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The secret to self control | Jonathan Bricker | TEDxRainier

Translator: Emanuele Rossi
Reviewer: TED Translators admin Let me tell you about my mom. My mom was 42 years old when I was born, and she started exercising
for the first time in her life. She started by running around the block, and then she started doing 5K races,
and then she started doing 10K races. And after that, she ran a marathon, and after that, my mom did a triathlon. By the time she was 57 years old, my mom was trekking uphill
to the base camp of Mt. Everest. (Laughter) And let me tell you about my dad. (Laughter) When I was a kid,
my dad used to take me to science classes. He was also my calculus teacher
in high school. (Laughter) I wanted to crawl under the desk. (Laughter) I learned something important from my mom: The value of health. And I learned something
important from my dad: the value of science. And these two values have guided me
on my trek through life, and they’ve helped me appreciate
an epidemic that we are all facing. And it’s not Ebola. Instead, it is the epidemic
of unhealthy living. A half billion people worldwide are obese. And you would think that 50 years after
the first U.S. Surgeon General’s report on the dangers of tobacco was published
we’d be beyond the problem of smoking. Today, a billion people
worldwide use tobacco. Tobacco and obesity
are two of the most preventable causes of premature death. Solving these problems is like
trying to solve a jigsaw puzzle. We engage in unhealthy behaviors
because of our genetics, because of brain neurotransmitters, because of environmental influences
such as peers and the media. Each of those pieces of the puzzle are not things that you and I
can solve on our own. But there is one piece of this puzzle
that may hold the key: Our choices about what we do
with our cravings to engage in addictive behaviors
like smoking or overeating. Our choices. There is a new science of self-control that may hold the key to reversing
these epidemics. It’s called willingness. Willingness means allowing
your cravings to come and to go, while not acting on them by smoking
or eating unhealthy. But actually, I’m not talking about
willpower, and I’m not talking about “power through your cravings.” Instead, I’m talking about
a different notion of cravings that looks like this: dropping the struggle with your cravings. Opening up to them,
letting them be there, and making peace with them. Now at this point
you may be very skeptical. (Laughter) I was when I first heard about it
years ago. A friend of mine came to me
with a book on willingness. He said, “Jonathan, this book will change your life forever!” And I said “Oh, OK…
Yeah… yeah, I’ll check it out.” So I went through it and thought,
“Nah, this is a bunch of psycho-babble,” and tossed it aside. Until some years later when my wife brought me to a workshop on willingness
at the University of Washington, and I was blown away. So then I read the book, and then I read a lot of books
on willingness, and I got trained in it, and what I learned was
that willingness is part of acceptance in the Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
approach to behavior change. It’s a broad approach to behavior change that’s being used to help people
with anxiety disorders, with addictions even some innovative companies are now using it to help improve
their employees’ performance and reduce their stress. Now, to understand why I was blown away, you have to understand
the world I live in. In my research world, a common way you help people
quit smoking and lose weight is you teach them to avoid their cravings. Avoid thinking about smoking,
distract yourself from food cravings. There’s a song from a Broadway show
that captures this perfectly. It goes like this: (Singing) When you start to get confused
because of thoughts in your head, don’t feel those feelings, hold them in instead. Turn it off like a light switch
just go click. We do it all the time when you’re feeling certain feelings
that just don’t seem right. Treat those pesky feelings
like a reading light and turn them off. (Laughter) (Applause) We all live in this world, where the song we keep hearing is
“turn off the bad feelings.” Now, let’s take a look at these cookies. (Laughter) They just came out of the oven
ooh, they are so good! Ah, they’re so delicious. Mm-mm, just feel that craving
to eat those cookies. Ooh, they’re lovely, they’re so good. Now, turn it off! (Laughter) Turn it off! You want those cookies
even more now, right? You see the futility
of trying to turn it off. You can’t turn it off! And maybe you don’t have to. Maybe, you can leave the light on. Here is how: My research lab at the Fred Hutchinson
Cancer Research Center, here in Seattle, is conducting randomized clinical trials to see if showing people
how to be willing to have their cravings is effective for quitting smoking. We are conducting trials
and face-to-face interventions and a telephone quit smoking hotline
and a website called and in an app called SmartQuit. These technologies have the potential
to reach millions of people with interventions
that could save their lives. That’s pretty amazing. And let me tell you about the data. When you pool together the results
from six clinical trials, all six that have been published to date, including trials
conducted by our colleagues, what we see is that for the people
who were assigned to the avoidance approach –
