Self-Control

Control or restraint of oneself or ones actions or feelings.

— Self-Control, 12

Self-con·trol
control or restraint of oneself or one’s actions, feelings, etc.

Educate your children to self-control, to the habit of holding passion and prejudice and evil tendencies subject to an upright and reasoning will, and you have done much to abolish misery from their future and crimes from society.Benjamin Franklin

Self-control or self-control is the ability to control one’s emotions, behavior and desires in order to obtain some reward later, and is the capacity of efficient management to the future. In psychology it is sometimes called self-regulation.

Do not bite at the bait of pleasure till you know there is no hook beneath it.Thomas Jefferson
If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins.Benjamin Franklin
Maybe it would be better to acknowledge, like the Greeks, that a lot of behavior we call addiction is really a love of pleasure that carries the force of habit. We become addicted mostly because of the central issue in all self-control problems, which is the disproportionate value we place on short-term rewards.Daniel Akst
Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like him.Source Unknown
Teenage boys, goaded by their surging hormones run in packs like the primal horde. They have only a brief season of exhilarating liberty between control by their mothers and control by their wives.Camille Paglia
In the modern world, self-control buys a good life indeed. Having self-control to spare is rare enough nowadays that the marketplace lavishes huge rewards on society’s scary new self-control elite, those lords of discipline who not only withstood all that boring stuff in graduate school, but keep themselves thin by carefully regulating what they eat after flogging themselves off to the gym at the crack of dawn. It’s as if they got the news ahead of the rest of us-no doubt by waking up earlier-that self-control may well be the most important trait of the twenty-first century.Daniel Akst

Diet and Self-Control?

Many things affect one’s ability to exert self-control, but self-control particularly requires sufficient glucose levels in the brain. Exerting self-control depletes glucose. Research has found that reduced glucose, and poor glucose tolerance (reduced ability to transport glucose to the brain) are tied to lower performance in tests of self-control, particularly in difficult new situations.

Only one-fourth of the sorrow in each man’s life is caused by outside uncontrollable elements, the rest is self-imposed by failing to analyze and act with calmness.Author
You must admit you have self-control before you can use it.Carrie Latet
The organization controlling the material equipment of our everyday life is such that what in itself would enable us to construct it richly plunges us instead into a poverty of abundance, making alienation all the more intolerable as each convenience promises liberation and turns out to be only one more burden. We are condemned to slavery to the means of liberation.Raoul Vaneigem
The only person over whom you have direct and immediate control is yourself.Stephen R.
We are no longer in a state of growth; we are in a state of excess. We are living in a society of excrescence. The boil is growing out of control, recklessly at cross purposes with itself, its impacts multiplying as the causes disintegrate.Jean Baudrillard

Self-control is directly related to the pressure an individual may face.

Good Pressure: When an individual is in a competitive, yet non-judgmental and non-prejudicial environment, the individual may want to be like those around them. An individual may become motivated and inspired and gain self-control.

Bad Pressure: When an individual is in a judgmental and prejudicial environment and there is no competition, an individual may become depressed and unmotivated, losing self-control.

No Pressure: When an individual is free and there is no competition, and can do what one may feel, self-control is based on how an individual may feel. Since there are no other individuals to compare, an individual may be less motivated or more motivated depending on the urgency of whatever they are doing.

Self-Control is also known as impulse control or self regulation. Some psychologists prefer the term “impulse control” because it may be more precise. The term self regulation is used to refer to the many processes individuals use to manage drives and emotions. Therefore, self regulation also embodies the concept of willpower. Self regulation is an extremely important executive function of the brain.

As a result, the highly civilized man can endure incomparably more than the savage, whether of moral or physical strain. Being better able to control himself under all circumstances, he has a great advantage over the savage.Lafcadio Hearn
A man should conceive of a legitimate purpose in his heart, and set out to accomplish it. He should make this purpose the centralizing point of his thoughts. It may take the form of a spiritual ideal, or it may be a worldly object, according to his nature at the time being; but whichever it is, he should steadily focus his thought forces upon the object which he has set before him. He should make this purpose his supreme duty, and should devote himself to its attainment, not allowing his thoughts to wander away into ephemeral fancies, longings, and imaginings. This is the royal road to self-control and true concentration of thought. Even if he fails again and again to accomplish his purpose (as he necessarily must until weakness is overcome), the strength of character gained will be the measure of his true success, and this will form a new starting point for future power and triumph.James Allen
When force of circumstance upsets your equanimity, lose no time in recovering your self-control, and do not remain out of tune longer than you can help. Habitual recurrence to the harmony will increase your mastery of it.Marcus Aurelius

Eight Suggested Categories of Self Control Methods

Physical Restraint and physical aid: The manipulation of the environment to make some response easier to physically execute and others physically more difficult illustrates this principle. Clapping one’s hand over your own mouth, placing your hands in your pockets to prevent fidgeting, using a ‘bridge’ hand position to steady a pool shot all represent physical methods to effect behavior.

Changing the stimulus: Manipulating the occasion for behavior may change behavior as well. Removing distractions that induce undesired actions or adding a prompt to induce it are examples. Hiding temptation and reminders are two more.

Depriving and satiating: One may manipulate one’s own behavior by affecting states of deprivation or satiation. By skipping a meal before a free dinner one may more effectively capitalize on the free meal. By eating a healthy snack beforehand the temptation to eat free “junk food” is reduced.

