Your ego speaks a thousand voices, and every voice you answer becomes you in its expression. You are a product of your choices. You can choose to be the procrastinator or the go-getter, the tidsoptimist or the punctual, the achiever or the dreamer, the power is in your hands. So why is it that we humans so easily give in to our crumbled ways of life and embrace the habits that are not aligned with our true desires? Why is the simplest solution to our problems – the mere exertion of self-control seems so epidemically herculean?
Giving in feels much easier than acting consciously and taking responsibility for our actions. We have a tendency to always justify our reckless succumbing to our temptations. But every time we promise to not be tempted and do not commit to it, we get stuck in a never-ending loop.
It is a loop that compounds our behavior over time to form our personality. The decisions you make today can affect your future in unimaginable ways. Hence, self-control is crucial to achieving your desires and becoming who you wish to be. If you can master self-control, you can master your life.
What is self-control?
Self-control is your capacity to use your willpower to resist temptations for reasons that will serve you in the long run. It demands the sacrifice of your old and non-functional ways of being so that you can make space for the new you.
Self-control seems herculean primarily because you perceive it as a punishment rather than an investment in your future self. We often fail to realize how our present actions define who we become in the future. What you invest your energy in makes you and builds your character. Self-control ceases to feel like a task the moment you change your perception about it.
For instance, when you sacrifice television to accommodate daily workouts, you become healthier. Each time you use your willpower to not procrastinate, you take one step closer to your goal instead of one step farther. Self-control is nothing but self-love. If you take care of yourself at the present, your future self will be forever grateful to you. 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 lack meaning. For instance, you wish to have a perfect summer body to impress the girl you just met but the moment you discover that she is engaged, you lose motivation. Instead, how different do you think your attitude would be if your determination to pursue your goal was simply to become healthier? 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 bring you back up.
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 your short-term goals 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 temptations. For instance, if you are trying to avoid smoking, stop hanging out with people who do. Not that you have to stop being friends but just do not be around them when they smoke. If you are someone who cannot resist checking social media, delete these apps from your home screen. 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 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 the results of your first attempt become the input for the second “Test” phase and you re-enter the feedback loop.
6 reasons why self-control can change your life
The power of self-control is tremendous and exercising it in your daily life is the most effective way to ensure that your present actions are in alignment with your future goals. Following are the six reasons why self-control is your superpower:
1. Increases success rate
Self-control is your key to success because thoughtful decisions result in fuelling your goals rather than fuelling your impulses. Successful people are always efficient at optimizing their time so that they can achieve the most in the least amount of time. They prioritize things to make their lives simpler. When you prioritize, you become aware of what is most important to 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 life. Ever had tough financial situations? If yes then you can recall the shift in your emotions and energy when it finally sorted 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! And your ego will start taking charge of your life. The more you empower your ego, the less connected you will feel with your soul. You may have all things in life that you want but will lack what you absolutely need. However, self-control will bring into your awareness the duality of life. After all, 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 the promotion-focus, insight, and 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 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 to success. Steven Pressfield rightly said, “resistance is the most toxic force on 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. Your objective judgment will allow you to put things in perspective and rationalize why and how resistance will stagnate you in the long run. This will give you the willpower to pursue your goals.
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 in turn 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 can be excruciatingly difficult to resist your temptations but you can start by taking baby steps every day. The key is to always remember how your present actions will affect you in the long run.