avoiding your cravings —- some of them quit smoking, and it varied depending on the study. However, for the people who were randomly
assigned to the willingness condition, twice as many quit smoking. Very, very encouraging. Now, of course, the data only tell us
one small part of the story. So, to help you see willingness in action, I’m going to weave together
experiences I’ve had in counseling people for quitting smoking. And I’ll together refer to them
as one person that we’ll just call Jane. So, as is typical of people who come in
to want help for quitting smoking, Jane was a 45-year-old person who started smoking
when she was a teenager. She tried to quit smoking several times
and was not successful. So, she was very skeptical
that anything “new” was going to be helpful
to her for quitting, and yet she was really hopeful
that this time would be different. So, the first thing that I showed Jane
was to be willing, that is to be aware,
of her cravings in her body. So to notice where she felt cravings
in her body. And what I did was I asked her to journal that, and just to track
the intensity over time, and to see if she’d smoke afterwards. So in the middle of explaining this,
she stops me and says, “What are you talking about?
I don’t have cravings, I just smoke!” So I said, “Well, why don’t you try it,
and we’ll see what happens, and if it doesn’t work,
we’ll try something else.” So she came back a week later
and she said, “You know, I’ve been tracking my cravings, I’ve been tracking them all the time. And now I can’t stop
thinking about smoking! (Laughter) What am I supposed to do?” Well, before I tell you my answer,
let’’s look behind the scenes. Now, what was probably going on here was that Jane
was having cravings all along, and like a lot of us,
she was living on autopilot. (Laughter) You wake up in the morning,
you smoke a cigarette, you have a cup of coffee,
you smoke a cigarette, you get in the car, you smoke a cigarette. We’re often just not aware of
what we think, what we feel before we act. So, my answer to Jane was to be willing, and one of the ways
I showed her to do that was with an exercise called
“I am having the thought”. So, one of Jane’s thoughts
before she had a cigarette was, “I’m feeling a lot of stress right now,
I really need a cigarette.” So I asked her to add the phrase “I’m having the thought” like this. “I’m having the thought that I’m feeling a lot of stress right now
I really need a cigarette.” Then I asked her to add the phrase
“I’m noticing I’m having the thought,” so “I’m noticing
that I’m having the thought that I’m feeling
a lot of stress right now, I really need a cigarette.” Now, we can all do an exercise like this
when we have any kind of negative thought. Like for my thought
that “I’m boring all of you with my talk” (Laughter) and I’m having the thought
that I’m boring all of you with my talk. So, what this exercise did
is it gave me a little bit of space between me and my thoughts. And it’s in that space that I can choose not to run off
the stage in front of 1,500 people. (Laughter) And the fact is we don’t act
on every thought we have, because if we did, we’d all be
in a whole lot of trouble. (Laughter) So, this was helpful to Jane,
but there was something else that was really difficult for Jane. I felt a lot of compassion
for her about it. That was the judgment that she felt from people when she would be
outside smoking a cigarette. The criticism from her husband
for being a smoker, and the self-loathing
that she developed about smoking. And she dealt with this shame
by having a cigarette, which gave her relief temporarily
until the shame came back. So, I said to Jane, “What would it be like
if we tried to honor this feeling of shame as part of the human experience? If you had a close friend
who is feeling shame about smoking,” I said to Jane, “what would you offer this friend
as words of caring and kindness, and could you then offer those words
to yourself, Jane?” And she looked up, and she had this look of this temporary
respite from the shame, which made it just
a little bit easier next time not to act on the craving. So, here is the secret to self-control: the secret to self-control
is to give up control. Because otherwise, we get into a tug-of-war with a monster,
a craving monster. And the craving monster says, “Come on, smoke a cigarette.
Come on, have that cookie. Come on!” And you’re on the other side saying, “No craving monster,
I’m going to distract myself from you, I’m going to ignore you,
no, no, no, no.” And the craving monster says,
“No, no, come on, you know you want it!” And you’re just back here and you’re going back and forth
and back and forth and pretty soon the craving monster
overpowers you — you have that cookie,
you have that cigarette, until the craving monster comes back. And then you’re in the tug-of-war again
doing what we’ve learned how to do. Unless – unless you drop the rope. And what you discover is that if you just allow
the monster to be, to occupy a space in your body, you discover in a few minutes that the craving monster is not
as threatening as he appears. And sometimes, he even goes away. As we break for lunch, we’re going to have
choices of what to eat. (Laughter) When you see them, try to be aware
of the cravings in your body, try to be willing to have those cravings. See if they pass on their own. Whatever choice you make,
try to bring a spirit of caring and kindness to yourself, for that is the mountain
that we are all climbing. Thank you very much. (Applause)