Manipulating emotional conditions: Going for a ‘change of scene’ may remove emotional stimuli, as may rehearsing injustice to motivate a strong response later.Treating an activity as “work” or “fun” can have an effect on the difficulty of self control.

Using aversive stimulation: Setting an alarm clock to awake ourselves later is a form of aversive control. By doing this we arrange something that will only be escapable by awakening ourselves.

Operant conditioning: The use of a token economy, or other methods or techniques unique to operant conditioning may be seen as a special form of self-control. It can take great self control to stay off drugs or to stop smoking.

Punishment: Self-punishment of responses would include the arranging of punishment contingent upon undesired responses. This might be seen in the behavior of whipping oneself which some monks and religious persons do. This is different from aversive stimulation in that, for example, the alarm clock generates escape from the alarm, while self-punishment presents stimulation after the fact to reduce the probability of future behavior. Punishment: is more like conformity than self control because with self control there needs to be an internal drive, not an external source of punishment that makes the person want to do something. There is external locus of control which is similar to determinism and there is internal locus of control which is similar to free will. With a learning system of punishment the person does not make their decision based upon what they want, rather they base it on the external factors. When you use a negative reinforcement you are more likely to influence their internal decisions and allow them to make the choice on their own where as with a punishment the person will make their decisions based upon the consequences and not exert self control. The best way to learn self control is with free will where people are able to perceive they are making their own choices.

“Doing something else”: Jesus exemplified this principle in loving his enemies. When we are filled with rage or hatred we might control ourselves by ‘doing something else’ or more specifically something that is incompatible with our response.

Quarrel not at all. No man resolved to make the most of himself can spare time for personal contention. Still less can he afford to take all the consequences, including the vitiating of his temper and loss of self control. Yield larger things to which you can show no more than equal right; and yield lesser ones, though clearly your own. Better give your path to a dog than be bitten by him in contesting for the right. Even killing the dog would not cure the bite.Abraham Lincoln

Self-Talk Helps Self-Control

Emerging research suggests talking to your-self might not be a bad thing, especially when it comes to exercising self-control. Scientists from the University of Toronto-Scarborough report that using your inner voice plays an important role in controlling impulsive behavior. “We give ourselves messages all the time with the intent of controlling ourselves — whether that’s telling ourselves to keep running when we’re tired, to stop eating even though we want one more slice of cake, or to refrain from blowing up on someone in an argument,” says Alexa Tullett, PhD candidate and lead author on the study.

“We wanted to find out whether talking to ourselves in this ‘inner voice’ actually helps.”

Tullett and associate psychology professor Michael Inzlicht performed a series of self-control tests on participants. In one example, participants performed a test on a computer. If they saw a particular symbol appear on the screen, they were told to press a button. If they saw a different symbol, they were told to refrain from pushing the button. The test measures self-control because there are more “press” than “don’t press” trials, making pressing the button an impulsive response. The team then included measures to block participants from using their “inner voice” while performing the test, to see if it had an impact on their ability to perform. In order to block their “inner voice,” participants were told to repeat one word over and over as they performed the test. This prevented them from talking to them-selves while doing the test.

“Through a series of tests, we found that people acted more impulsively when they couldn’t use their inner voice or talk themselves through the tasks,” says Inzlicht.

“Without being able to verbalize messages to themselves, they were not able to exercise the same amount of self-control as when they could talk themselves through the process.” “It’s always been known that people have internal dialogues with themselves, but until now, we’ve never known what an important function they serve,” says Tullett.

“This study shows that talking to ourselves in this ‘inner voice’ actually helps us exercise self-control and prevents us from making impulsive decisions.”

The Self-Talk Circle of Success!

Self-esteem controls performance which stimulates self-talk which reinforces self-esteem which controls performance which stimulates self-talk……. This cycle can work positively or negatively.

 Self-Control-cycle

Take Control of Your Self Talk

Change Negative Self-Talk into Positive Self-Talk for Greater Self-Control and Performance.

Poor Self Talk:
Change To:
Positive Self Talk:
I have to get a hit.
Change To:
I’d like to get a hit.
Oh my god, _______ is watching!
Change To:
The most important person to please is myself.
We have to win this game.
Change To:
This season will be successful for many reasons even if we don’t win this game.
This is the most important game of the year.
Change To:
Every game is a step towards my biggest goal: approaching my potential.
I can’t let my teammates down.
Change To:
I need to give my best effort by doing what’s important right now, on this play.
It’s essential to distinguish between events that are really beyond your control and events you caused yourself.Barbara Sher

Tips for Self Control and Avoiding Temptation

Identify Temptations

Everyone is a little different, so it is important to know what temptations are difficult for you to overcome. Some people may find that gossip is more alluring than sex. Others may find that even holding a date’s hand is too much of a temptation.

Avoid the Temptation

When we know what temptations are being the most difficult, we can prepare ourselves for those situations. In some cases we can even avoid the temptation itself. For instance, if premarital sex is a temptation, then you can avoid being in situations where you might find yourself giving into that desire. If you are prone to cheating, then you may want to position yourself during a test so that you cannot see the paper of the person next to you.

Use the Buddy System

Do you have a friend or leader that you can trust to guide you in facing your temptations? Sometimes it helps to have someone else you can talk to about your issues or even brainstorm ways you can avoid temptation. You may even ask to meet regularly with your friend to hold you accountable.

