Articles, Blog

The secret to self control | Jonathan Bricker | TEDxRainier

December 7, 2019

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)


  • Reply m a g o t c h i June 19, 2019 at 10:00 pm

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

  • Reply David Jon Burke June 20, 2019 at 5:53 pm

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

  • Reply monster jesse June 21, 2019 at 3:33 am

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

  • Reply Vijay Desai June 21, 2019 at 4:44 am

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

  • Reply gwandumi mwakyoma June 23, 2019 at 2:56 pm

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

  • Reply Daniel Najar June 25, 2019 at 4:49 am

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

  • Reply Prashant Yadav June 26, 2019 at 6:04 pm


  • Reply marvel stark June 27, 2019 at 12:04 pm

    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

  • Reply Onassis Martinez July 2, 2019 at 11:53 am

    What is the name of the book he mentioned?

  • Reply Raul Cuyun July 5, 2019 at 2:49 am

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

  • Reply Yunxiang Zhou July 9, 2019 at 4:39 pm

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

  • Reply jnlskv July 11, 2019 at 10:52 pm

    This is essentially the addictive voice recognition technique.

  • Reply Bake Master July 12, 2019 at 3:27 am

    Them cookies looked good af

  • Reply david johanson July 13, 2019 at 11:01 pm

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

  • Reply LIANNA FURY July 14, 2019 at 2:10 pm

    Love the humorous way this was presented

  • Reply yash warrior July 16, 2019 at 11:28 pm

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

  • Reply Anna Helena July 24, 2019 at 10:31 am

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

  • Reply Guido Sarducci July 25, 2019 at 3:30 am

    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!!!

  • Reply Francesco Casucci July 25, 2019 at 9:01 am

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

  • Reply Fav Club July 27, 2019 at 1:14 pm

    Nofap: I'm back

  • Reply AnyRaked July 31, 2019 at 11:17 am

    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.

  • Reply Captain AceHD August 3, 2019 at 1:58 pm

    Did he try to make an Ebola joke😂😂😂

  • Reply Gavin Burger August 4, 2019 at 6:50 pm

    Amazing, life changing!!!

  • Reply Zedi August 7, 2019 at 8:48 pm

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

  • Reply Ashraf Chawdhury August 8, 2019 at 1:05 am

    I tried them. They DID NOT work.

  • Reply Straw Hat V August 9, 2019 at 2:03 pm

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

  • Reply Gegia August 9, 2019 at 6:18 pm

    This speech is Super

  • Reply Merlas Paul August 10, 2019 at 7:58 am

    Man this speech freed myself

  • Reply Liyani Bernier August 13, 2019 at 11:58 am

    I stopped watching after 3 mins 🙄

  • Reply parker t August 13, 2019 at 4:05 pm

    Less Nessman is a smart guy

  • Reply A Donttrip August 16, 2019 at 6:52 am

    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.

  • Reply Amajja Apajja August 16, 2019 at 10:13 am

    so slow ….

  • Reply Damienne Lupe Hinkle August 18, 2019 at 3:19 am

    Becky Bailey’s Disciplined Consciousness!! 👍

  • Reply James 1992 August 19, 2019 at 2:00 am

    Chinese Taoism. 道家文化几千年后被再次证实。

  • Reply M. Reza Rahman Lazuardi August 20, 2019 at 5:16 am

    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.

  • Reply Matthew Sanchez August 22, 2019 at 7:35 pm

    I'm noticing the Thot…💃

  • Reply NemOzo O August 23, 2019 at 8:55 am

    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.

  • Reply Ольга Симонова August 23, 2019 at 8:59 am

    Bravo, Maestro!)

  • Reply Kai August 23, 2019 at 11:32 am

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

  • Reply Born Unloved August 23, 2019 at 6:54 pm

    15 minutes of absolute drivel.

