How to train self-control and prevent too much of it
Learn how to train self-control. First read what is meant by self-control, the connection with self-regulation, self-discipline, and willpower, about methods how to train self-control and how you can prevent the disadvantages of too much self-control.
Content of Train Self-Control but not too much
- What is self-control?
- Self-control depends on values and goals
- What counts in self-control
- Self-control definition
- Self-control and self-regulation
- Self-control and self-discipline
- Self-control and conscientiousness
- Self-control and willpower
- Trained self-control
- How do I get more self-control
- Self-control can be or become a habit
- Self-control in certain areas of life
- Self-control examples
- Methods of self-control
- Too much self-control is disadvantageous
- People with too much self-control lack spontaneity
- Self-control in moderation versus too little or too much self-control
- How to teach self-control to a child
- How to train more self-control
- Punishment or reward to train more self-control
- How to stay focused at work
- How to follow your eating rules to lose weight
- What can I say about my self-control
What is self-control?
Self-control is the conscious, mental, and physical control over oneself.
Control and self-control can refer to different things. For example, on the control and self-control of the mobility of the body or on mental control. When it comes to self-control, I involve mind and body. So it’s about being in control of yourself mentally and physically.
Self-control can be an innate, an acquired, or a trained ability. Innate self-control is a personality trait. In all three cases it is a behavioral characteristic.
Self-controlled behavior refers to voluntary acts in which a person engages to advance longer-term goals despite temptations, e.g., dispense with a pleasure to get on with work. Or that you don’t eat certain foods or less food in order to improve your figure.
It is not necessarily a feature of self-control that self-controlled action can only be achieved with effort.
Self-control depends on values and goals
The success or failure of self-control depends on a person’s values and goals. Not everyone wants to become a successful entrepreneur, not everyone sees great happiness in a lot of money, and not everyone wants to have a dream figure. It’s about whether a person comes into conflict with the real self and whether they are pursuing their real goals.
When someone has set the goals that are right and achievable for him, self-control becomes easier and is usually followed to the right extent. If, on the other hand, a goal is not chosen correctly and is difficult to reach, if at all, self-control will soon drop sharply until the goal is given up.
What is part of self-control
I should be more specific in describing self-control. And the question arises as to whether and to what extent one should monitor and measure control over oneself.
The practice of self-control includes coping with conflict, namely avoiding temptation and consciously choosing between immediate and delayed reward in order to achieve a goal or to delay achievement.
It would be going to be long if I listed everything that belongs to self-control. I mention a few:
- To do your workload
- To be neat and clean
- To be diligent
- To stay focused during work and wherever it is necessary
- To be punctual
- To fulfil duties
- To fulfill obligations and responsibilities
- To adhere to certain norms of society
- Perseverance and effort to achieve long-term goals
- To resist temptation
- To have control over one’s feelings
- To have your temper in your hand
- To not interrupt others
- To be planning fun after work
- To maintain regular physical training
- To do without too much sweet food and eat healthily
- And more
Self-control is the voluntary regulation of behavior, thoughts, emotions and attention impulses in the event of currently pleasing temptations or distractions in order to achieve set goals. See also self-control on Wikipedia.
Self-control is a form of voluntary control in which an intention (cognitive preference) is shielded from competing impulses, needs and desires from the self (emotional preferences). In self-control, the regulative effect of goals is in the foreground (goal pursuit). (Baumann_Kuhl, University Trier, Germany management diagnostic) and self-control and the reasons behind our goals.
According to Baumann and Kuhl (self-regulation and self-control by Nicola Baumann & Julius Kuhl, University of Trier and University of Osnabrück, 2000/2001), self-control includes: goal pursuit, planning ability, coping with failure, self-discipline, fearful self-motivation, impulse control and conscious goal-oriented attention.
Self-control and self-regulation
Self-control and self-regulation are two different forms of voluntary control. Self-regulation should be flexible in order to adapt it to the requirements of the respective situation. This also gives self-control a flexible character, which can bring advantages.
