Self-control is the ability to manage and change your responses in order to avoid negative behaviors, promote positive ones, and achieve long-term goals. Self-control has been demonstrated to be beneficial to one’s health and well-being in studies.
People feel that self-control is required to achieve common goals such as exercising consistently, eating well, not procrastinating, giving up bad habits, and saving money.
For most of us, self-control is at the top of the list of things that are in short supply in our life. Self-control came in last when participants were asked to describe their character strengths in research that took place in 54 countries and 50 U.S. states.
The ability to manage our moods, emotions, and behavior is known as self-control. Tim Armstrong, the CEO of AOL, had to apologize for publicly terminating an employee, which was a recent public example of a failure in self-control. Armstrong apologized, saying, “It was an emotional response.”
What Is Self-Control?
People use a variety of terms for self-control, including discipline, determination, grit, willpower, and fortitude.
Psychologists typically define self-control as:
- The ability to regulate one’s conduct in order to avoid temptation and achieve one’s objectives.
- The ability to resist undesired actions or cravings by delaying pleasure.
- A finite resource that can run out.
Nonetheless, other studies believe that self-control is partly dictated by genetics, and that some people are just born with it.
Using these expert tactics and guidance backed by scientific research, you may achieve more self-control in any situation.
Self-control is being recognized by more scientists as a power we may use to live a more successful and meaningful life. However, self-control is a finite resource that depletes with time.
We’re less likely to hold our cool the next time we’re faced with a situation that requires self-control if we exercise control on one occasion.
The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What We Can Do to Get More of It, by Kelly McGonigal, explains how self-control works, why it matters, and what we can do to get more of it. Trying to keep your cool, stick to a budget, or say no to seconds all require the same amount of strength.
Because every act of willpower depletes willpower, exercising self-control can lead to the loss of self-control… if you do resist the enticing tiramisu, you may find it more difficult to concentrate when you return to your desk.”
Fortunately, there are a number of things we can do to reduce willpower depletion and improve our capacity to practice self-control, including the eight suggestions below.
1. Look at the big picture.
According to a study, abstract and global or high-level thinking helps people maintain self-control. That is, people are more likely to practice self-control when they can see the forest for the trees and aren’t distracted by specific details.
When working on a long-term project, for example, it’s easy to become irritated by the numerous incremental steps required to get there.
Instead, reminding yourself and others in your team of the end goal on a regular basis helps to maintain self-control by preventing discouragement.
2. Know the perils of inadequate sleep.
According to a Harvard Business Review article, sleep deprivation depletes the fuel needed for self-control by draining glucose in the prefrontal brain. It is replenished by sleep.
This was discovered to create a difference between ethical and immoral behavior at work the next day, such as fabricating receipts. Those who slept less than six hours were more likely than those who slept more than six hours to participate in deviant work activities. Sign up for our once-weekly Business Class: The Brief Newsletter to keep informed.
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The ramifications for business owners are just too significant to be overlooked. “Organizations need to give sleep greater respect,” says lead researcher Christopher M. Barnes.
Executives and supervisors should remember that the more they push workers to work late, come in early, and answer emails and phone calls at all hours of the day and night, the more unethical behavior will creep in.
Are you putting too much pressure on your employees? Do you urge your coworkers to make sleep a priority in their lives? Do you set a good example for others to follow? It is not beneficial for businesses to have tired employees.
3. Relax already.
According to popular self-control theories, we should endeavor to regulate our impulses, resist temptations, and actively exercise willpower.
It appears like nothing could be further from the truth. Researchers from the University of Illinois discovered that persons who were primed with terms like “start” or “get on with it” were more prone than others to make rash decisions that jeopardized their long-term goals.
Those who were prepared to “relax” or “halt,” on the other hand, found it easier to avoid rash decisions. “Our research reveals that the calm state is superior at limiting the attraction of temptations,” explains Dr. Dolores Albarracn. This could have an impact on how we manage people.
Pushing them to “move on” may result in more risky behavior or impulsive decisions.