  1. Naïm hamed
    Naïm hamed April 13, 2019

    this is actually helpful

  2. Poker Princess
    Poker Princess April 14, 2019

    Sniff the cookies; feel the cookies; and destroy the cookies. It works.

  3. Sphiwe Dube
    Sphiwe Dube April 14, 2019


  4. cody administrative
    cody administrative April 17, 2019

    Thank you

  5. Amir Sheikh
    Amir Sheikh April 21, 2019

    So sum this up – between a stimulus and your response, you have the power to choose how to act.

  6. Andrés Collinucci
    Andrés Collinucci April 24, 2019

    Does anybody know what came out of his research since he gave this talk?

  7. Đinh Nhật Quang
    Đinh Nhật Quang April 25, 2019

    This is a main point of Budda wisdom.

  8. cameron Williams
    cameron Williams April 25, 2019

    “And it’s not Ebola”
    *pause for laughter*

  9. Nice Stuff
    Nice Stuff April 26, 2019

    I will sum this up with one word: Awareness

  10. male6561
    male6561 April 26, 2019

    "I am noticing that I am thinking/feeling, that I should X because I feel Y"

  11. Silver Rally Robb
    Silver Rally Robb April 28, 2019

    I heard you are one of the creators of the Quitbot I've been using and was directed this way from there. Very helpful as always, thank you!

  12. Tommy Coyle
    Tommy Coyle May 1, 2019

    reminds me of kelly mcgonicals "surf the urge" advice on willpower

  13. jiawei du
    jiawei du May 1, 2019

    God this guy is so much like Chandler in friends

  14. Windflier
    Windflier May 2, 2019

    so basically, try the Philosophical Taoism.

  15. Hadassah Yael
    Hadassah Yael May 6, 2019

    Great advice! Also…. he sounds like Robert Downey Jr. when he speaks.

  16. Nitro Spider
    Nitro Spider May 9, 2019

    Gotta bie from something I love to smoke quit drugs alcohol thanks to Jesus amen

  17. Antonello Curci
    Antonello Curci May 10, 2019

    Basically: meditation

  18. penelope
    penelope May 11, 2019

    Love it

  19. Tiffany Sanya
    Tiffany Sanya May 12, 2019

    A very useful talk! I do agree with Jonathan – avoidance is not a strategy. And same principles applies to negative emotions. For a long time in my life, I used to try and fight through feelings of helplessness, shame and guilt. But what I have learnt is that you occasionally have to sit in them for a while in order to develop effective strategies to help you through.

    Also wholeheartedly agree with the notion of supportive self talk. We must learn to give ourselves the grace and kindness that we readily dish to others. This is how you can combat change.

    If keen to know more about this, then worth checking out my Youtube channel where I share some tips from the transformation process I have been on for the past three years.

  20. That Bad Guy
    That Bad Guy May 16, 2019

    Isn't this part of mindfulness meditation?Why to give new name such as" willingness " and then speak as if these western researchers have invented this concept when the fact is that this has been practiced since thousands of years.