With flexible self-regulation, needs, feelings and values are taken into account in decisions and are not suppressed. Goals are implemented flexibly and creatively.
With self-regulation, self-motivation comes into play in a positive sense. With it unpleasant tasks are done without much self-conquest.
Self-control and self-discipline
To be in control of yourself mentally and physically, you have to be disciplined. So self-discipline is a prerequisite for self-control.
A high level of self-discipline does not guarantee that you will be able to withstand a distracting impulse. This is about impulse control.
Self-control and conscientiousness
Self-control is part of conscientiousness. However, there is a risk that conscientiousness will be exaggerated and further fueled by excessive self-control.
Self-control and willpower
If you have a strong willpower, self-control and self-discipline will be easier. A certain amount of willpower can be innate like self-control or it can be trained.
It takes willpower to have a great desire for a sweet dish, but not to eat it, for a cigarette, but not to smoke, or to resist other impulses. Keeping your goals set is part of self-control. One goal would be to determine when and how much sweet food you can eat or when and how many cigarettes you can smoke every day.
If the will is not strong, there is a loss of self-control so that tasks to reach a goal are not being done efficiently. Too little will can be caused by unrealistic goals and unsolvable tasks. Decreased will shows itself as failure to carry out tasks, listlessness and deliberate distractions.
How do you get more self-control
How do you train more self-control
You train self-control by setting clear goals and setting rewards and penalties in order to complete the necessary tasks on time, e.g., if I get this task done today, I can go out tomorrow evening.
Self-control can be or can become a habit
Self-control is a strength of character. If you practice self-control, it becomes a habit in many areas of life. Once self-control becomes a habit, it is easy to be well self-controlled.
Self-control in certain areas of life
Most people are more self-controlled in some areas of life than in others. Some people are hardworking when it comes to work, but without self-control when it comes to eating. With other people it is exactly the opposite.
Think about in which areas of life you are controlled and in which less or not at all. Set goals in the areas where your self-control is low. Establish penalties and rewards until you have sufficient self-control in these areas as well.
You want to lose weight, but you can hardly resist temptation. You have children for whom you have sweets in the house and you eat from it again and again. Label the candy you have in the house for your children: Children only! Nevertheless, allow yourself something sweet every now and then. You can stop sweet cravings by giving the body what it needs. Eat enough high protein foods, vegetables, fruits, and good fats.
You have a task or schoolwork to finish and a friend calls and wants to meet with you. It is tempting to put off work until the next morning and meet with your friend. But what if you don’t get up early enough in the morning? Tell your friend that you will call him once you’ve finished your work or reschedule the meeting to another day.
Ask yourself where you see the bigger advantage, in quitting school and college and getting short term fun, or graduation, climbing the corporate ladder fast, and earning well to have a better life.
Ask yourself what the good will be if you now go with less food or sweets as usual so that you will soon have reached your dream figure, or if you eat too much as always and reproach yourself for never losing weight.
I’ve always put work before pleasure. I finished my studies years before my fellow students. Today, tens of years later, I tell myself that I should have allowed myself more amusements. But it was more important to me to achieve my goals than to have a quick, passing pleasure. You have to find a good balance between work and pleasure.
Methods of self-control
- Set clear goals and set a schedule for them.
- Answer the question, what is the benefit of exercising self-control in order to achieve your goals.
- Minimize temptation which simplifies self-control.
- Establish penalties for non-compliance and rewards for completing necessary tasks.
Too much self-control brings disadvantages
Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman (2004) in a positive psychology handbook (Peterson, C., and ME Seligman. 2004. Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification. Oxford: Oxford University Press.) argue that there is no disadvantage to it having a lot of self-control. Michael Brownstein writes in self-control and Overcontrol: Conceptual, Ethical, and Ideological Issues in Positive Psychology that too much self-control prevents spontaneity in an uncontrolled manner. He says self-control, as understood positively, benefits some people more than others. He refers here, among other things, to race and socio-economic status.