Give Yourself Alternatives

If you are tempted to lie to protect another person’s feelings, try considering other ways to word the truth so it doesn’t sound so harsh. If people around you are getting into drugs, try making new friends. Alternatives aren’t always easy, but they can be the path for you to avoid and overcome temptation.

It’s Not the End of the World

While avoiding temptation makes life a lot easier, it can be discouraging when we do give into that sin. We all make mistakes. Forgive yourself, learn from your mistake, and try harder next time to avoid temptation.

Self-respect is the root of discipline: The sense of dignity grows with the ability to say no to oneself.Abraham Joshua Heschel
The best day of your life is the one on which you decide your life is your own. No apologies or excuses. No one to lean on, rely on, or blame. The gift is yours – it is an amazing journey – and you alone are responsible for the quality of it. This is the day your life really begins.Bob Moawad
The cyclone derives its powers from a calm center. So does a person.Norman Vincent Peale
Nothing makes it easier to resist temptation than a proper bringing-up, a sound set of values – and witnesses.Franklin P. Jones
A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is…. A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in.C.S. Lewis
Opportunity may knock only once, but temptation leans on the doorbell.Author Unknown
Whoever guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from troubles.Author Unknown

Ulysses, Kids, and Self-Control

A helpful metaphor about self-control is the tale of Ulysses and the sirens. Ulysses knew that the sirens’ enchanting song could lead him to follow them, but he didn’t want to do that. At the same time he also did not want to deprive himself from hearing their song – so he asked his sailors to tie him to the mast and fill their ears with wax to block out the sound – and so he could hear the song of the sirens but resist their lure. Was Ulysses able to resist temptation? Did he exhibit self-control? No, but he was able to come up with a strategy that prevented him from acting on his impulses. It seems that Ulysses and kids ability to exert self-control is less connected to a natural ability to be more zen-like in the face of temptations, and more linked to the ability to reconfigure their environment (tying them to the mast) and modulating the intensity by which they are tempted (filling their ears with wax). If this is indeed the case, this is good news because it is probably much easier to teach kids self-control tricks to deal with self-control issues than to train them with a zen-like ability to avoid experiencing temptation when it is right in their face.

Tips for Self Control:

  1. Display tolerance, compassion, understanding, and acceptance toward those who are slower than you in developing maturity, emotional freedom, and coping abilities.
  2. Accept your human frailty in the pursuit of personal, physical, emotional, and spiritual growth. Accept the set backs and reversals which are inevitable.
  3. Be calm and considerate as you handle the growth issues in your committed relationships in marriage, family, career, community, or church.
  4. Have faith when trouble arises that may take some time to resolve.
  5. See that overnight reformations are rarely long lasting; gradual change and growth have a greater durability.
  6. Feel relaxed and calm as you face your daily schedule and the challenges it presents.
  7. Believe that your day to day efforts, sacrifices, and changes will serve you a future day.
  8. Develop a consistent philosophy of life. Take life one day at a time. Consider each day a gift.
  9. Don’t let people steal your joy.
  10. Reframe your perspective on the past, present, and future. Do not dwell on your past mistakes and failings.
  11. Do not worry about what you will become or how you will act in the future.
  12. Accept, understand, and forgive yourself for being fragile, imperfect, and weak.
  13. Wake up to the realities of life around you. Everyone with whom you come in contact is busy working through their own struggles, weaknesses, setbacks, relapses, crises, and obstacles. All of us are on the path to personal growth. There is no one exempt from this journey. It takes a lifetime to complete.
  14. Hand over and let go of the worries, concerns, anxieties, and doubts about attaining your goal.
  15. Confront your fears about attaining your goal. Remember, the world was not created in a day. Beautiful symphonies, works of art, and literary masterpieces were not created in a day. A lifetime is not lived in a day.
You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage – pleasantly, smilingly, non-apologetically – to say ‘no’ to other things. And the way to do that is by having a bigger ‘yes’ burning inside. The enemy of the ‘best’ is often the ‘good.’Stephen Covey
The first attribute that characterizes the greater man from the moron is his thicker layer of inhibition.Martin H. Fischer
An element of abstention, of restraint, must enter into all finer joys.Vida D. Scudder
Who is fit to govern others? He who governs himself.Augustus William Hare

Self-Control, and Lack of Self-Control, Is Contagious

University of Georgia study has revealed that self-control — or the lack thereof — is contagious.

In a just-published series of studies involving hundreds of volunteers, researchers have found that watching or even thinking about someone with good self-control makes others more likely exert self-control. The researchers found that the opposite holds, too, so that people with bad self-control influence others negatively. The effect is so powerful, in fact, that seeing the name of someone with good or bad self-control flashing on a screen for just 10 milliseconds changed the behavior of volunteers.

“The take home message of this study is that picking social influences that are positive can improve your self-control,” said lead author Michelle vanDellen, a visiting assistant professor in the UGA department of psychology. “And by exhibiting self-control, you’re helping others around you do the same.”

People tend to mimic the behavior of those around them, and characteristics such as smoking, drug use and obesity tend to spread through social networks. But vanDellen’s study is thought to be the first to show that self-control is contagious across behaviors. That means that thinking about someone who exercises self-control by regularly exercising, for example, can make your more likely to stick with your financial goals, career goals or anything else that takes self-control on your part.

VanDellen’s findings, which are published in the early online edition of the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, are the result of five separate studies conducted over two years with study co-author Rick Hoyle at Duke University.

