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The myth of self-control

People who are good at self-control

  • They actually enjoy the activities some of us resist (eating healthy, studying, exercising)
  • They have better decision-making habits
  • Some people just experience fewer temptations
  • It’s easier to have self-control when you’re wealthy - when you’re poor, the future is less certain.

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IDEA EXTRACTED FROM:

The myth of self-control

The myth of self-control

https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2016/11/3/13486940/self-control-psychology-myth

vox.com

4

Key Ideas

Brute willpower doesn't work

So we should stop worshiping self-control and start thinking about diluting the power of temptation. Because resisting temptation either only has short-term gains or can be an outright failure.

Willpower is not the lucky ticket to success

Studies have shown that people that are really good at achieving their goals are not the ones that put more effort into exerting self-control in the face of temptations, but the ones that experience fewer temptations to start with.

People who are good at self-control

  • They actually enjoy the activities some of us resist (eating healthy, studying, exercising)
  • They have better decision-making habits
  • Some people just experience fewer temptations
  • It’s easier to have self-control when you’re wealthy - when you’re poor, the future is less certain.

Self-control isn’t a special moral muscle

It’s like any decision. And to improve the decision, we need to improve the environment and give people the skills needed to avoid temptations in the first place.

SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

Self-Control

 ... is the ability to regulate and alter responses in order to avoid undesirable behaviors, increase desirable ones, and achieve long-term goals.

Research on Self-Control
  • A 2011 survey found that 27 % of respondents identified a lack of willpower as the primary factor keeping them from reaching their goals. 
  • One study found that students who exhibited 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 came to academic success, self-control was a more important factor than IQ scores.
  • A health study found that people who were rated as having high levels of self-control during childhood continued to have high levels of physical and mental health in adulthood.
  • Research has found that self-control is a limited resource. In the long-term, exercising self-control tends to strengthen it. 
Motivation and Monitoring

A lack of willpower is not the only factor that affects goal attainment.

  • There needs to be a clear goal and the motivation to change. Having an unclear or overly general goal and insufficient motivation can lead to failure.
  • You need to monitor your actions daily towards the achievement of the goal.
  • You need to have willpower.

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Self-control
Self-control

It’s your ability to resolve conflicts between your short-term desires and your long-term goals.

For example, successful self-control means sacrificing immediate pleasure (cookies a...

Why self-control matters

People who have high self-control aren’t missing out on enjoyment. Not being able to resist temptation and enjoying life are not the same things.

They tend to eat in a healthily way, exercise more, sleep better, drink less alcohol, smoke fewer cigarettes, achieve higher grades at university, have more peaceful relationships, and are more financially secure.

Biological limits to self-control

Research showed that self-control is ultimately limited by our biology. We can’t exercise effortful self-control indefinitely – the brain has to do regular maintenance to remain functional.

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Self-control

We all possess the ability to develop self-control. 

Instead of immediately responding to impulses, we can plan and evaluate our actions beforehand.

Master Self-control
  • Eat. Our brains need fuel to run properly, and when that fuel runs low, the brain has difficulty regulating our emotions. Eat high protein foods.
  • Meditate. Devote a few minutes a day to simply focusing on your breath and your senses. You will be calmer and your decision making will be sounder.
  • Sleep. Your brain’s ability to absorb glucose is significantly diminished without rest. Stay consistent with your sleep every night.
  • Exercise.
  • Force Yourself until a new habit is formed.
  • Get Others Involved. Find a support system.
  • Do Your Research. Whatever your struggle, make it your priority to be the master of it.
Self-Control

Self-control is a key component of emotional intelligence, yet in a study where two million people were asked to rank order their strengths in 24 different skills, self-control ended up in t...

Strategies for self-control
  • Meditate.
  • Eat. If your blood sugar is low, you are far more likely to succumb to destructive impulses.
  • Exercise releases GABA, a neurotransmitter that makes your brain feel soothed and keeps you in control of your impulses.
  • Sleep. When you are tired, your brain cells’ ability to absorb glucose is highly diminished.
  • Ride the Wave. Desire has a strong tendency to ebb and flow like the tide. Waiting out this wave of desire is usually enough to keep yourself in control.
  • Forgive Yourself when you slip up. Focus on what you’re going to do to improve yourself in the future.
Self-control is not fixed

Self-control is not a quality that remains stable throughout a person’s life, similar to IQ or personality. 

A person’s level of self-control tends to wax and to wane over the cou...

Why we fail at self-control
  • Factors such as negative mood, fatigue and alcohol play a large part in self-control failure.
  • Previous effort is one especially well studied factor that decreases self-control. All else being equal, a second self-control attempt after an initial one is more likely to fail than one that comes after a relatively restful period when no self-control was exercised.
Understanding self-control
  • Self-control is indeed a resource, but a renewable, psychological one.
  • Goals that are motivated from within—for reasons that are personally important to us—are more likely to succeed than those that are motivated from without.
  • Succeeding at self-control is more about the desire rather than the ability to do so.
Self-control
Self-control

It's the ability to do something that helps you in the long-term, instead of something that might satisfy your immediate desires.

But for most of the people, immediate...

What tempts us

We vary widely in terms of what tempts us.

If you take the time to look into your habits and biases, you can recognize the problems that you need to work on. Once you understand the sources of your self-control issues, you can begin directing the right resources toward fixing them.

Improve self-control at work

Take a future-oriented approach to your day, such as planning breaks and the time slots for checking emails in advance.

If you can refrain from resigning to your urges before the time you’ve assigned for yourself, you may achieve a greater hold on your overall self-control.

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Avoid willpower depletion

Building willpower is similar to building muscle. Continually exercising without giving yourself a break is not the best way to increase your strength or performance. 

...
Use your imagination
Imagination can blunt the cravings that erode your self-control.

If you imagine lying on a peaceful beach, your body will respond by relaxing. If you imagine being late for an important meeting, your body will tense in response. Use this to your advantage in building willpower.

Think about something else
You can even use your imagination to keep unwanted thoughts away. 

Every time that unwanted thought occupies your mind, consciously think about something pleasant instead. 

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Sticking to a healthy lifestyle

Staying in shape is mostly about program compliance.

It’s not about having the best fitness program, but about having one that’s good enough, eating less junk food and making sure you...

Off limits foods

Successful dieters usually declare certain foods to be completely out of bounds, or allowed only during occasional designated cheat meals, rather than expecting themselves to eat everything in moderation.

Saying no to bad habits
It might seem like a simple matter of self-control. But it turns out that people with high self-control may not necessarily be better at resisting temptation. They might just experience it less often in the first place.

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Willpower is like a muscle

Just like going to the gym and building up strength, the more you train your willpower by accomplishing tasks on a consistent basis

Self-Discipline - a series of healthy habits

Long term change is better served by building better habits, than by forcing your willpower. 

You will choose the apple over the cake for a number of times ... and then give up. Building a habit to start the day by going to the gym will work better.

Habits = “automatic” responses...

 ...to familiar environmental cues. 

They form when you engage in a behavior repeatedly in the presence of consistent stimuli.

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A Low Success Rate

New Year Resolutions typically show a low success rate, as 10% of them actually succeed.

The reason for this low rate might be our basic instincts and temptations: people give into te...

Willpower
If we strive to succeed it usually requires hard work. And hard work to achieve your desired goals requires willpower.
Willpower, while important, isn't the only thing required for success.
Emotions

Our emotions motivate us more than willpower.

If we are generous, fair and co-operative, we have an invaluable tool to motivate us to complete our goals. If we cultivate good character, compassion, and honesty, it leads to a better chance of success in our endeavors.