Too much self-control leads to self-mortification. In this case people force themselves to deprivations. Self-mortification can have a specific goal and be carried out over a set period of time. Long-term mortification and chastisement is often associated with disadvantages and can cause psychological problems.
Brownstein describes how he divided everything up during his school days and studies. It started with the time to get up and the organization of the whole day. He had set goals during his studies that he saw like contracts that were punished for failure. Only after completing his studies, did he allow himself a fixed time a week to be spontaneous. I would say that this is still too much self-control (= overcontrol).
Excessive self-control leads to delaying gratifications and resisting temptation. People who overly control themselves, have difficulty making decisions and make decisions slowly and too carefully. This not only takes away the joy of life, but prevents greater success in life, as well as reaching a higher management level. With too much self-control (= overcontrol) you limit yourself and that can have a damaging effect.
People with too much self-control lack spontaneity
People with excessive self-control are tightly organized, sticking to tasks that they sometimes do repeatedly without need. They limit themselves, deny satisfaction and pleasure, and isolate themselves from normal social life.
Spontaneously making an unfamiliar decision can be fun and can change your life in a positive way. I share Brownstein’s opinion. In order to have a good life, it is important to be happy and to feel good. Practicing excessive self-control (overcontrol) does not make you happy. It prevents you from indulging in special pleasures, which is important, however. As Brownstein points out, uncontrolled spontaneity is a prerequisite for this. You can’t set a time for pleasure and happiness. Excessive self-control would cause deficiencies in the sense of special joys.
Brownstein, M., & A. Madva. 2012. Ethical automaticity. Philosophy of the Social Sciences 42(1): 67–97. The philosophy and science of self-control
If one is controlled while working, staying at work until it is done, this can lead to better alternatives and alternative courses of action being overlooked and thus preventing greater success. If you take a break in between, have some fun, and enjoy your time, you can then become aware of better alternatives.
If there are conflicts during the achievement of a goal, self-control stands in the way of the creative solution to a conflict.
A positive attitude towards pleasure improves your frequency versus overcontrol
I remember an article in which it was described that someone who drinks a glass of wine from time to time with a guilty conscience has greater damage from alcohol than someone who regularly drinks a little too much wine. One person controls himself excessively and blames himself when he loses control, the other enjoys. The second one stays healthy because he has a good attitude towards pleasure and therefore a good frequency. The control freak has a bad frequency that makes him sick.
Self-control in moderation versus too little or too much
Of course, there are many good sides to self-control. But excess also has disadvantages. People who have a high level of self-control from an early age are financially successful and are in a higher social class than those who grow up with little self-control. Studies have been made on this. However, it is often the case that children who are taught excessive self-control later become obedient and subordinate to an authority such as one in the corporate hierarchy above themselves.
People with a high level of self-control are conventional and follow rules. These characteristics prevent new ideas and spontaneous reactions, which is an advantage in some situations and in some areas of professional and private life.
People with too little self-control cannot postpone rewards and immediately pursue impulses and needs. On the other hand, people with too much self-control suppress impulses and needs in order to achieve a specific goal. Other goals and needs are neglected.
It is to be welcomed when a person has the ability to increase or decrease his or her self-control depending on the situation. Too little self-control as well as too much self-control should be avoided. This should be taken into account when training yourself for more self-control or raising a child.
How to teach self-control to a child
How do you teach self-control to a child? And how do you raise a child for self-control? If the child adheres to the expected self-control – for example, learning for a certain period of time, tidying up his room every day, the child can be rewarded with a little joy. If the child does not keep the expected self-control, it can be punished.
If the parents exaggerate rewards and punishment, the child can become a self-control freak. This prevents the child from getting a higher position later in life, because that requires spontaneity what is missing when the child is too self-controlled.
In which areas of life is it important to you that your child is self-controlled?