In the first study, the researchers randomly assigned 36 volunteers to think about a friend with either good or bad self-control. Those that thought about a friend with good self-control persisted longer on a handgrip task commonly used to measure self-control, while the opposite held true for those who were asked to think about a friend with bad self-control.

In the second study, 71 volunteers watched others exert self-control by choosing a carrot from a plate in front of them instead of a cookie from a nearby plate, while others watched people eat the cookies instead of the carrots. The volunteers had no interaction with the tasters other than watching them, yet their performance was altered on a later test of self-control depending on who they were randomly assigned to watch.

In the third study, 42 volunteers were randomly assigned to list friends with both good and bad self-control. As they were completing a computerized test designed to measure self-control, the computer screen would flash the names for 10 milliseconds — too fast to be read but enough to subliminally bring the names to mind. Those who were primed with the name of a friend with good self-control did better, while those primed with friends with bad self-control did worse.

In a fourth study, vanDellen randomly assigned 112 volunteers to write about a friend with good self-control, bad self-control or — for a control group — a friend who is moderately extroverted. On a later test of self-control, those who wrote about friends with good self-control did the best, while those who wrote about friends with bad self-control did the worst. The control group, those who wrote about a moderately extroverted friend, scored between the other two groups.

In the fifth study of 117 volunteers, the researchers found that those who were randomly assigned to write about friends with good self-control were faster than the other groups at identifying words related to self-control, such as achieve, discipline and effort. VanDellen said this finding suggests that self-control is contagious because being exposed to people with either good or bad self-control influences how accessible thoughts about self-control are.

VanDellen said the magnitude of the influence might be significant enough to be the difference between eating an extra cookie at a party or not, or deciding to go to the gym despite a long day at work. The effect isn’t so strong that it absolves people of accountability for their actions, she explained, but it is a nudge toward or away from temptation.

“This isn’t an excuse for blaming other people for our failures,” vanDellen said. “Yes, I’m getting nudged, but it’s not like my friend is taking the cookie and feeding it to me; the decision is ultimately mine.”

Self-control separates us from our ancient ancestors and the rest of the animal kingdom, thanks to our large prefrontal cortexes. Rather than responding to immediate impulses, we can plan, we can evaluate alternative actions, and we can refrain from doing things we’ll regret. We can also take advantage of these innately human abilities by developing wisdom and willpower.

People can exercise only so much self-control

People who overtax their self-control may find they have less in reserve for later, suggests an intriguing new study that may have implications for people trying to lose weight or make other behavioral changes. But lack of sleep does not appear to affect self-control, say the researchers, whose study of 58 subjects is in the March issue of the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.

The subjects — half had stayed awake for 24 hours and half were well-rested — were shown scenes involving vomit and excrement from two movies, Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life (1983) and Trainspotting (1996). Some were allowed to express reactions; others were told to show no emotion. Later, they played an aggressive game in which they won or lost by chance. Winners were allowed to blast their opponent with a loud noise. Those who had suppressed their emotions blasted their opponent at a noise level about 33% higher than those who were allowed to show emotion, regardless of how much sleep they’d had, researchers found.

Results suggest that “people have a diminishable supply of energy that the body and mind use to engage in self-control,” says study author Kathleen Vohs, a consumer psychology professor at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management. “When people use this energy toward achieving one goal, they have less of it available to use toward achieving other goals.” That can help predict when people are likely to fail at their diets, spend too much money or misbehave with family or in relationships, Vohs says.

Results suggest loss of self-control resources isn’t the same as being tired, she says. “The ability to engage in self-control is determined by prior use of self-control, not by how much sleep one had the night before.” The study was part of ongoing research on sleep deprivation at the University of Texas-Austin.

Findings don’t suggest busy people will lash out for no reason: “Aggressive behavior involves some action by someone else that causes you to want to retaliate,” says researcher Art Markman, a psychology professor at the University of Texas. Roy Baumeister, director of social psychology at Florida State University, has done extensive research on self-control. “Most people chronically don’t get enough sleep, so it’s reassuring to suggest from this one finding that it does not have any effect on self-control of aggression,” he says. But Baumeister says the test used may not account for other factors besides self-control that could contribute to aggression, such as personality or the competitiveness of the task itself.

Sian Beilock, a psychology professor at the University of Chicago, says it’s interesting that “being taxed in terms of doing one task can have these spillover effects on another.” People may think they can compartmentalize the different tasks they do during the day, but it turns out they are all connected, she says.

The study, paid for in part by the U.S. Army, could have important implications for the military as well. Though a lab is nothing like a war zone, “it does give preliminary reason for hope that just because a soldier has been forced to stay up for 24-36 hours, it doesn’t mean they will react aggressively because they were sleep-deprived,” Markman says.

For the rest of us, Vohs recommends being more mindful of priorities:

“When you want to engage in good self-control, the best thing that you can do for yourself is set up your day so you exert your self-control resources toward that specific task you want to succeed at.”

Self-control is necessary for any spiritual progress. Unruly thoughts, attractions of the senses, lustful desires, anger, covetousness, and avarice constantly arise in the mind of the person who has no mental discipline; and these impel him to do evil deeds. If a person cannot direct his thoughts, desires, and actions according to his own will, how can he possibly direct his soul and keep his life on the path of truth? Unless the higher mind is strengthened and given the will power to master the impulses of the flesh mind, there will be little room for Virtue to dwell with that mind. Thus, central to the good life is self-control.

