Temptation, whether it’s in the form of a person you shouldn’t be seeing or a treat you shouldn’t be having, could be hard to resist. However, Science Daily reports that there may be a way to keep yourself from succumbing to pressure. Researchers believe that precommitment, or the art of avoiding temptation in the first place, may be more effective than just relying on willpower.
In order to prove this hypothesis, a team of experts worked with a group of healthy young men who were asked to choose to receive either small rewards given often or a big reward after waiting for a certain period. In this case, the small rewards were semi-erotic photographs, while the big rewards were fully erotic photographs.
For some of the choices offered, the small rewards were readily available, while the big rewards required a bit more time to materialize. However, some of the choices gave the men the chance to precommit-- once they've decided to get the big reward, they no longer needed to deal with the temptation of small rewards.
While running the series of choices, researchers monitored the participants' brain activity. They found that precommitment was more effective than willpower in dealing with temptation. Researchers also found that precomitting activates the brain's frontopolar cortex, which is associated with future planning. Upon activation, this region also charges and increases its connection with the dorsolateral prefrontal complex, a part of the brain linked to willpower, consequently strengthening self-control.
So if you have big plans for the future, make today's sacrifices a bit easier to swallow by precommiting and completely avoiding situations that may cause temptations. Doing away with distractions may enable you to stay more focused on your goal.
(Photo by Jakob Montrasio via Flickr Creatve Commons)