For example, that your child
- keeps his room tidy
- does his / her homework in the afternoon before he / she starts playing
- behaves well during meals
- comes home immediately after school
- helps with household chores and cooking
How can you teach your child self-control, especially if they don’t want to obey the rules you have set? You can do that with punishment and reward. For example: Only after you’ve tidied up your room is there something to eat you may watch a video. Or: After you have done your schoolwork, you can play. Or: If you pass this exam, you will receive double your pocket money.
But do not exaggerate rewards or punishments. If your child learns only thanks to rewards, that’s not good. It is intended to draw attention to the fact that a certain level of self-control in life is beneficial.
How to train more self-control
Think about the areas in which you would like to be more controlled. Some examples:
- get your workload done
- be punctual
- eat less
- avoid certain foods or beverages
- smoke less or quit smoking
- exercise physically several times a week
- don’t interrupt others during a conversation and listen to others better
- groom yourself more
- be tidier
- be more organized
Do the following:
- Tell yourself that it makes sense to control yourself in order to achieve important goals.
- Set rewards for self-controlled behavior to achieve a certain goal. Reward yourself after reaching each sub-goal.
- Force yourself to behave in a certain way over a period of 4 to 6 weeks. This way, a certain behavior becomes a habit and you don’t have to try harder. An example here is the brushing of your teeth, which you conditioned as a child. Today brushing your teeth is part of the daily ritual.
- Subliminals are also helpful in improving self-control. They change the inner programming. You need to hear each subliminal twice a day for several weeks.
Listen to the Control Your Emotions Subliminal twice a day for at least 6 weeks.
and the Control Your Mind Subliminal
Find more helpful Subliminals
Punishment or reward to train more self-control
If you want to punish yourself for failing to keep a resolution, you run the risk of failing to punish yourself. So, in exercising self-control, rewards are better. Whatever area you want to be more in control of yourself, set rewards for following the behavior you want. Some examples:
How to stay focused at work
To avoid being distracted while you work, turn off the phone and notifications. After you have finished your workload, you can call back callers and answer emails. You can look forward to having a glass with friends, a good dinner, or other joys after work.
You can set short and long-term goals for getting work done or achieve a certain goal, and set rewards accordingly. Example: If you have worked hard for a few hours a day for five days, you can plan a trip for the weekend. On the other hand, if you do not adhere to the guidelines, you will have to work a few hours on the weekend.
If you have achieved a certain goal, reward yourself with a new outfit, or whatever you wish for. Choose a reward which makes you looking forward to it while you work until you achieve the goal.
How to follow eating rules to lose weight
If you lose a set number of pounds within a certain time, you are allowed to buy new clothing or something you wish for. Do not reward yourself with something to eat.
What can I say about my self-control
I think that I am self-controlled to the right degree in the most important areas of my life. When I want to do a task, I stick with it. When I have to do a task that I don’t enjoy, I do it in increments and reward myself with a little joy after each increment. I allow myself enough breaks. This is even important if you look at a screen many hours a day.
I have exercised five times a week for many years without needing any motivation. For a few years now I have to talk myself into it, which I don’t always succeed in doing. I always feel good after I’ve trained and that’s reward enough.
I smoke too much. If I am invited to dinner in a non-smoking household, I have no problem not smoking for a few hours. But when I’m in my house and want to smoke a cigarette, I can only delay it for a short time. No, I don’t force myself to have better control of myself here either.
Self-control is not necessary when it comes to eating. I’ve been eating raw for 25 years and that’s why the saturation point works. I know when I’ve eaten enough. There is no desire for sweets. This only happens when the body is not getting enough nutrients. With the raw food you get more nutrients.
When I want to buy something but don’t need it, I buy it. One should enjoy life and beautiful things bring pleasure.
I live by the principle: do what you enjoy. That’s not exactly a healthy attitude. But in my opinion, it is better to live briefly, well, and with sufficient joys. Denying yourself joy over and over again can make you sick. Therefor it is better to live with joy and pleasure, what I am not unnecessarily exaggerating and also not the self-control.
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