Irrigators lead the waters. Fletchers bend the shafts. Carpenters bend wood. The virtuous control themselves.Buddhism
Abu Huraira reported God’s Messenger as saying, ”The strong man is not the good wrestler; the strong man is only he who controls himself when he is angry.”Islam
Attack the evil that is within yourself; do not attack the evil that is in others.
Man makes a harness for his beast; all the more should he make one for the beast within himself, his evil desire.Judaism

The Brain’s Self-Control Mechanism Revealed

California Institute of Technology (Caltech) researchers have recently been able to identify the exact portion of the human brain that is responsible for exercising self-control, as in, for instance, when you decide to skip a fat-laden meal and to eat something healthier. Although it may seem simple to refuse at first, actually turning such a meal down requires a high degree of self-control, even if exercised unconsciously, and especially for people who eat them regularly. The Caltech team has managed to identify the differences that occur between the brains of people who can easily restrain themselves and those of the individuals who find doing this next to impossible.

“A very basic question in economics, psychology, and even religion, is why some people can exercise self-control but others cannot. From the perspective of modern neuroscience, the question becomes, ‘What is special about the circuitry of brains that can exercise good behavioral self-control?’

During the study, the team analyzed the behavior of 37 volunteers, who were selected from a larger number of participants. Those who remained were divided into two groups, one made up of 19 people – who exercised an amazing self-control – and the second made up of 18 test subjects, who exhibited little to no self-control. Their brains were then observed using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).

The results revealed that the levels of activity in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, or vmPFC, which had been previously associated with value-based decision-making, were very low in individuals who were able to exercise self-restraint. “In the case of good self-controllers, however, another area of the brain – called the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex [DLPFC] – becomes active, and modulates the basic value signals so that the self-controllers can also incorporate health considerations into their decisions,” Rangel says.

Prudent, cautious self-control, is wisdom’s root.Robert Burns
He who controls others may be powerful, but he who has mastered himself is mightier still.Author Unknown
Self-disciplined begins with the mastery of your thoughts. If you don’t control what you think, you can’t control what you do. Simply, self-discipline enables you to think first and act afterward.Napoleon Hill

Self-Control Quiz

Are you in control of your life? Here is a short quiz to give you some perspective on how your thoughts and actions influence your world.

Self-Control Quiz

I control how I react to situations and events. Yes_____ No _____
I control who I associate with. Yes_____ No _____
I control what I choose to read. Yes_____ No _____
I control what I do. Yes_____ No _____
I control what I think about. Yes_____ No _____
I control the positive or negative relationships I’m in. Yes_____ No _____
I control what I eat. Yes_____ No _____
I control my perspective of the future. Yes_____ No _____
I control my positive or negative self-talk. Yes_____ No _____
I control my goal setting, determination and enthusiasm. Yes_____ No _____
I control how I react to others. Yes_____ No _____
I control what I learn and which new things I will try. Yes_____ No _____
I control what life lessons my failures teach me. Yes_____ No _____
I control how I view new opportunities and change. Yes_____ No _____
I control how I handle anxiety and frustration. Yes_____ No _____

Conclusion: As you can see, you have a lot of control – if you choose to take advantage of it. Here is a suggestion to help you positively take control of your future. Each week highlight one of the fifteen quiz statements and work to improve that area for the full week. The next week choose another topic and work on it. Continue this process until you have completed all fifteen topics. Repeat as needed.

Our choices add up; each one influences others, and cumulatively a series of delightful short-term choices can leave us much worse off in the long run.Daniel Akst
Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites.Edmund Burke

Self-Control Techniques for Teenagers

By Joshua McCarron

For your typical teenager with typical hormonal fluctuations, insecurities and new life experiences, showing self-control at all times presents a challenge. Anger often creates feelings that result in violent outbursts. Other examples of loss of self-control include overeating, illicit drug use, alcohol consumption and sexual activity. A teenager’s ability to exercise self-control in difficult situations will help him avoid self-destructive behavior and stay out of trouble.

Identify Triggers and Signs

According to the Counseling Center at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, a teenager about to lose control may exhibit physical warning signs brought on by a trigger. Something as simple as someone’s tone of voice, or feeling disrespected, can initiate negative emotions. Physical reactions to triggers may include clenched fists, a clenched jaw and sweaty palms. Teenagers and their caregivers should learn to recognize the signs and triggers of an impending loss of self-control to help defuse potentially dangerous situations before they escalate.

Cognitive Restructuring

According to the American Psychological Association, cognitive restructuring means changing the way you think. An angry teen has a tendency to exaggerate her thoughts and become overly dramatic about seemingly small issues. Getting angry and losing control may actually make you feel worse. By replacing inflated negative thoughts with more rational ones, teens can maintain self-control. As an example, rather than using words such as “awful” or “terrible” to describe a situation, tell yourself that it’s frustrating but not the end of the world.

Assertive Behavior

Learning assertive behavior, not aggressive behavior, may help a teenager achieve positive outcomes when confronted with situations that cause him to lose control. According to the Counseling Center at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, “Assertive behavior involves standing up for personal rights and expressing yourself in direct ways that do not violate another person’s rights.” An assertive teenager uses “I” statements, takes responsibility for his own feelings and avoids exaggerating with words like “never” and “always.”

Football

Football provides a classic model for creating self-esteem, self-discipline and self-control in teenagers. Many football teams focus on respect, tradition and mental strength. According to Iowa State University Hapkido, “Self-control is a necessary aspect of football.” You need self -control physically to protect yourself and others in life and in practice, and mentally to help you interact with people in day-to-day life.

