Improving Self-Control with Control Points

I’ve lost almost 100 pounds in the last few years. Doing that has taught me a thing or two about self-control. One technique that I find really helpful with self-control is worth mentioning, I think of it as adding “control points.”

One of the surest ways that you can get fat it to leave abundant tasty and unhealthy calories where you’ll have easy access to them throughout your day. I can think of nothing worse for someone trying to lose weight than sitting down with an open bottle of soda, torn open package of candy, and stack of cookies at your desk while you work. The lack of barriers between you and a bad dietary decision almost guarantees you’ll make one.

What’s better? Well it’s pretty simple really: don’t bring that kind of unhealthy food into your house. If you have to, don’t leave it easily accessible — put it at the top of a high closet. If you can’t put it in a high closet, at least don’t put it near the space you spend most of your time. If it must be in close proximity to you most of the time, keep it out of sight. If you can’t keep it out of sight, keep the container closed. If you can’t keep the container closed, then commit to yourself that you will write down what you eat through the day. And if none of those work for you, I’m sorry: I have no other control points to offer.

What I hope that paragraph conveys is that you have a lot of “control points” available to your when it comes to most behaviors that you know you shouldn’t engage in but do. A control point is essentially a checkpoint, a place where you’re forced to really commit to going through. The more barriers between you and a bad behavior, the less likely you are to do it. This sounds so obvious that you’re now doubting you decision to read this article, but stick with me.

Control points are powerful. One more step makes you significantly less likely to do a behavior. Why? Because they’re natural opportunities to stop and be mindful, thoughtful, and wiser in your actions.

My theory is like this: if you truly want to lose weight at the level of a life goal — getting there is a difficult and complex thing itself (here’s a bit of an article about caring that way), but lets gloss over that for now — then your struggle is just in the micro-decisions you make regularly. These micro-decisons sometimes lead in the direction of that life goals, and sometimes work against it. In either case, they are what determines your weight.

What control points offer you are places to be more careful and thoughtful about your micro-decisions. Quite simply, the pause to reach up to the high cupboard to get the chocolate bar will likely slow you down and make you think harder about whether or not you really want to eat it. When you have to remove that chocolate bar from its sealed container, you get another opportunity to really decide whether you’ve earned it (for your otherwise healthy eating) or not. When you finally bite into the chocolate bar — now quite decided that it is the right thing for you to eat right now — it’ll taste even sweeter for the work.

You can and should build these check-ins, or control points, into behaviors you have a tendency to do on autopilot. They’re great opportunities to pause and reevaluate. To be certain and mindful in your action; to really know what you’re doing. Being certain and mindful in your actions is the key to all valuable action and accomplishment. Give it a shot!