What is self-control?
Psychologists usually define self-control as:
- Ability to control behaviors to avoid temptation and to achieve goals.
- Ability to delay gratification and reject unwanted behavior or encouragement.
- Limited resources can be exhausted.
The importance of self-control in life
How important is self-control in your daily life? One 2011 survey conducted by the American Psychological Association found that 27 percent of respondents identified a lack of willingness as a key factor that made them not achieve their goals.
Whether your goal is to lose weight, get a bachelor's degree, or quit smoking, it's easy to believe that achieving goals is just a matter of controlling your behavior. The majority of people surveyed believe that self-control can be learned and strengthened. Researchers have also identified a number of different factors and strategies that can help people improve their self-control.
In one experiment, students who demonstrated greater self-discipline had better grades, higher test scores, and were more likely to be admitted to a competitive academic program. The study also found that when it comes to academic success, self-control is a factor that is more important than the IQ score.
The benefits of self-control are not limited to academic performance. One long-term health study found that people judged to have high levels of self-control during childhood continued to have high levels of physical and mental health in adulthood.
System "Hot-and-Cool " On self Control
Based on his research, Mischel proposed what he called the "hot and Cold" system to explain the ability to delay gratification. The heating system refers to the part of our commitment that is emotional, impulsive and encourages us to act on our desires. When this system takes over, we can succumb to our instantaneous desires and act recklessly without considering the potential long-term effects.
Good systems are part of our rational, wise determination, and allow us to consider the consequences of our actions to resist our impulses. The cool system helps us figure out how to distract us from our encouragement and find a more appropriate way to confront our desires.
Self Control reduces Ego
Research has found that self-control is a limited resource. In the long run, conducting self-control tends to strengthen it. Practicing self-control allows you to improve it over time. However, self-control in the short term is limited. Focusing all your self-control on one thing makes it harder to train your self-control on subsequent tasks throughout your day.
Psychologists call this tendency a thinning of the ego. This happens when people use their determination reservoir on a single task, making them unable to accumulate self-control to complete the next task.
The relationship between self-control and health
Self-control is also important for maintaining healthy behaviors. What you eat for breakfast, how often you exercise, and whether you go to the doctor on a regular basis are all decisions that are influenced by your level of self-control and have the potential to affect your health.
Researchers have found that self-control can have a number of potential influences on health and well-being:
In a study, children who have higher levels of self-control tend to be overweight during adolescence.
Another study found that participants who had spent their determination on unrelated assignments were more likely to succumb to the temptation when then presented with prizes.
Research also suggests that children struggling with self-control during childhood are also more likely to use drugs and alcohol in secondary schools.
While it is obvious that self-control is crucial to maintaining healthy behaviors, some experts believe that overemphasizing the importance of hard willpower can be destructive. The belief that self-control can help us achieve our goals can cause people to blame themselves when they can't resist temptation. This can also lead to a feeling of learned helplessness where people feel they can't do anything to change the situation. As a result, people may surrender quickly or simply stop trying in the face of obstacles.
How to improve self-controlWhile research shows self-control has limitations, the psychologists also find that self-control can be strengthened. Effective strategies include:
- Avoid Temptation
This is an effective way to maximize your self-control available. Avoiding the temptation ensures that you do not "use" the self-control that is available before it is really needed.
- Plan ahead
Consider possible situations that could break your determination. If you are faced with temptation, what action will you take to avoid giving up? Research has found that planning ahead can increase the willpower even in situations where people have experienced the ego-depletion effect.
- Practice using Self-control
While your controls may become depleted in the short term, regularly engaging in behaviors that require you to do self-control will increase your willpower over time. Think of self-control as muscle. While hard work can be exhausting muscles in the short term, muscles will grow stronger over time as you continue to work.
- Try focusing on one goal at a time
Setting many goals at once is usually an ineffective approach. Draining your determination in one area can reduce self-control in other areas. It is best to choose one specific goal and focus your energies on it. Once you've changed the behaviors needed to achieve the goal of becoming a habit, you don't have to devote a lot of effort to maintain it. You can then use your resources to achieve other objectives.