When Psychologists isolate the personal qualities that predict “positive outcomes” in life, they consistently find two traits: intelligence and self-control. So far researchers still haven’t learned how to permanently increase intelligence. But they have discovered, or at least rediscovered, how to improve self-control.
Most major problems, personal and social, center on failure of self-control:
- compulsive spending and borrowing,
- impulsive violence,
- under achievement in school,
- procrastination at work,
- alcohol and drug abuse,
- unhealthy diet,
- lack of exercise,
- chronic anxiety,
- explosive anger
Poor self-control correlates with just about every kind of individual trauma: losing friends, being fired, getting divorced, winding up in prison.
Of the two dozen character strengths listed in researchers questionnaire to people, self-control was the one that people were least likely to recognize in themselves. Conversely, when people were asked about their failings, a lack of self-control was at the top of the list.
One of the most prolific studies ever conducted on managing desires was done in Germany. The study included over 200 men and women wearing beepers. The Germans wore beepers that went off at random intervals seven times a day, promoting them to report whether they were currently experiencing some sort of desire or had recently felt such a desire. The painstaking study, led by Wilhelm Hofmann, collected more than ten thousand momentary reports from morning until midnight.
Desire turned out to be the norm, not the exception. About half the time, people were feeling some desire at the moment their beepers went off, and another quarter said a desire had just been felt in the past few minutes. Many of these desires were ones they were trying to resist. The researchers concluded that people spend at least a fifth of their waking hours resisting desires, between three and four hours per day.
The most commonly resisted desire in the beeper study was the urge to eat, followed by the urge to sleep, and then by the urge of leisure, like taking a break from work to do a puzzle or game instead of writing a memo. Sexual urges were next on the list of most resisted desires. The people studied were relatively good at avoiding naps, sex, and the urge to spend money, but only mediocre at passing up food and soft drinks. When they tried resisting the lure of television, the Web, and other media sirens, they failed nearly half the time.
As you can see self-control determines a lot of what happens in our life good or bad.
So how do you increase your self-control. It comes from willpower. In my studies of willpower, I have determined really just a few facts you need to know so you can increase your self-control and willpower.
Willpower is finite. Meaning you have a limited amount of it. That is why it is important to take care of the tasks that are important when your willpower is the strongest. This is why many people work out in the morning or read in the morning. You are rested and your ability to focus on the tasks are at its highest. Why do you think most people who try to work out at night end up skipping more often? Because their willpower is depleted.
Food drives your willpower. When you are hungry or you lack the proper nutrients in your body, your willpower gets depleted. Why do you think diets fail so much. People are trying to eat less food, and instead they end up starving themselves depleting their willpower, thus losing self-control and then end up overeating. You must eat to lose weight, but it must be the right things.
Decision fatigue. Have you ever heard of the CEO, Executive, or politician that had an affair with the intern or assistant? Why does this happen? I am sure there are many reasons, but one of them is they lack the willpower at the end of the day. ( I am not giving them an excuse for the behavior here) However, many of these poor decisions are done after a long work day or travel trip. These high level positions require lots of decisions to be made all day long, which is very draining on a persons willpower and they ultimately lose control. The next time you find yourself in a situation where a decision you are making has a high value to it, be sure you are well rested. How many times have you heard someone say, “sleep on it before making that decision.” It isn’t that you get to think about the decision longer. It is because when you wake up you will have more energy and willpower and think clearer.
Have you ever noticed a particular time of the day when you lose self-control or lack self-control? Are you putting the most important tasks at the beginning f your day when you are the most rested?
Try to implement a few of things I suggest and let me know what happens. I look forward to hearing from you.
To your success and your future.