You finally got your yearly bonus and decide to go for a little shopping. Since you have the tendency to overspend, you set yourself a budget to shop for only 25% of your bonus. But once you reach the shop you are pleasantly surprised to see that everything is on sale. So now your lack of self-control kicks in and you are absolutely tempted to grab almost everything!
We all have been in situations like this and are all aware of the war rationale plays in our minds. Situations like this where you want to bite off more than you can chew makes for decisions that may benefit you at present but are certainly detrimental in the long run.
Self-control is self-care. The decisions you make today affect your future self in unimaginable ways. Your decisions and actions after all create the story of your life. If your deeds are mindful and at par with your highest self, you have nothing to worry about. Your future self will thank you for it. However, if your deeds are self-deprecating, you will become resentful of yourself in the future since you did not take care of yourself when you had the time.
What is self-control?
Self-control is your capacity to use your will-power to resist temptations for reasons that will serve you in the long run. It is not an easy process. If it was, accomplishing things in life would be a piece of cake and there would be no suffering, no sacrifice.
It is natural to be a victim of temptation, we all are especially in this 21st century. In today’s world, our social structure is social media! It thrives from capitalizing on people’s emotions making resistance so difficult these days. To regain self-control the most important thing to do is to shift your perspective. Stop seeing self-control as a punishment, instead think of it as a present for your future self.
Self-control is about delaying your gratification for a bigger treat in the future. What you invest your energy in makes you and builds your character. For instance, when you sacrifice television to fit in some exercises every day, you become slimmer six months down the line. When you save up instead of investing in impulsive shopping, you can perhaps use that money for a trip to your favorite destination. The choice is yours. The Marshmallow Experiment conducted in the 1960s proves that children who delayed gratification when younger had higher grades, better resilience to handle stress when older, etc.
What does psychology say about self-control?
Studies found two aspects that regulate self-control: effort and initiation. Most people fail to accomplish self-control because they are not in alignment with any long-term objectives of their goal. Often times our goals are small and without meaning. For instance, you may want a perfect summer body to impress the girl you just met but when you find out that she is seeing someone else you completely lose your motivation. Instead, how different do you think your attitude would be if your determination to pursue your goal was not for impressing someone but for simply being healthy? When your motivation is fueled by the long-term benefits of your goal, you come into alignment with your true needs. Even when you feel demotivated, the meaning of your long-term goal will be enough to motivate you.
Self-control resolves the conflict between your short-term and long-term objectives. What it means is every time you resist temptation, you make a compromise with your future self. This perspective of prioritizing the long-term benefits over the short-term ones is what makes self-control effortless.
Research also found that practicing a strategy of pro-active avoidance by creating an environment that is in congruence with your long-term goals increases self-control. You can achieve this by creating an environment that is devoid of your temptations. For instance, if you are trying to avoid smoking, stop hanging out with people who do. It is not that you have to stop being friends with them but do not be around them when they smoke. The sooner you create this environment the easier it will be for you to avoid your temptations.
It is important to initiate ways to increase self-control at an initial stage as it becomes difficult to do it over time. It otherwise creates a negative neurological cycle wherein every time you give in to your temptations, you create resistance. This in turn increases your chances of giving up. If you decide to give up once starting the same process again will seem excruciatingly difficult. Unless of course, your willpower is stronger than the force of your resistance.
Self-Regulation Feedback Loop
Test–operate–test–exit (TOTE) loop was introduced by Charles Carver and Michael Scheier when they developed the cybernetic model for self-control. According to this model, self-control is a cyclical process in which one sets a goal and moves closer to it until finally, one exits the loop when the goal is accomplished. It has three main ingredients of self-regulation: standards, monitoring, and operating.
Standards are the goals or the desired outcomes of the self-control process. It determines all the actions that you need to take to bridge the gap between your current and desired state. Since standards define the direction for self-regulation and the ease of self-control, it is crucial that you set your standards right.
It is also important that you are aware of any discrepancies between your current state and the standard. You should be able to acknowledge if your actions are creating the desired results or not. This is the process of monitoring.
Finally, comes operation, where you take concrete steps in the direction of your desired goals. This is the stage where you take the necessary steps for self-regulation. If the steps you take are positive that help you make considerable progress, you will exit the feedback loop. If not, then you have to take the results of your first attempt as an input for the second “Test” phase and re-enter the feedback loop.
6 reasons why self-control is your superpower
1. Increases success rate
Self-control is key to success because when you are thoughtful about your decisions you are fuelling the goals that you would otherwise use to fuel your impulses. The time and resources are now utilized to achieve your goals.
Successful people utilize their time effectively to achieve the most in the least amount of time. They use the strategy of prioritization to make their lives simpler. When you prioritize, you become more aware of what is beneficial for you and what is not. This makes you more efficient with your time and hence more productive. In the long run, you program yourself for success.
2. Grounds you
You feel grounded when you have less chaos and more control in your life. Ever had broke days? If yes then you can recall the shift in your emotions and energy when your financial situation finally sorts out. You would have felt more powerful and guarded with money and the opposite without it. Similarly, when you exercise self-control you invite this feeling of groundedness in all aspects of your life. You become more controlled and balanced that increases the clarity of your thoughts and a calm endeavor that allows you to grow faster in life.
3. Keeps your ego in check
If you are the kind of person who always responds to your impulses, you will eventually start feeling lofty and ungrounded! In the sense that your ego will start taking charge of your life. The more you empower your ego, the less connected you will feel to your soul. You may have all things in life that you want but will lack what you absolutely need. However, self-control will make you aware of the duality i.e., life. Egoic needs are temporary, they are only food for your persona and not for your soul.
4. Increases creativity
A study found that promotion-focused people, i.e., people who are goal-oriented, willing to take chances, and are motivated by the future rewards of their actions are known to be creative. Fa-ChungChiu in 2014 conducted a study that examined how self-control increases creativity. Results showed that exercising self-control increased promotion focus and insight problem-solving performances of participants. Thus, self-control increases promotion focus which in turn positively increases creativity.
5. Personality development
Needless to say, when you exercise self-control you become a better person. Mastering self-control is equivalent to mastering your emotions. With all the stress and anxiety of our modern world, it sometimes gets difficult to have an appropriate emotional response. But with your consistent use of willpower, you create a positive neurological pattern of self-improvement. As a result, you also accomplish the herculean task of inhibiting your ego from reacting and instead coax it towards responding.
6. Decreases resistance
Resistance is the biggest enemy of creativity and creativity is the key factor for success. Steven Pressfield rightly said, “resistance is the most toxic force of the planet. To yield to resistance deforms our spirit. It stunts us and makes us less than we are and were born to be.”
Exercising self-control every day will increase your capacity to say no to unnecessary things and yes to things that benefit you in the long run. Activities such as meditation or yoga will calm and balance your mind and at the same time increase your self-control. This will in turn enable you to judge things objectively. An objective judgment will allow you to put things in perspective and rationalizes why and how resistance will be stagnating in the long run. This will give you the willpower to pursue your pleasure.
Self-control is your superpower because it is the basis of your self-growth. Practicing self-control every day will imbibe discipline and balance the wants of your ego with the needs of your soul. This will create a state of harmony in your psyche that will put things in perspective. Instead of fueling your emotions, you will begin to realize how leveraging your instant gratifications will compound to your long-term success.
I know that it is difficult to resist your temptations but start by taking small steps every day. As research suggests, always remember how it will benefit you in the long run.