“He who reigns within himself, and rules passions, desires, and fears, is more than a king.” –John Milton

Self- Control is the Key to Success and more so Well-being

The ability to completely control your emotions and to not let them run you is called self-control. It is one of the most desirable qualities a person can have. If you do let emotions run our lives, it has the potential to wreak complete havoc in your life. Emotions can cloud intelligence and often prevents us from doing what we know we must do. Self-control equals self-discipline.

Self-control is essential for success in any field. If we were to conduct a study on successful people, we would find that they all possess the quality of self-control in the highest degree. No wonder the Bible says it’s one of the fruits of the Spirit. It is meant for our good and worth cultivating. God would never steer us wrong.

Why Self-Control Is So Important

Let us consider it like this is self-control a matter of genetic luck, or can it be taught? It is seen that though we are all biologically prewired, nature is not as separable from nurture as once it was presumed. While our natural dispositions tend to be more plastic in childhood, it is seen that we can change later in life by adopting more of an “I think I can” mindset. All of us will definitely face momentary temptations that do distract us from our long-term goals. It is our capacity to deal with them which depends on our ability to bring the distant consequences of our actions to the present to undermine the appeal of a given temptation.

“Self-control is a key factor in achieving success. We can’t control everything in life, but we can definitely control ourselves.” –Jan McKingley Hilad

Let us consider some steps for cultivating and engaging in Self-Control

Self-Control Tip 1– Meditate

Meditation actually trains your brain to become a self-control machine (and it improves your emotional intelligence). Even simple techniques like mindfulness, which involve taking as little as five minutes a day to focus on nothing more than you are breathing and your senses, improves your self-awareness and your brain’s ability to resist destructive impulses. Now you see Buddhist monks appear calm and in control for a reason.

Self-Control Tip 2 – Eat

Consider this to be a counter intuitive category, especially if you are having trouble controlling, you’re eating. Your brain burns into the storehouse of glucose when attempting to exert self-control. If your blood sugar is low, you are far more likely to succumb to destructive impulses. Sugary foods do spike your sugar levels quickly and leave you drained and vulnerable shortly thereafter. Eating something that provides a slow burn for your body, such as whole grain rice or meat, will give you a longer window of self-control. So, make sure you eat something which gives you a fighting chance.

Self-Control Tip 3 – Exercise

Getting your body moving for as little as 10 minutes releases GABA, a neurotransmitter that makes your brain feel soothed and keeps you in control of your impulses.  For instance: If you are having trouble resisting the impulse to walk over to the office next door instead of using the lift just keep on walking. You will have the impulse under control by the time you get back.

Self-Control Tip 4 – Sleep

When you are tired, your brain cells’ ability to absorb glucose is highly diminished.  As explained earlier, your brain’s ability to control impulses is nil without glucose. What is worse, without enough sleep you are more likely to crave sugary snacks to compensate for low glucose levels. So, if you’re trying to exert self-control over your eating, getting a good night’s sleep every night is one of the best moves you can make.

Self-Control Tip 5 – Ride the Wave

Desire has a strong tendency to ebb and flow like the tide. When the impulse you need to control is strong, waiting out this wave of desire is usually enough to keep yourself in control. The rule of thumb here is to wait at least 10 minutes before succumbing to temptation. You will often find that the great wave of desire is now little more than a ripple that you have the power to step right over.

Self-Control Tip 6 – Forgive Yourself

A vicious cycle of failing to control oneself followed by feeling intense self-hatred and disgust is common in many attempts at self-control. These emotions typically lead to over-indulging in the offending behaviour. When you slip up, it is critical that you forgive yourself and move on. Do not ignore how the mistake makes you feel; just do not wallow in it. Instead, shift your attention to what you are going to do to improve yourself in the future.

Psychology of Self-Control

Self-control is basically self-discipline. It is the ability to control reactions and rash behaviour, and to put in check undesirable habits and actions. This quality of character is not a negative and limiting behaviour, as some people might believe. When self-control is present and used wisely with common sense, it does become one of the most important tools for self-improvement and for achieving goals.

To put it in pointers:

  • It is the skill that enables you to say “no” and “enough” to yourself.
  • It is the ability to put boundaries, know when to stop and when not to overdo.
  • It is the ability to abstain from harmful extremes of behaviour and actions.
  • It is the ability to avoid eating unhealthy food or too much food.
  • It means being able to stop doing anything that might be harmful for you and for others.
  • It is you, your consciousness, your real essence that does control your subconscious and habitual behaviour and automatic responses.

This has to be the case but it is not always so!

Hence, it is good to practice Emotional Detachment for Happier Life

  • Imagine how free, relieved and happy you would be, if you could stay calm and poised in stressful situations
    Let go of negative thoughts and feelings
    • Stop taking things personally
    • Protect yourself from stressful people

Self-control is vital for overcoming obsessions, fears, addictions, and any kind of impulsive behaviour. It puts you in control of your life, your behaviour, and your reactions. It improves your relationships, develops your patience and tolerance, and is an important tool for attaining success and happiness.