  21. anonomyss
    anonomyss May 16, 2019

    I've watched all these TED Talks and still can't find it in myself to study.

  22. ॐ Jordan Gould
    ॐ Jordan Gould May 19, 2019

    If anyone’s looking to develop skills in meditation, I’d recommend going to a vipassana meditation course or download the ‘Calm’ meditation app.

  23. Cheryl Peterson
    Cheryl Peterson May 22, 2019

    Not helpful. Most people with lifelong additions already know they have cravings, shame, and have not tried to avoid or be in denial. This does nothing to help make better choices when feeling strong cravings.

  24. Bewen Xie
    Bewen Xie May 22, 2019

    Love him!!!!

  25. Captain Red Rum
    Captain Red Rum May 23, 2019

    i just think its weird the way the bodys like "hey why dont you have a drink? why dont you have a smoke?"
    And conciously i have to be saying "no we dont do those things anymore."
    Its almost like when your body tells you you need to use the bathroom and youre just denying it. Thats hard sometimes to get over.

  26. Selmir Hrnčič
    Selmir Hrnčič May 23, 2019

    I never smoked nor drink alcohol… blahh, poisons and you stink… its just a decision and willingness and to hold your Decision while using/being AWARE, you aren't your mind-content… think…. mind content is flooded with bad .. FOLLOW HEART, that is real brain …

  27. Anirban Sarkar
    Anirban Sarkar May 23, 2019

    one of the best TED talks I have ever heard

  28. Paul Watson
    Paul Watson May 24, 2019

    I think with practice this will get easier

  29. Bernadette OHanlon
    Bernadette OHanlon May 29, 2019

    This was so great. I used the letting go technique years ago on another issue I was dealing with. Watching this video today made me realize how similar this was and that I could use this on my battle with food. By accepting and being willing to accept that I may always crave that Pepsi or that candy I can maybe be able to overcome it by simply letting the battle just go.

  30. B Rabbit
    B Rabbit May 29, 2019

    Idk if I wanna keep it turned on, that song was pretty catchy. Was it the book of Mormon?

  31. Van Huynh
    Van Huynh May 30, 2019

    Thanks so much for teaching a very valuable lesson

  32. i C9
    i C9 May 31, 2019

    Hey guys I don't speak much English but I understand most the talk, everyday I listen TEDx talks 40 minutes do you think this Useful to me 🙂💜

  33. EmeraldView
    EmeraldView June 6, 2019

    I expected the mom story to end with her dying of a heart attack.

  34. Adrianna
    Adrianna June 9, 2019

    This is great to ppl with not only food addictions, cigarette addictions or any type of addictions, this talk was not only entertainment but educational, I need to start paying attention to my cravings, acknowledge them and be caring with myself in order to not giving in, I need to stop feeding them. Thank you 🙏🏼

  35. Jeremy Torres
    Jeremy Torres June 10, 2019

    Have that balance !

  36. Elif
    Elif June 16, 2019

    All in all…
    The issue is resistance
    The solution is awareness.

  37. Zerus Zephuros
    Zerus Zephuros June 17, 2019

    I gave in to my craving long time ago
    But why am I still overweight ://////

  38. m a g o t c h i
    m a g o t c h i June 19, 2019

    Everyone is losing that right now… Specially in our dear generation.

  39. David Jon Burke
    David Jon Burke June 20, 2019

    We should embrace cravings and ravish in them for they make us human!!

  40. monster jesse
    monster jesse June 21, 2019

    you're allowed to learn about yourself is the kinda affirmation some of us need

  41. Vijay Desai
    Vijay Desai June 21, 2019

    Isn’t this similar to Vippassana technique? Check it out

  42. gwandumi mwakyoma
    gwandumi mwakyoma June 23, 2019

    Yet some fools claim obesity to be healthy and call it body positivity.

  43. Daniel Najar
    Daniel Najar June 25, 2019

    Great talk. Instant gratification is the devel that we all have to wage war against.