4. Do some short bouts of exercise.
Do you find that you don’t have enough time to complete a whole fitness program? The good news is that brief bouts of fairly strenuous exercise are all you need to improve your self-control strength in this area.
Self-control is controlled by the prefrontal cortex, and research published in Science Daily demonstrates that short bursts of exercise enhance blood and oxygen flow to the prefrontal cortex, which could explain the improvement in self-control ability. Plan to add a quick burst of activity to your daily routine, no matter how busy you are.
5. Get digital self-control support.
There are numerous apps that can assist you in exercising self-control, including apps that can assist you in exercising self-control when online.
Other options include a self-blackmailing service to keep you from quitting—whether it’s writing a blog or losing weight; Stick.com to keep you committed to any goal; GymPact to ensure you never miss another workout, as well as other similar workout tracking apps; and Mint.com or Expense Manager to keep track of your spending and help you make better financial decisions.
6. Know yourself.
Emotional self-control, often known as impulse control, is one of the most important aspects of emotional intelligence. To manage your emotions and impulses, you must first understand yourself. Are you, for example, prone to reacting rashly to problems?
Do you find it difficult to stop talking once you get started? Are you able to remain calm and optimistic in the face of adversity? Can you keep your cool in a tense situation? A seasoned leader’s capacity to control disruptive emotions and impulses is a sign of maturity.
Self-awareness comes first, followed by self-management. Here are two emotional intelligence tests to help you better understand yourself in this area:
The Emotional Quotient Inventory and the Emotional Competence Inventory are two tests that measure emotional intelligence. Take the free online VIA Inventory of Strengths to see how you rank on self-control measures. It’s a psychological examination of 24 character strengths, one of which is self-control.
7. Avoid decision fatigue.
The quality of our decisions is influenced by our ability to regulate ourselves. According to Roy F. Baumeister, author of Willpower: Rediscovering The Greatest Human Strength, people’s willpower is depleted after a series of tiny decisions, and their self-control is impaired.
Our decisions suffer as a result of decision fatigue. Some people, for example, prefer not to make a decision at all; others, on the other hand, may make impulsive decisions or ones that are more prone to illogical bias.
Avoid making significant decisions at the end of the day, when you have already made a slew of other decisions, as we all do during the course of a day.
According to one study, certain court judges have been known to make incorrect rulings towards the end of the day. Put some aspects of your life on autopilot so you don’t have to make as many decisions as you otherwise would.
Steve Jobs, for example, wore 501 jeans and black turtlenecks all the time. Only blue or grey suits are worn by President Obama. He told Vanity Fair, “I’m trying to make fewer decisions.” “I don’t want to have to make decisions about what I’m going to eat or what I’m going to wear.”
I have far too many other choices to make… You must concentrate on your decision-making abilities. You must establish a routine for yourself. You can’t be distracted by trivia throughout the day.” Take some ideas from this and see what you can come up with.
8. Sip some lemonade.
Baumeister discusses the function of glucose in self-control in an interview with the American Psychological Association. The chemical glucose transports energy to the brain, muscles, and other organs and systems through the bloodstream.
“Glucose is fuel for the brain,” Baumeister explains, “and acts of self-control lower blood glucose levels, which predict poor performance on self-control exercises and tests.” Willpower may be restored by boosting blood sugar levels.
To increase your ability to maintain self-control, he recommends replacing glucose on a regular basis, even if it’s just with a glass of lemonade.
Remind Yourself of the Consequences
Lack of self-control can harm your self-esteem, education, profession, finances, relationships, and overall health and well-being, just as it can help you achieve your goals and enhance your physical and mental health.
Keeping these consequences in mind might help you stay motivated while you attempt to improve your self-control.
A Word From Verywell
Self-control is a valuable talent that allows us to control our actions in order to attain our long-term objectives. Self-control is essential for goal achievement.
While self-control is a finite resource, research shows that there are things you can do over time to enhance and increase your willpower.