so until you give in. It is okay to give in.
- Repeat each time you receive the urge.
Success in regards to habits is never instantaneous. Be sure to let go of guilt and understand why you acted the way you did, should you ever be unable to delay your actions “just once more”. Repeat this process for 4-8 weeks and your habits should be either be gone, or so difficult to perform that you will get sick of doing them with time. You can even turn it into a game and see how many times you can postpone your temptations until you give in. Make a new record each day and by the end of week two, you will be delaying your actions by almost three hours, making them incredibly unpractical to even think about.