Developing Impulse and Self Control

Do you wonder why you can’t control your impulses to shop?

Do you ever think to yourself that you need to have more self-control?

Do your family or friends question your shopping habits and say you need to develop more self-control, but they can never tell you how?

You’re not alone. 

Let me say that again: You are not alone. 

When it comes to practicing self-control—be it for shopping habits or another area of one’s life—most people could do with a little help. In the US alone, there are over 18 million people who struggle with this—and that’s just for shopping!

How to Practice Self-Control

There are two ways of practicing self-control in your life.

First, you can demand it of yourself. And second, is through a by-product of Attention Control. 

Demand

Let’s tackle the first one—Demand it of yourself.

Demanding self-control of yourself is when you:

  • beat yourself up with criticism
  • shame yourself
  • take on others’ criticisms of you
  • remove all temptations
  • avoid the malls
  • do a “No-buy” challenge

This means that you force yourself to behave in a way that is uncomfortable and unnatural to you

While this method produces short-term results, it’s important to know that it doesn’t always work for the long-term.

Attention Control

The second, and more effective way is to grow self-control, is a by-product of Attention Control.

Attention Control is what we call your capacity to choose what you pay attention to and what you ignore. We all have this powerful ability, and yet very few people know how to use it in a way that propels them forward to achieving their long-term goals. 

Attention Control is a skill and mastering it is the key to developing impulse control and getting a handle on the desires that cause individuals to impulse shop.

By exercising Attention Control, you engage the executive functions of your brain. What follows is a by-product that is the ability to control yourself. 

60,000 Thoughts a Day

According to science, we have over 60,000 thoughts a day, and these thoughts have the power to take us in all sorts of directions, feelings, emotions, and experiences. It is these 60,000 thoughts that lead us to over-shop, over-eat, and over-drink, among other things.

By learning Attention Control i.e., to control your attention, you will have a leg-up on developing self-control, without the need to berate yourself and harm your self-esteem and self-worth.

Discipline

Abraham Lincoln said, “Discipline is choosing between what you want now and what you want most.”

In a moment of temptation, the mind cleverly creates many justifications and reasonings as to why an unplanned purchase is a sensible thing to do. 

Learning to notice these false justifications, and questioning them in the moment of temptation, will give you a way to reign in your impulse shopping before it turns into a destructive habit.

Stopping a destructive shopping habit will require you to develop impulse control and self-control.  We can only learn these however, by first learning attention control.

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Ishani Noble is a Chartered Accountant and Mindset coach that helps individuals whose shopping habits impacting their finances and relationships to understand why they overshop and how to stop.

If you are ready to change and want an experienced guide to show you how to stop and change this in your life, reach out for a FREE strategy session for us to discuss your particular situation.

Stopping Unnecessary Shopping

If you are a shopping lover—compulsive, habitual or for pure enjoyment—it can be hard to change your ways without a plan.

Whether you participate in a “no buy” challenge, cut up your credit cards, or go cold turkey; without addressing the underlying thought patterns that are driving you to shop, denying yourself the act of purchasing can be a stressful undertaking—almost as if you are punishing yourself. And when you turn to others for a bit of help, well-meaning advice may come in the simple phrase, “just don’t buy it”.  

The reality is, those who do not have the same tendency to shop do not truly understand the deep craving that is burning within you.

How to Tame the Desire to Shop

As with just about anything, when caught up in a moment—the  heat of the moment—taming the impulse to act can be difficult. In your case, overcoming the desire to shop is the beast that needs to be tamed.

So how do you do it?

You train yourself.

Sounds simple enough, right? But don’t worry—I know that it isn’t. I understand that it takes more than a click of the fingers.

When faced with temptation, the desire is real. It is strong. All your mind can see is the end result and the misnomer that giving in will make you happy.  That is, buying the dress, those shoes, or the fabulous purse, will make you happy. And on one level they do, till the moment passes and you are faced with the credit card bill.

It is important, however, to recognise that this feeling is temporary. It passes when you move on to the next task or activity. 

When you shift your attention onto something else, the desire dissipates. 

Urges and Cravings

Urges and cravings are the results of thoughts that manifest as desires. By taking a moment to questioning the thought before you click that infamous “BUY NOW” button—or take an item to the store counter, you have the opportunity to break the spell and change you behaviour.

Train Your Thoughts

Train yourself to question the “I want to buy this” story  before actioning the purchase.

By asking yourself these 5 questions before each purchase,  the consequence—whether short or long term—will be clearer to you.

Ask yourself about the thought:

  1. Is it true?
  2. Can I absolutely know that it is true?
  3. How do I react? What happens when I believe the thought? 
  4. Who would I be, or what would I do without the thought?
  5. Turn the thought around. Ask yourself if the opposite thought is actually more aligned with what you want in the long term.

Example 1:

If faced with the thought: I want to buy those shoes – Question the thought and get clarity before you purchase it.

  1. Is it true that I want to buy those shoes?

Answer Yes or No only. 

If No, go to Q3. If Yes, go to Q2.

  1. Can I absolutely know that it is true that I want to buy those shoes?

Again, answer a Yes or No only.

  1. How do I react and what happens when I believe the thought that I want to buy those shoes?
  1. Who would I be, or what would I do without the thought that I want to buy those shoes? If this thought had never occurred to me, what would I do in this moment?
  1. Turn the thought around. Ask yourself if there is more truth in the opposite.