  44. Prashant Yadav
    Prashant Yadav June 26, 2019


  45. marvel stark
    marvel stark June 27, 2019

    also from TEDx entitled how to break the bad habit:
    1. notice the urge of the bad habit
    2. be curious on what it will cause you
    3. feel the joy of letting the bad habit go
    4. repeat

  46. Onassis Martinez
    Onassis Martinez July 2, 2019

    What is the name of the book he mentioned?

  47. Raul Cuyun
    Raul Cuyun July 5, 2019

    The secret to self control is to give up control. Sooooo simple but perfect.

  48. Yunxiang Zhou
    Yunxiang Zhou July 9, 2019

    This is basically what mindfulness and meditation have been supposed to do for millennia.

  49. jnlskv
    jnlskv July 11, 2019

    This is essentially the addictive voice recognition technique.

  50. Bake Master
    Bake Master July 12, 2019

    Them cookies looked good af

  51. david johanson
    david johanson July 13, 2019

    hold on: who defines these "un-healthy behaviors"? to blood no harm.

    LIANNA FURY July 14, 2019

    Love the humorous way this was presented

  53. yash warrior
    yash warrior July 16, 2019

    Wow excellent video sir got to learn new thing thankyou😊😊

  54. Anna Helena
    Anna Helena July 24, 2019

    Fighting these cravings costs more energy than just being aware of them but not acting upon them

  55. Guido Sarducci
    Guido Sarducci July 25, 2019

    When we say to ourselves that we don't want a cigarette, we are really saying that we want a cigarette! Say to yourself, I am going for a walk! I am going for a drive! I am going to the lake! I am going to a movie! I am going to dinner! Also, hypnotherapy, patch and gum work! I quit smoking over 10 years ago and you can too!!!

  56. Francesco Casucci
    Francesco Casucci July 25, 2019

    What was the book his friend suggested him to read? Thank you!

  57. Fav Club
    Fav Club July 27, 2019

    Nofap: I'm back

  58. AnyRaked
    AnyRaked July 31, 2019

    I don't understand – How do you ''drop the rope''? Just accepting the fact that you want a cigarette doesn't mean you won't have one, does it? I'm fully aware of my cravings, I don't fight it and I don't shame myself for having one. Still they control me most of the time.

  59. Ace Senseii
    Ace Senseii August 3, 2019

    Did he try to make an Ebola joke😂😂😂

  60. Gavin Burger
    Gavin Burger August 4, 2019

    Amazing, life changing!!!

  61. Zedi
    Zedi August 7, 2019

    This man is a phenomenal speaker! Great pacing and usage of pauses and kept the speech entertaining all the way through. Bravo!

  62. Ashraf Chawdhury
    Ashraf Chawdhury August 8, 2019

    I tried them. They DID NOT work.

  63. Vik Johnson
    Vik Johnson August 9, 2019

    Lost me at “causes of premature death” people need to die too many around. Literally

  64. Gegia
    Gegia August 9, 2019

    This speech is Super

  65. Merlas Paul
    Merlas Paul August 10, 2019

    Man this speech freed myself

  66. Liyani Bernier
    Liyani Bernier August 13, 2019

    I stopped watching after 3 mins 🙄

  67. parker t
    parker t August 13, 2019

    Less Nessman is a smart guy

  68. A Donttrip
    A Donttrip August 16, 2019

    6:05 in. I'm open minded but so far lousy waste of time. You get the same amount of time I give lucky sales ppl.

  69. Amajja Apajja
    Amajja Apajja August 16, 2019

    so slow ….

  70. Damienne Lupe Hinkle
    Damienne Lupe Hinkle August 18, 2019

    Becky Bailey’s Disciplined Consciousness!! 👍

  71. James 1992
    James 1992 August 19, 2019

    Chinese Taoism. 道家文化几千年后被再次证实。

  72. M. Reza Rahman Lazuardi
    M. Reza Rahman Lazuardi August 20, 2019

    Every TED Talk sounds like the first few paragraphs of a villain monologue and i don't know what to do with that thought once it's in my head.

  73. Matthew Sanchez
    Matthew Sanchez August 22, 2019

    I'm noticing the Thot…💃

  74. Mango G
    Mango G August 23, 2019

    He is using the vipassana meditation technique which is awareness/mindfulness. Allowing yourself to be aware without reacting to it. The more you practice acceptance of what is and learning to not react to it, the more you will learn to have control of your mind and behavior.