Deep Breathing

According to the American Psychological Association, relaxation tools, such as deep breathing, relaxation therapy, and visualization can help calm down angry feelings. A teenager can learn to breathe deeply, from the diaphragm, not the chest. In a quiet moment, teach a teen with self-control issues to visualize the negative emotions exiting her body each time she exhales, or to picture a relaxing experience from her past or imagination. Encourage her to practice deep breathing daily.

When we exercise self-control on a given occasion, we win for ourselves a little credibility we can rely on the next time around. Pretty soon we develop a reputation to ourselves that we want badly to uphold. With each test that we meet, our resolve gains momentum, fueled by the fear that we may succumb and establish a damaging precedent for our own weakness. Daniel Akst

Self-Control is a Must for Optimal Performance in Athletics

Self-control is a big deal for an athlete. An athlete’s arousal level affects physiology, including posture, breathing, adrenaline, heart rate, muscle tension, perspiration, and vision. It also affects focus, perception of time, confidence, attitude, rhythm, mechanical efficiency, and coordination. Imagine that arousal level can be measured on a scale of 0-10 with zero being asleep and ten being a wild, raging maniac (think Tasmanian Devil). Everyone has an ideal level for each performance task. Get too high and balance is lost, rushing is inevitable, and aggressiveness is excessive. Be too low and there is not enough intensity or energy to produce a ‘best effort’ performance. Arousal usually fluctuates with the environment, but it doesn’t have to. An athlete can control it by controlling the effects listed above, starting with attitude and the level of importance given to this performance. Arousal control is a skill that can be learned… with awareness and practice.

Arousal is typically too low at practice and too high in games or “clutch” situations. “Dial it up” when it is low by remembering that the only controllable thing you can do to approach your potential is whatever you are doing right now. “Dial it down” by caring less about the outcomes and more about the joy in the effort. Take deep breaths.

Great athletes know how to be comfortable being uncomfortable. Whether dialing it up or down, act as if you already are what you want to be and focus on controllable variables like rhythm and breathing to help you get there quickly. Or use an emotional trigger (like the bell for Pavlov’s dogs) to change your state in an instant.

It is important for coaches to remember to be sensitive to times when the environment is likely to get most of your athlete’s over- or under-aroused. Coach accordingly by using your brain rather than allowing your own emotions to affect your communications and make the problem worse. If you are coaching teenagers, remember, the bigger the game the more aroused your players are already. That “over –the-top” pregame speech might just as well be counterproductive rather that improving your teams performance. They might need to be calmed down instead of pumped up!

If everything seems under control, you’re just not going fast enough.Mario Andretti
And if you can’t keep your ego under control, it’s going to cost you a lot of money.Al Alvarez
Know, prudent cautious self-control Is wisdom’s root.John Bunyan
Self-control is not a problem in the future. It’s only a problem NOW when the chocolates is next to us.Shlomo Bernartzi
By constant self-discipline and self-control you can develop greatness of character.Grenville Kleiser
What self-control doesn’t mean is mindless self-sacrifice or knee-jerk self-denial. On the contrary, it represents an affirmation of self, for it requires not the negation of instinct but its integration into a more complete form of character-one that takes account of more than just immediate pleasures and pains. The self-control I’m talking about means acting in keeping with your highest level of reflection.Daniel Akst
For want of self-restraint many men are engaged all their lives in fighting with difficulties of their own making, and rendering success impossible by their own cross-grained un-gentleness; whilst others, it may be much less gifted, make their way and achieve success by simple patience, equanimity, and self-control.Author Unknown
In matters of self-control as we shall see again and again, speed kills. But a little friction really can save lives.Daniel Akst
Society cannot exist unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere, and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without.Edmund Burke
Be systematically heroic in little unnecessary points, do every day or two something for no other reason than its difficulty, so that, when the hour of need draws nigh, it may find you not unnerved or untrained to stand the test.Daniel Akst
A man makes inferiors his superiors by heat; self-control is the rule.Ralph Waldo Emerson

How to Improve Your Self-Control

Temptation comes in many forms, often so potent, so animal, that it seems impossible to resist. Eating too much, drinking too much, spending too much or letting the heart rule the head. We get instant messages from deep in our gut that resonate through the mind, trying to dictate our behavior.

One of humanity’s most useful skills, without which advanced civilizations would not exist, is being able to engage our higher cognitive functions, our self-control, to resist these temptations. Psychologists have found that self-control is strongly associated with what we label success: higher self-esteem, better interpersonal skills, better emotional responses and, perhaps surprisingly, few drawbacks at even very high levels of self-control.

People, being only human, find the constant battle with basic urges is frequently too great and their self-control buckles. However, recent experimental research by Dr Kentaro Fujita at Ohio State University and colleagues has explored ways of improving self-control, where it comes from and why it sometimes deserts us.

Based on new research, along with studies conducted over the past few decades, Dr Fujita and colleagues have proposed that abstract thinking and psychological distance are particularly important in self-control.

1.  Evidence that abstract thinking improves self-control

It never ceases to amaze just how different two people’s views of exactly the same event can be: one person’s freedom fighter is another’s terrorist. But the way in which we view people or events isn’t just constrained by unchangeable patterns of thought that are set in stone. Dr Fujita and colleagues explored the idea that simple manipulations of how we construe the world can have a direct effect on self-control. Their hunch was that thinking from a more abstract, high-level perspective increases self-control. That people who are always searching for the big picture “meaning” of things are more able to exhibit self-control. In their research, Fujita used a number of experiments to test the idea that self-control is affected by how we construe or interpret events.

