Mise en place to achieve habitual self-control

Mise en place, the French for put in place is to plan and strategize before you begin. Organize everything in order to avoid slip-ups. This mantra is used by most professional chefs to whip out your favorite dishes time and again to taste exactly similar. It simply entails following a protocol and laying out all the ingredients on the kitchen table even before the wok is on the stove.

In the context of habit, it entails organizing all the cues well ahead of time. Have a plan ready beforehand, list and check the cues/context that facilitates the action, anticipate the barriers or hiccups on the way and be well prepared. This will reduce the friction from performing the activity make it fluent, comfortable, and almost effortless.

Man pushing her daughter on skateboard

Rather than relying only on willpower or fighting your temptations, the key to reaching the holy grail of self-control is: A. Set the driving forces B. Remove the restraining ones

In the chef example, following a protocol sets the driving force, since they know what to do next without thinking. Whereas laying out the ingredients, remove the restraining forces. Therefore, this is also called situational self-control, where we change our surroundings to facilitate behavior change rather than restrain behavior itself.

So what can you do to achieve an automated habitual response?

  • Do not deny your urges or control your behavior
  • Put yourself in the right context with the right driving forces
  • Move yourself away from distractions/temptations
  • Align yourself with friends or support groups with similar mindsets and long-term goals

As Joseph Goldstein, a famous American Vipassana practitioner once famously said – “If we are facing in the right direction, all we have to do is keep on walking”. Prepare your context such that it sets the wheel in motion without friction.

Get organized