What is self-control?
Self-control is the ability to control our feelings, emotions, and reactions. Many people struggle with self-control. For example, we need self-control when it comes to staying off social media while at work, sticking to a budget, and regulating our sugar intake.
Scientists continue to study the importance of self-control as a force we can tap into for a more successful, satisfying life. Luckily, there's a lot we can do to enhance these abilities.
The ability to keep disruptive emotions and impulses in check is the mark of a seasoned leader.
Here are eight tips to increase self-control:
1. Find more motivation.
Motivation is important in honing self-control skills. Figuring out what motivates you the most is key to accomplishing your goals. Otherwise, what is all this work for? When you look at the bigger picture instead of every detail needed to cross the finish line, you'll find yourself more motivated to get things done.
For example, when working on a long-term project, it's easy to get frustrated by the many small steps, meetings, and approvals required to finish it. Instead, periodically reminding yourself and others on the team of the end goal can help promote motivation.
2. Get a good night's sleep.
According to an article by Medical News Today, sleep deprivation impacts our brain function, specifically the prefrontal cortex, which handles reasoning, and the amygdala, which regulates emotions.
Executives and managers should keep this in mind: the more you push employees to work extra hours and answer messages and calls all the time, the more likely employees will be stressed and unhappy. As a result, they may end up cutting corners and engaging in unethical behavior.
Do you encourage your team to prioritize sleep? Do you set a good example? Tired workers are not good for business. Take note of when employees are overworked, and encourage them to openly communicate about it so you can support them accordingly.
3. Self-regulate to improve self-control.
Popular views of self-control are that we should try to control impulses, fight temptations, and actively exercise willpower. But how do you do it?
Self-regulation is a great way to increase self-control because it helps you take control of your feelings and actions. Someone who lacks self-regulation can have difficulty dealing with stress, anger, or anxiety.
According to a Verywell Mind article, self-regulation helps you better connect to your values and communicate what you need. This can help you feel more at ease.
4. Exercise to increase self-control.
Do you find yourself with no time to exercise? There's good news for you.
Short bouts of moderately intense exercise can help boost your self-control. No matter how busy you are, plan to include a short burst of exercise in your daily routine. Take note of how you feel after exercise, and you may find you have more energy throughout the day.
5. Get digital self-control support.
Accountability is key. There are many ways to outsource self-control support, including apps that you can download to your phone. They can be helpful when meeting a work deadline, ensuring that you never miss a workout, and keeping track of your meals and spending.
6. Understand your emotional intelligence.
Emotional self-control, or impulse control, starts with understanding emotional intelligence. Knowing yourself can help you manage your emotions and impulses.
For example, do you react impulsively to issues? Do you pause to listen to others' feedback? Are you able to stay composed and positive in stressful circumstances? Can you exercise patience in annoying situations? The ability to keep disruptive emotions and impulses in check is the mark of a seasoned leader.
Here are two emotional intelligence assessments to help you increase your awareness: the Emotional Quotient Inventory and the Emotional Competence Inventory.
7. Avoid decision fatigue.
Self-control has important implications for good decision-making. Decision fatigue harms these abilities.
For example, some people prefer not to make a decision at all, while others may make impulsive or irrational decisions. If possible, avoid making important decisions at the end of the day when your brain is exhausted. "Sleeping on it" can be very helpful.
Additionally, automation is your friend. Put at least some aspects of life on default so you have less decisions to worry about. That can mean using apps or simple decisions you make for yourself in advance. Steve Jobs, for example, always dressed in jeans and black turtlenecks. See how you can simplify decision-making with some simple hacks.
8. Set SMART goals.
You can find yourself losing self-control if the task at hand seems unbearable. Setting actionable SMART goals can help you avoid being overwhelmed. "SMART" goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-Bound.
Setting achievable and realistic goals can help you build discipline to complete everyday tasks in both your personal and professional life. Accomplishing your dreams, no matter the size, will result in higher motivation and increased self-control moving forward.
The takeaway: Self-control can be improved. Figure out what motivates you the most, keep an eye on the big picture, and establish SMART goals to reach key milestones. Maintain a healthy lifestyle with good sleep and some exercise. When you learn how to have self-control, you'll find it much easier to go about your day-to-day life both personally and professionally.
A version of this article was originally published on August 22, 2013.
Photo: Getty Images
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is self-control?
Self-control is the ability to resist temptation and manage your impulses. It’s an important life skill that can help you achieve your goals, stay on track, and make better decisions.
2. Why is self-control important?
Self-control is important because it helps you resist temptation and make better decisions in a role of leadership. If you can’t control your impulses, you’ll be more likely to make poor decisions that could have negative consequences.
3. How can you improve self control?
There are a few things you can do to improve your self-control, including the following:
• Set SMART goals: When you have specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound goals, you’re more likely to stay on track.
• Find more motivation: When it comes to exercise, for example, what’s your motivation for working out? If you can find a strong enough reason to resist temptation and stick with your goals, you’ll be more likely to succeed.
• Self-regulate your emotions: If you can manage your emotions, you’ll be less likely to let them get the best of you and make impulsive decisions.
• Use positive reinforcement: Reward yourself for making good decisions.
• Practice meditation or mindfulness: Meditation can help you better handle your emotions and help you self-regulate during times when you would typically have less self-control.