People in the high-level construal condition (meaning seekers) were consistently:

  1. More likely to avoid the temptation of instant gratification.
  2. Prepared to make a greater investment to learn more about their health status.
  3. Less likely to evaluate temptations like beer and television positively.

2.  How personality and the situation affect self-control

We have each developed different amounts of self-control. Some people seem to find it easy to resist temptation while others can be relied on to always yield to self-gratification. To a certain extent we have to accept our starting point on the self-control sliding scale and do the best we can with it.

Although a few people have very high (or very low) levels of self-control, two-thirds of us lie somewhere near the middle: sometimes finding it easy to resist temptation, other times not. Naturally the exact situation has a huge effect on how much self-control we can exert. One property of different situations central to self-control that psychologists have examined is ‘psychological distance’.

Research reveals that people find it much easier to make decisions that demonstrate self-control when they are thinking about events that are distant in time, for example how much exercise they will do next week or what they will eat tomorrow. Similarly they make much more disciplined decisions on behalf of other people than they do for themselves. People implicitly follow the maxim: do what I say, not what I do.

It’s not hard to see the convergence between the idea of ‘psychological distance’ and high-level construal. Both emphasize the idea that the more psychological or conceptual distance we can put between ourselves and the particular decision or event, the more we are able to think about it in an abstract way, and therefore the more self-control we can exert. It’s all about developing a special type of objectivity.

3.  How to improve your self-control

Fujita’s studies suggest that self-control can be increased by these related ways of thinking:

  1. Global processing. This means trying to focus on the wood rather than the trees: seeing the big picture and our specific actions as just one part of a major plan or purpose. For example, someone trying to eat healthily should focus on the ultimate goal and how each individual decision about what to eat contributes (or detracts) from that goal.
  2. Abstract reasoning. This means trying to avoid considering the specific details of the situation at hand in favor of thinking about how actions fit into an overall framework – being philosophical. Someone trying to add more self-control to their exercise regime might try to think less about the details of the exercise, and instead focus on an abstract vision of the ideal physical self, or how exercise provides a time to re-connect mind and body.
  3. High-level categorization. This means thinking about high-level concepts rather than specific instances. Any long-term project, whether in business, academia or elsewhere can easily get bogged down by focusing too much on the minutiae of everyday processes and forgetting the ultimate goal. Categorizing tasks or project stages conceptually may help an individual or group maintain their focus and achieve greater self-discipline.
What makes resisting temptation difficult for many people is they don’t want to discourage it completely.Franklin P. Jones
It’s all right letting yourself go, as long as you can get yourself back.Mick Jagger
I bid you conquer in your warfare against your four great enemies, the world, the devil, the flesh, and above all, that obstinate and perverse self-will, unaided by which the other three would be comparatively powerless.Augustus William Hare
I am, indeed, a king, because I know how to rule myself.Pietro Aretino
What mattered was not what happens to you, but how you handle it. Self-command is required to overcome the dangerous misinformation of our emotions, and because for the most part the self is the only thing that we can command. We have no control, ultimately, over what people do or think. What we can influence is our understanding of these circumstances and how we respond to them.Daniel Akst

How to Develop and Strengthen Your Self-Control

By Remez Sasson

Self-control is the ability to control impulses and reactions, and is another name for self-discipline. It is not some kind of negative and limiting behavior, as some people might think. When self-control is used wisely and with common sense, it becomes one of the most important tools for self-improvement and for achieving success.

In what way does self-control help you?

  • It keeps in check self-destructive, addictive, obsessive and compulsive behavior.
  • Gives you a sense of personal mastery over your life, and brings balance into your life.
  • Self-control helps to keep over-emotional responses in check or moderation.
  • Self-control eliminates the feeling helplessness and being too dependent on others.
  • It helps to manifest mental and emotional detachment, which contributes to peace of mind.
  • It enables to control moods and reject negative feelings and thoughts.
  • Self-control strengthens self-esteem, confidence, inner strength, self-mastery and willpower.
  • It enables you to take charge of your life.
  • It makes you a responsible and trustworthy human being.

There are various obstacles to self-control, such as:

  • Lack of knowledge and understanding what self-control really is.
  • Strong and uncontrolled emotional responses.
  • Reacting to outside stimuli, without thinking first.
  • Lack of discipline and willpower.
  • Lack of the desire to change and improve.
  • Considering self-control as a limiting and unpleasant activity.
  • The belief that self-control eliminates fun.
  • Lack of faith in oneself and in one’s abilities.

Developing self-control

1) First you need to identify in what areas of your life you need to gain more self-control. Where do you find yourself lacking in self-control? Possible areas could be: Eating-Shopping-Drinking-Work-Gambling-Smoking-Obsessive behavior.

2) Try identifying the emotions that lack control, such as anger, dissatisfaction, unhappiness, resentment, pleasure or fear.

3) Identify the thoughts and beliefs that push you to behave in uncontrolled manner.

4) Several times a day, especially when you need to display self-control, repeat for a minute or two one of the following affirmations:

I am fully in control of myself.
I have the power to choose my emotions and thoughts.
Self-control brings me inner strength and leads me to success.
I am in control of my reactions.
I am in charge of my behavior.
I am gaining control of my emotions.
I am the master of my life.
Day by day my ability to control my feelings and thoughts is increasing.
Self-control is fun and pleasure.

