Can You Resist Temptation?
Donald A. Cadogan, Ph.D.
There are a number of people who claim they need more discipline in their lives; that they yield to worldly enticements too easily. What they really mean is they lack control over their impulses. The desire for immediate pleasure often overrules their better judgment. They will frequently eat candy while dieting, for example, or frivolously buy an expensive jacket while already deeply in debt. For these individuals their lack of impulse control plays havoc with their lives. No matter how often they promise to be more responsible, they invariably find they cannot resist temptation.
As with most personal problems, however, the first step toward resolving a difficulty is acknowledging it exists. Here is a quiz that focuses on characteristics associated with frustration tolerance and impulse control. It is designed to help you know how likely you are to succumb to temptation.
3. Yes No. Do you tend not to make, or not to follow long term plans?
4. Yes No. In your youth, did your parents tend to disapprove of your friends?
5. Yes No. Do you often think about having things you should not have, or imagine yourself indulging
in forbidden pleasures?
6. Yes No. Do others easily influence or persuade you?
7. Yes No. Does your use of alcohol or other drugs sometimes create problems for you or cause
others to complain?
8. Yes No. Would your friends probably describe you as an emotional or passionate kind of person?
9. Yes No. Were you frequently in trouble as a youth?
10. Yes No. Do you often break promises you have made to yourself or to others?
11. Yes No. Do you believe that people who leave their valuables unprotected are as much to blame for
their theft as the people who steel them?
12. Yes No. Do you often do things that later you are sorry you did?
The questions in the quiz point to qualities usually found in people who have difficulty tolerating frustration or who are easily induced to seek momentary satisfaction. Such people are often impulsive, passionate, rebellious, pleasure oriented, and given to quick or sudden mood changes. In general, these individuals find it hard to resist temptation.
If you answered yes to less than four of the questions you are most likely in control of your decisions and usually withstand lifes many enticements reasonably well. But if you made four of more yes answers you are probably easily influenced by self-defeating whims. Your life is most likely filled with regrets.
If you are in the latter category, however, you can strengthen, your impulse control and increase your capacity to endure lifes unavoidable frustrations in the following way: Focus more on the positive, pleasurable, or enjoyable aspects of achieving you ideals or goals rather than on the pleasure of satisfying your impulsive desire. Actually imagine yourself sticking to your plans and feeling great as a result. But you must also think less about how deprived you are for not having what you want or for acting responsibly.
While it is true that no one resists all temptations perfectly, our efforts here usually reap longer lasting and more significant rewards.