Self-control is a quality that all of us, no matter our age, need to develop. As humans, we aren’t always logical in thinking. We don’t always act with reason all the time. Our emotions have a huge influence in our decisions and actions day to day. The best way to achieve and maintain self-control is practice.
A good exercise to begin with
Make a list of things that we do excessively, be conscious of the disadvantages of this excess, whether they are actions or things, like yelling, eating, drinking, lying — it doesn’t matter. In the back of our minds, we know what we need to do better.
After we identify the problem or situation, we can begin to take this out of our normal routine for a week, then two weeks, until we don’t have this bad habit.
When we realize we successfully lived without the bad habit for a week, we are now ready to change even bigger habits for a longer period of time. This can be for a month or so depending on the problem.
Walter Mischel, at Stanford University, conducted a famous study that is known by many as the “Marshmallow Test.” In the 1960s, a group of 4-year-old children were given a marshmallow and promised they would get a second marshmallow if they could wait 20 minutes before eating the first one. Some of the children chose not to wait while some were able to wait the 20 minutes. The investigators of this test followed the progress of the children until they were adolescents and concluded that those who waited to eat the marshmallow had more self-control and confidence, a higher IQ, got better grades in school, had a more peaceful social life and didn’t have constant conflicts with things.
The search for instant gratification, especially with the advances in technology like cell phones, tablets, Internet and social media have a hand in "helping" us fail in self-control.
Here are some ideas, techniques and exercises to increase our self-control:
Be conscious of our emotions
We can’t control what we don’t know. We need to explore our emotions without fear and limitation, especially those emotions that prove the initial point of the change that is going to happen.
Make a list of irrational and unconscious actions and reactions
This will show that our behavior is a result of our own life history.
Practice good humor
A dramatized exaggeration in difficult times is an aggression that we do to ourselves.
When we are too radical and are too demanding of others and of ourselves, highly stressful situations provoke undesirable reactions. Prioritize what is really important to help control yourself in these situations.
When something isn’t important, let it go
Lots of times we don’t have complete and immediate control of the circumstances around us and we give in to our emotions. We need to evaluate if something is really that important that we just can’t wait any longer, especially if everyone is still angry about it and we feel it needs to be taken care of right then and there. In the end, the best solution is to allow everyone to calm down and resolve the problem when the atmosphere is no longer tense.
The decision to change needs to happen before one loses control. Only then can we begin to have order in our lives. These changes won’t happen overnight, but little by little we can become better.
Self-control demands self-determination. It will help us expand our gifts and talents to a notable level. This is the noble power of mankind.