 “I DON’T want to buy those shoes.”  How much truth is there in this statement as opposed to I want to buy those shoes?

You may find in yourself genuine reasons like:

  • I don’t want to buy those shoes because:
  • I already have shoes that work for me
  • I can’t afford this right now and prefer to spend the money on getting my debt down or start saving for retirement
  • I’m just browsing online because I’m bored

As you learn to question the impulse shopping  thoughts, you will find that the consequence becomes front and centre in your mind’s eye and you are able to refocus your attention on the financial consequences that you want to create for your life long term.
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Ishani Noble is a Chartered Accountant and Mindset coach that helps individuals whose shopping habits impacting their finances and relationships to understand why they overshop and how to stop.

If you are ready to change and want an experienced guide to show you how to stop and change this in your life, reach out for a FREE strategy session for us to discuss your particular situation.

How to Stop Buying Things You Don’t Need

Let’s face it—shopping can be fun. And I’m not talking about grocery shopping or taking the kids out to buy school supplies. I’m talking about shopping for one’s self when you simply feel like it. Right?

But at what point does shopping on a whim become a habit that needs to be broken?

Impulse Shopping

Think about this for a moment.

Have you ever purchased something—whether online or at the mall—that you didn’t need? Have you surfed through ecommerce websites like Amazon or AliExpress gleefully filling your online shopping cart and found great satisfaction in hitting the BUY NOW button? 

Or have you ever had your partner or friend ask why you bought x-y-z and not have a valid answer for them, because even you don’t know why you bought it? 

Even worse, have you received parcels in the mail and opened them up forgetting that you even bought them in the first place?

Consequences of Impulse Shopping

Although shopping can be fun, buying something you don’t need or want is wasteful. So when reality bites, you are left feeling embarrassed, or maybe a little bit guilty, or ashamed for having done it.

Truth be told, that’s the just the tip of the iceberg. Because what happens when you don’t have the financial resources to fund your impulse purchases? Are you relying on your credit card and falling into debt to fund your habit?

So why do you do it?

The first step in stopping your shopping habit—or any other habit—is to acknowledge that you want to stop and then understand where the habit stems from. 

Why do you do it? Simply put, it’s because you have trained yourself to do it.

Do you find that you turn to shopping to either satisfy an urge or pacify a feeling? 

Impulse shopping is a habit you have formed. It is a learned response for dealing with or avoiding upsets, boredom, anger, or simply wanting to feel like you belong. 

You have trained your brain to release dopamine—a kind of natural messenger, essential to the normal functioning of the brain—which has a role in your ability to experience pleasure or pain when you buy something.

Human Nature

As humans, it is in our nature to move towards comfort and happiness, keeping away from emotions and experiences that make us feel uncomfortable or sad.

Your urge to shop is a comforting mechanism that you have unconsciously trained your mind to create whenever you feel lonely, depressed, bored, or in a situation of discomfort.

When you buy something you don’t need—you aren’t buying it because you want it. Rather, you buy it to satisfy an urge—the need to feel happy, to feel like you belong, or are special and valuable; or even the satisfaction of getting one up on someone who has annoyed you.

In other words, you aren’t buying the item for itself. Instead, you are buying it for the feeling that you experience when you make a purchase, or how imagine you will feel once you have it.

Look Back

This habit could be a long-standing behaviour that started in childhood. Perhaps, as a young child, going shopping with your parents was a happy activity that you did together as a family; and so you associate shopping with happiness. Or this could be a recent thing that has developed in your life in response to an event you didn’t want, e.g. the loss of a loved one, a relationship breakup, or redundancy at work.

Train In/Train Out

Understanding that your impulse shopping is a deeply rooted habit—rather than a moral failure or financial inexperience—is really good news. The reason I say this is good news is that, if you trained yourself into this behaviour—no matter how young you were when you started—you can train yourself out of it.

Let’s consider this example. 

Let’s say you had a disagreement with your partner or colleague. And afterwards, you find yourself browsing online, looking at shoes or clothing—even if you don’t need either one. It’s important to remember that you are doing this because your internal subconscious programming has directed you to do something comforting. To soothe yourself, it has created the urge to shop. The act of shopping is an attempt to either satisfy the urge to detract you from the disagreement with your partner or colleague. The training you have given yourself is:

However, as you know, this cycle has an unwanted end which is the consequence.

In this instance, the consequence is what is left after the item has been purchased and the urge has been satisfied. 

Consequences can take many forms— increased debt, a wardrobe full of clothes you never wear, a frustrated partner, and an emotional need that remains unfulfilled.

When you understand why you are shopping in these scenarios, you have a significantly higher chance of changing your behaviour and breaking this pattern in your life.

The good news is that when you understand how you got to this place, and can identify the habit cycle in operation, you can re-train yourself into a new learned behaviour and create a new happier, healthier and cheaper way of living without the shopping.

A fundamental change in your behaviour is possible.
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Ishani Noble is a Chartered Accountant and Mindset coach that helps individuals whose shopping habits impacting their finances and relationships to understand why they overshop and how to stop.

If you are ready to change and want an experienced guide to show you how to stop and change this in your life, reach out for a FREE strategy session for us to discuss your particular situation.