What Are the Benefits of Self-Control?

Here are a few of the benefits of self-control and how it can help you:

  • It keeps in check self-destructive, addictive, obsessive and compulsive behaviour.
  • It gives you mastery over your life, and brings balance into your life.
  • Self-control helps to keep over-emotional responses in check and moderation.
  • Self-control eliminates the feeling helplessness and being too dependent on others.
  • It helps to manifest mental and emotional detachment, which contributes towards the peace of mind.
  • It enables to control moods and reject negative feelings and thoughts.
  • Self-control strengthens your self-esteem, confidence, inner strength, self-mastery and willpower.
  • It enables you to take charge of your life.
  • This ability makes it possible to abstain from undesirable behaviour in various situations.
  • It makes you a responsible and trustworthy human being.
  • It helps you resist temptations in order to indulge in things that can harm your health or waste your time.

What Are the Obstacles to Self-Control? Why it is difficult to gain and maintain self-control?

Here are a few reasons:

  • Lack of knowledge and understanding what self-control really is.
  • Strong and uncontrolled emotional responses.
  • Reacting to outside stimuli, without thinking first.
  • Lack of discipline and willpower.
  • Lack of the desire to change and improve.
  • Considering this ability as a limiting and unpleasant activity.
  • The wrong belief that its possession might eliminate fun and joy.
  • Lack of faith in oneself and in one’s abilities.
  • To possess this ability, you need to eliminate these obstacles.

“Self-discipline begins with the mastery of your thoughts. If you don’t control what you think, you can’t control what you do. Simply, self-discipline enables you to think first and act afterward”. -Napoleon Hill

How to Increase Self Control: This is the Key

The more self-control you have, the better your life will be, and the more mastery you will have over it. Here are a few tips for increasing this ability.

1. Identify the areas where you lack control and discipline

The first step would be to identify in what areas of your life you need to gain more self-control.

Where do you find yourself lacking this skill? Possible areas could be:

  • Overeating, and eating junk food
  • Addiction to shopping
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Spending too many hours working and leaving no time for anything else
  • Addiction to gambling
  • Watching too much TV
  • Smoking
  • Obsessive behaviour
  • Being quick to get angry

2. Become fully aware of your uncontrolled emotions

Try identifying and becoming aware of the emotions that you do not control, such as anger, dissatisfaction, unhappiness, resentment or fear.

3. Thoughts and beliefs

Identify the thoughts and beliefs that push you to behave in an uncontrolled and unrestrained manner. Pay attention to what thoughts and what beliefs trigger automatic impulses and reactions? Identify these thoughts and beliefs, trying to understand them and find out whether they are reasonable and desirable, will reduce impulsiveness and rash reactions.

4. Thinking about the consequences of your behaviour

After identifying all the above issues, devote a few minutes every day for thinking about the consequences of this behaviour and how your life would be different without them.

5. Affirmations

Several times a day, especially when you need to display self-control, repeat for a minute or two one of the following affirmations:

  • I am in complete control of myself.
  • I have the power to choose my emotions and thoughts.
  • Self-control brings me inner strength and leads me to success.
  • I am in control of my reactions.
  • I am in charge of my behaviour.
  • I am gaining control of my emotions.
  • I am the master of my life.
  • Day by day, my ability to control my feelings and thoughts is increasing.
  • Self-control is fun and pleasure.

6. Visualization

Visualize yourself acting with self-control and self-restraint. Take one of the instances where you usually act with lack of control, and visualize that you are acting calmly, with self-mastery and restraint.

7. Willpower and self-discipline

Your self-control will improve considerably, if you work on developing and increasing your willpower and self-discipline through appropriate exercises. This is actually the most important step for developing this essential skill.

If only you could control yourself. If you had more willpower, you could finally lose those last 10 pounds. If you had more self-control, you could finally stop procrastinating, save for retirement, stick to an exercise routine, and avoid various vices such as alcohol and cigarettes. There is a lot riding on the mere force of will.

While many of us struggle with willpower and self-control, most people also seem to believe that this is a skill that can be learned and strengthened. Fortunately, research has also drawn similar conclusions and does suggest that there are a number of things that you can do to improve your self-control.

Practice Self-Control coupled with willpower and immerse yourself into the vibe of Self- Discipline which is the most positive way to live life! You will gradually see how you and your life are changing for the better.

“I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.”–William Henley

Trishna Patnaik, a BSc (in Life Sciences) and MBA (in Marketing) by qualification but an artist by choice. A self-taught artist based in Mumbai, Trishna has been practicing art for over 14 years. After she had a professional stint in various reputed corporates, she realized that she wanted to do something more meaningful. She found her true calling in her passion that is painting. Trishna is now a full-time professional painter pursuing her passion to create and explore to the fullest. She says, “It’s a road less traveled but a journey that I look forward to every day.” Trishna also conducts painting workshops across Mumbai and other metropolitan cities of India.


Image courtesy of William Fortunato.