    Vipassana teaches you that everything is impermanent, it will pass.

  75. Ольга Симонова
    Ольга Симонова August 23, 2019

    Bravo, Maestro!)

  76. Kai
    Kai August 23, 2019

    If you don't fight your craving monster, you can have a conversation with it and come to an agreement.

  77. Born Unloved
    Born Unloved August 23, 2019

    15 minutes of absolute drivel.

  78. C.K. Brooke
    C.K. Brooke August 24, 2019

    A TED speaker spontaneously bursting into song from The Book of Mormon play…epic 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼

  79. derin den
    derin den August 25, 2019

    Discipline is choosing between what you want now and what you want most.
    -Abraham Lincoln

  80. Steven Brown
    Steven Brown August 27, 2019

    Hey I don't feel so bad about it now.Excellent point what ever you do make it count for wholeness and self control.The good of all, even.

    YOM SANNI August 31, 2019

    Accept yourself for who you are then the craving will leave by itself

  82. Lilly EH
    Lilly EH September 1, 2019

    Easier said than done. I think these people are depressed and filling the void.

  83. life hack
    life hack September 3, 2019

    Im noticing that im watching more videos

  84. Magie7079
    Magie7079 September 4, 2019

    does anyone know why the app doesnt exist??

  85. zvuho
    zvuho September 4, 2019

    Really intresting talk. But about Mount Everest, John Oliver ruined it for all the rich helthy guys.

  86. Mar ASG
    Mar ASG September 5, 2019

    He is so amazing! And funny!

  87. videoman191
    videoman191 September 7, 2019

    You cant control anything in life except your own actions.

  88. Nymid Artist
    Nymid Artist September 8, 2019

    How many people picked up a cookie during that lunch?😂😂😂😂😂

    But seriously this definitely super helpful. I really need to apply this to my life so I can get rid of a few flaws that drag me down from happiness and success. TedTalk is the best truly.

  89. John Adhi
    John Adhi September 8, 2019

    Speech is great and all COMMENTS are also great

  90. Morgan Dwyer
    Morgan Dwyer September 10, 2019

    You had me the moment you started singing from The Book of Mormon xD

  91. S
    S September 11, 2019

    Play speed x1.5. You're welcome

  92. U J
    U J September 15, 2019

    "It is not Ebola" lol a little random

  93. varada sukanya
    varada sukanya September 22, 2019

    Awesome speech, its worthy…

  94. Anekila World
    Anekila World September 26, 2019


  95. Krishnapriya Kichuzz
    Krishnapriya Kichuzz September 30, 2019

    Does this contradict the law of attraction?????????

  96. kristie737
    kristie737 October 2, 2019

    I began watching this while eating a salad.. I'm now watching while baking cookies

  97. S L
    S L October 4, 2019

    This whole video was worth watching. . This is the basic meditation practise…the way you put it was attractive to a logical mind. Thanks for this video. I'm noticing I'm having a thought to I'll use this .

  98. Let Me Think About It
    Let Me Think About It October 7, 2019

    So he's a fan of The Book of Mormon lol That came out of nowhere, I think this whole talk was just an excuse so he could sing in front of an audience lol

  99. Muhammad Ridho
    Muhammad Ridho October 7, 2019

    "The Secret of Self Control is to give up control"
    We have 2 brains, Thinking brain and Feeling brain. We choose to fight that cravings because we thought that the Thinking brain have the steer wheel, but it wasn't the thinking brain that has control over our consciousness, it's The Feeling Brain. so Self Control is illusion, we always make things hard by fighting our Feeling brain for cravings, so the solution that offered by this gentleman is, why dont we try to give feeling brain some space for his idea??? try to be conscious of his demand, respect it, love him like he's part of you whole body, and he will start to become agreeable to your choice of life 🙂

  100. Mind Peace
    Mind Peace October 8, 2019

    Thank you for showing your kindness to negative thoughts.

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