Self-Control: Why Have It?

A recent study described at Psychology Today confirms the obvious: People with greater self-control are more likely to achieve their goals. “Goals” mean anything from planning your day to having a rewarding career to losing weight.

The less obvious question: Why do some people have more self-control than others?

It’s not just luck or chance. It’s not genetics. Not everything is genetics, people! The very concept “control” implies a deliberate act of will. People with self-control are people with a strong will.

It’s fashionable to sneer at free will and self-control in some circles; the interesting thing is that those circles always consist of people who never exercise much self-control OR free will. Always consider the source.

I notice that people with substance abuse problems have little self-control. Psychology calls it a lack of impulse control. Again, that’s obvious. But what’s interesting is to watch people who overcome problems like substance abuse — the ones who quit, and who don’t go back. They learn to master free will and self-control. Most will say HOW? But to me, that’s not the real question. The real question is: WHY?

Because they start to value their lives a lot more.

Valuing of life is really what it’s all about. Self-esteem, self-respect and self-control mean that your life is important to you. Because your life is important to you, you’re motivated to do the almost obvious things it takes — e.g. self-control — in order to get the things done that you want done.

Even a person with high self-control does not achieve things of little interest to him or her. The self-control only gets used with things that matter.

We only exercise our free will and control with things that matter to us. Even an addict makes it his business to get his drug of choice, often against frightening and restrictive legal barriers. If you think about it, we ALL exercise self-control where it’s important to us.

The question is: How important is LIFE to you? Specifically, YOUR life? That’s where the less obvious issues become really interesting.


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