Learn to practice self-control to be…unchained & free

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“It’s all right letting yourself go, as long as you can get yourself back.” ~Mick Jagger.

Besides several things happening around me with several people I love and also with me, this is the quote that made me reflect upon the necessity to learn self-control in order not to lose ourselves in addictions, emotions, weaknesses.

A great deal of our unhappiness, frustration or inability to achieve what we set our minds on can be attributed to lack of self-control. So whether you’re trying to lose weight, be more positive, quit smoking, quit caffeine, not text your ex when you feel lonely, not being a paranoid jealous girlfriend, or simply connect less often on Facebook, every time probably your emotional response overrode all sense of logic and you yielded to temptation to get an end result of frustration with yourself that in the end did not make you that happy.

What I have learned is that temptation comes in many forms, often so potent, so animal, that it seems impossible to resist. Eating too much, drinking too much, spending too much, cheating on someone, or letting the heart rule the head. Thus, the first step in practicing self control is recognizing weakness situations in which we may crack and let ourselves go. Once, we do that, we need to understand how self-control works. Once we get to the bottom of that, it will be far easier for us to call on our spare reserves.

Bottom line is that it is easier to indulge than to hold back. So, the power of will is essential in enacting self-control. For example, it’s easier to act as if you’re immune to the calories you’re inhaling, rather than look for a healthier meal option. So one of the secrets of self control from my point of view lies in being able to move away from the focus of ‘right now’. Because we crack at the perspective of a “I must do it now – I can’t resist” instinct, instead of anticipating the future consequences and lack of gratitude to following that doomed instinct of emotional reaction.

I believe it is good to trigger your willpower sequentially. You have to practice self control in order to know how to properly apply it, exactly like with any skill. For example, if you just have no control over how much money you’re spending, maintain absolute, rigid control over expenses for a week. This will boost your confidence enough to try it for a month. The idea that you can change your life in 30 days holds much merit. If by the end of the month you have earned a big pat on your back, you probably won’t want to go back to your habit. The same with losing weight or eating healthy. But you need to be persistent and see the end goal of what a bit of self-control can bring in your life.

Then another motivation to self control in a particular situation is to think of someone else you may know going through the same issue. Do you really want to experience what that person did after yielding to temptation? I am sure you can always find a similar example – things that happen to us, as much as we might like to lament are not that unique and seeing the frustration it brought to others, may motivate us to do things differently.

I am the kind of person that preaches living in the moment. I practically live by the simple rule that we regret more the things we haven’t done, than those we do. However, in addition to this, practicing self-control does not ruin the fun or spontaneity, but it simply makes us more powerful and helps us calibrate to the things we live in the moment without regretting because we choose those things that make us live it up and also give us satisfaction for living them: be it a learning experience (good or bad), be it a strong feeling, be it a boost of adrenaline.

If what I wrote seemed just a subjective view, it is interesting to read that psychologists have found that self-control is strongly associated with what we label success: higher self-esteem, better interpersonal skills, better emotional responses and, perhaps surprisingly, few drawbacks at even very high levels of self-control.

So what about practicing some self-control this autumn after a summer of letting go? 🙂

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