  • Reply C.K. Brooke August 24, 2019 at 4:09 am

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

  • Reply derin den August 25, 2019 at 6:08 pm

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

  • Reply Steven Brown August 27, 2019 at 11:07 pm

    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.

  • Reply YOM SANNI August 31, 2019 at 12:14 am

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

  • Reply Azur D September 1, 2019 at 2:24 am

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

  • Reply life hack September 3, 2019 at 4:50 pm

    Im noticing that im watching more videos

  • Reply Magie7079 September 4, 2019 at 1:34 am

    does anyone know why the app doesnt exist??

  • Reply zvuho September 4, 2019 at 9:34 pm

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

  • Reply Mar ASG September 5, 2019 at 6:43 pm

    He is so amazing! And funny!

  • Reply videoman191 September 7, 2019 at 10:31 pm

    You cant control anything in life except your own actions.

  • Reply Nymid Artist September 8, 2019 at 2:58 am

    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.

  • Reply John Adhi September 8, 2019 at 5:53 pm

    Speech is great and all COMMENTS are also great

  • Reply Morgan Dwyer September 10, 2019 at 7:50 am

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

  • Reply S September 11, 2019 at 2:36 am

    Play speed x1.5. You're welcome

  • Reply U J September 15, 2019 at 12:59 am

    "It is not Ebola" lol a little random

  • Reply varada sukanya September 22, 2019 at 10:34 am

    Awesome speech, its worthy…

  • Reply Anekila World September 26, 2019 at 5:54 am


  • Reply Krishnapriya Kichuzz September 30, 2019 at 1:21 pm

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

  • Reply kristie737 October 2, 2019 at 11:42 am

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

  • Reply S L October 4, 2019 at 7:25 pm

    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 .

  • Reply Let Me Think About It October 7, 2019 at 2:15 pm

    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

  • Reply Muhammad Ridho October 7, 2019 at 2:31 pm

    "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 🙂

  • Reply Mind Peace October 8, 2019 at 2:01 pm

    Thank you for showing your kindness to negative thoughts.

  • Reply dianaraaawrrr October 9, 2019 at 6:55 pm

    Lost 15:13 minutes of my life

  • Reply MrFoxracingred October 9, 2019 at 7:07 pm

    I watched this while smoking a cigar fml

  • Reply Bowonwarrawath Rungwarakan October 10, 2019 at 12:36 am

    out of control

  • Reply Nick October 10, 2019 at 12:15 pm

    His delivery is cringy. So breathy and slow.

  • Reply Clarice Ramos October 13, 2019 at 12:51 am

    I watched this after binge watching netflix. This is a serious issue. We should have had a class on self-gratification in grade school through college. I'm very grateful for the impact these speakers are having in our lives & the awareness that is being spread of delaying gratification. 🙂

  • Reply Time To Watch Stuff October 13, 2019 at 10:40 am

    So true, 'control' is an illusion. Perhaps there is really only influence

  • Reply Anas Missaoui October 16, 2019 at 10:09 am

    Wow !!!
    Respect 👏🎩🎩🎩

  • Reply maresa edwards October 18, 2019 at 8:22 pm

    This guy just packed my 3 years of ACoA into 15 mins… Love this! <3 <3 <3

  • Reply kimie126 October 19, 2019 at 5:57 am


  • Reply Jrvs 365 October 22, 2019 at 1:04 pm

    Thank you so much Jonathan Bricker. I've been trying so hard to change my behavior on many fronts. I will be putting this knowledge to work today, and spread it to others.

  • Reply Faisal Fahim October 22, 2019 at 7:54 pm

    Probably one of the most humorous ted talks ever! I was conjoining it with "The Power of Habit".
    There is a little place where every craving can abate.
    We just need to create that place and leave it with the cravings.

  • Reply βΘlΘH AG October 23, 2019 at 7:25 pm

    anyone have a good book they recommend on this topic of WIllingness? thank you

  • Reply Anthony Vestal October 24, 2019 at 10:44 am

    Society is so bad telling niggas to control themselves doesnt work

  • Reply Susan Carter October 25, 2019 at 3:32 am

    The fluoride made me do it. Eat those potatoe chips. And smoke those cigarettes.