5) Visualize yourself acting with self-control and self-restraint. Take one of the instances where you usually act with lack of control, and visualize that you are acting calmly and with self-mastery.

6) Your self-control will improve considerably, if you work on developing and strengthening your willpower and self-discipline through appropriate exercises. This is actually the most important step for developing self-control.

Self-control is vital for controlling and overcoming obsessions, fears, addictions and any kind of unsuitable behavior. It puts you in control of your life, your behavior and your reactions. It improves your relationships, develops patience and tolerance and is an important tool for attaining success and happiness.

He who lets the world, or his own portion of it, choose his plan of life for him, has no need of any other faculty than the ape-like one of imitation. He who chooses his plan for himself, employs all his faculties. He must use observation to see, reasoning and judgment to foresee, activity to gather materials for decision, discrimination to decide, and when he has decided, firmness and self-control to hold to his deliberate decision.John Stuart Mill

Why Change Is So Hard: Self-Control Is Exhaustible

By Dan Heath

You hear something a lot about change: People won’t change because they’re too lazy. Well, I’m here to stick up for the lazy people. In fact, I want to argue that what looks like laziness is actually exhaustion. The proof comes from a psychology study that is absolutely fascinating.

So picture this: Students come into a lab. It smells amazing—someone has just baked chocolate-chip cookies. On a table in front of them, there are two bowls. One has the fresh-baked cookies. The other has a bunch of radishes. Some of the students are asked to eat some cookies but no radishes. Others are told to eat radishes but no cookies, and while they sit there, nibbling on rabbit food, the researchers leave the room – which is intended to tempt them and is frankly kind of sadistic. But in the study none of the radish-eaters slipped – they showed admirable self-control. And meanwhile, it probably goes without saying that the people gorging on cookies didn’t experience much temptation.

Then, the two groups are asked to do a second, seemingly unrelated task—basically a kind of logic puzzle where they have to trace out a complicated geometric pattern without raising their pencil. Unbeknownst to them, the puzzle can’t be solved. The scientists are curious how long they’ll persist at a difficult task. So the cookie-eaters try again and again, for an average of 19 minutes, before they give up. But the radish-eaters—they only last an average of 8 minutes. What gives?

The answer may surprise you: They ran out of self-control. Psychologists have discovered that self-control is an exhaustible resource. And I don’t mean self-control only in the sense of turning down cookies or alcohol, I mean a broader sense of self-supervision—any time you’re paying close attention to your actions, like when you’re having a tough conversation or trying to stay focused on a paper you’re writing. This helps to explain why, after a long hard day at the office, we’re more likely to snap at our spouses or have one drink too many—we’ve depleted our self-control.

And here’s why this matters for change: In almost all change situations, you’re substituting new, unfamiliar behaviors for old, comfortable ones, and that burns self-control. Let’s say I present a new morning routine to you that specifies how you’ll shower and brush your teeth. You’ll understand it and you might even agree with my process. But to pull it off, you’ll have to supervise yourself very carefully. Every fiber of your being will want to go back to the old way of doing things. Inevitably, you’ll slip. And if I were uncharitable, I’d see you going back to the old way and I’d say, You’re so lazy. Why can’t you just change?

This brings us back to the point I promised I’d make: That what looks like laziness is often exhaustion. Change wears people out—even well-intentioned people will simply run out of fuel. So remember, it pays to keep some gas in the tank on the road to self-control.

Besides, what matters, when it comes to self-control, isn’t so much willpower as vision-the ability to see the future, so that the long-run consequences of our short-run choices are vividly clear. In that sense, our shortcomings in this arena are really failures of imagination.Daniel Akst
He who has learnt to control his tongue has attained self-control in a great measure. When such a person speaks he will be heard with respect and attention. His words will be remembered, for they will be good and true. When one who is established in truth prays with a pure heart, then things he really needs come to him when they are really needed: he does not have to run after them.BKS Iyengar

It Takes a Warrior to Have Self Control

There is a mean streak to authentic self-control. Think about people you know and admire for their example of self-control, those who are not ruled by their desires. Underneath what seems to be their placid demeanor you will generally find the heart of a warrior. Self-control is not for the timid and meek. If we want to follow their example and grow in self-control, not only do we need to nurture exuberance for virtue, we also need to demand of ourselves a hatred for vice. . . . I am talking about a downright nasty “spit in your eye” attitude about the vices that tempt us. Vice isn’t just confined to the “obvious” like, drugs, alcohol, and porn. Vice also prefers to live in the “grey twilight” of moral mediocrity…….in the nooks and crannies. We need self-control there too!

Men, every time you gratify yourself with a coveting glance at a good looking gal, or gorge yourself at the buffet, or make another ego puffing comment about who you know or what you’ve done. Ladies, each time you cover your mouth to whisper gossip, starve yourself so you’re more relationally marketable, or enjoy the thought that your kids are better dressed and better behaved than so and so’s kids. It’s in those grey areas that we are most vulnerable to lose our self-control. Sure, we all struggle with vice, but it is not enough to “try harder to stop”; if we really want to build the virtue of self-control in our lives, we must increasingly hate vice and all its effects. Self-control is not simply an exercise in self-improvement. It is an essential discipline in a high-stakes spiritual battle. So strike up your warriors heart and declare war on the slow creeping vice that’s looking to destroy our lives.