  • Reply Dualhammers October 27, 2019 at 10:21 pm

    That moment when your company uses Acceptance and Commitment training to Accept that you want the downfall of capitalism but Commit to upholding it with your behavior

  • Reply Matthew Schachle October 28, 2019 at 9:45 am

    Does anyone else think this guys sounds and kind of looks like Bryan Cranston?

  • Reply PotatoeFace Dragon October 28, 2019 at 1:00 pm

    My mom was 46 when i was born. I did math. XD

  • Reply Angel Valdivia October 31, 2019 at 2:14 am

    Drop the rope

  • Reply Phương Nguyễn November 2, 2019 at 11:51 am

    Thank you so much. i find the method somewhat similar to meditation when you observe your thoughts. really helpful !!

  • Reply Lan Shred November 4, 2019 at 10:14 am

    Discipline is not punishment
    It's a training

  • Reply Jyr November 4, 2019 at 8:06 pm

    It isn't really easy to change yourself by yourself. But with Jesus Christ, we can be.

  • Reply Gaurav M November 5, 2019 at 6:48 am

    I am also guilty of unhealthy living, help me , guide me to get rid of my unhealthy life. I do not have any self control, please help me, how do I build discipline?

  • Reply Vinet Gao November 6, 2019 at 2:30 am

    Thumb up for you for your singing HAHAHA

  • Reply 〖RҠ〗๖ۣۜ δροοκλ 〖RҠ〗Clan November 7, 2019 at 4:02 am

    Who's watching this because it's November?

  • Reply C_ Farther November 11, 2019 at 2:29 pm

    I laughed when he spoke about the woman and her smoking; a guy at a store I go to quit when I quit and we talk about not smoking; it seems every time we talk, I really want to buy a pack but when I am not around cigs or no one talks about it, I don't think about them. I have certainly replaced food with smoking, I need help so badly.

  • Reply achteachte yo November 12, 2019 at 2:19 am

    This is just another name for will power, or the lack of.

  • Reply Ina Cook November 15, 2019 at 12:16 am

    Thank you Jonathan Bricker!
    That was highly entertaining and informative🤗

  • Reply Bob Sobus November 19, 2019 at 12:30 am

    I have come to the same conclusions. it has brought me peace, happiness, Love

  • Reply Chinea Pagba November 19, 2019 at 11:10 am

    I already lost 20 kilograms before when I started my weight loss journey and 2 years later here I am again back at square one with the same weight I've been trying to manage. This ted talk made realize that i need to be kinder to myself and not pressure myself to rush things because this unhealthy eating habit took two years to develop. And for me to develop a better eating habit it will also take time and then the weight loss will happen naturally once I am able to take control of my eating portions again.

  • Reply bismark antwi November 22, 2019 at 7:18 pm

    Can anyone recommend a book on willingness

  • Reply Cody Thompson November 24, 2019 at 2:41 am

    Why did everybody laugh at 14:35, I didn't get it?

  • Reply Peachy Kelly November 26, 2019 at 11:51 pm

    64 thousandth like 💜

  • Reply Ayde Guerrero Rosas November 27, 2019 at 11:15 pm

    anyone that has a cellphone can earn from home with GetPaidHome .com

  • Reply Hyunjung Kim November 28, 2019 at 4:54 am

    Thank you very much ()

  • Reply Alan gilo November 28, 2019 at 3:13 pm

    I'm trying to finish a pack of smokes since two weeks now. god damn it dude 🙁

  • Reply Sparta Vlogs December 2, 2019 at 7:17 pm

    I loved it. This will surely help me fight my cravings

  • Reply FRAG128JJ December 4, 2019 at 4:50 pm

    Looks like Bryan Cranston in breaking bad

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