Remarkable Self-Mastery

Unveiling the Hidden World of Individuals with Remarkable Self-Mastery (It’s Simpler Than You Imagine)

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“If only I possessed greater self-restraint.”
“I lack the fortitude of a steel will.”
“I yearn for the pleasures of life, not solely enduring its hardships.”

When people find out about my lifestyle, they often make comments.

I’m someone who eats a lot of fruits and veggies, exercises regularly, saves money, and reads or writes every morning before work. I have good self-control. And sticking to this lifestyle isn’t hard for me; I don’t struggle to avoid unhealthy foods, stay on the couch, or resist sales.

Because of this, I’ve wondered why some people find it easy to resist temptations while others find it tough.

To figure this out, I started looking into the science of willpower. I ended up reading more than 25 academic papers over two months.

Now, I want to share what I’ve learned with you. Think of it as a story about how researchers discovered what people with good self-control already knew.

The fortunate people who can control themselves well.

I have some good and not-so-good news for those who think they need more willpower to achieve their goals, whether in work, school, diet, sports, or anything else.

First, the not-so-good news: Having strong self-control is linked to lots of good things in life. People who are good at controlling themselves tend to do better in school, have fewer mental health issues, get along better with friends and family, and are less likely to do things impulsively like binge eating or drinking too much alcohol.

And there’s more: They’re also happier.

In contrast to the idea that self-control means being strict and making sacrifices, those with strong self-control usually feel happier than others right now. They also tend to be more content with their lives overall. ”

(I’m sorry if you were secretly wishing they’d at least be miserable.)

Some researchers think self-control is really important for humans. They say it’s one of the best things our brains can do. But is it really that amazing?

Well, here’s some good news: Having good self-control doesn’t mean you’re always fighting against things you want to do. The kind of self-control that leads to good results is often easier than people think. It’s not just about having strong willpower or discipline.

In this article, we’ll talk about why that’s the case. We’re not saying that resisting temptations in the moment doesn’t work (actually, it works most of the time). Instead, we want to show that good self-controllers usually use other strategies.

Resisting temptations can make us feel tired, and some people feel more tired than others.

In the research about self-control, scientists often take the idea quite literally. They want to see what happens when people try to resist temptations.

One common way they study this is with a method called the dual-task paradigm. It has two parts:

First, people do something that requires them to resist temptation, like not eating cookies when they’re right in front of them. Then, they do a different task, like solving puzzles. What they’ve found in many of these studies is that when people use self-control in the first task, they don’t do as well in the second one.

From these findings, researchers have concluded:

Resisting temptations can make you feel tired. They call this feeling ego depletion. Self-control is like a muscle, and using it too much can make it weaker, which is called the muscle/strength model of self-control.

Here’s a simpler version:

But here’s the thing: The good life outcomes we talked about earlier aren’t based on studies about ego depletion. They mostly come from studies where people answered questions about how much self-control they have. So, until recently, we didn’t know exactly why these good things were happening.

Do some people just have stronger self-control muscles, so they don’t get as tired after saying no to things? That’s what many studies about ego depletion suggest.

Luckily, we don’t need to guess anymore because some German researchers tested this idea. They did experiments where people had to do two things at once, and they also asked them questions about self-control (using the same questions from the studies about the good life outcomes).

What they found was surprising: People who are good at controlling themselves actually got more tired after using self-control. They ate more candy and took riskier chances in a game after trying hard to control themselves. More candy? Riskier choices?

Trait self-control didn’t help prevent ego depletion; individuals who considered themselves good at controlling their actions actually appeared to have weaker, rather than stronger, self-control abilities . ”

The researchers found something surprising. They called it ironic because it wasn’t what they expected. They discovered that having good self-control traits didn’t help people when they felt mentally exhausted. Instead, those who thought they were good at controlling themselves actually seemed to struggle more.

So, what does this mean? If being naturally good at self-control doesn’t help when we’re mentally tired, what really leads to positive life outcomes?

People who are really good at controlling themselves don’t feel tempted as much in their everyday life.

While I was looking into this article, I kept finding one paper that caught my attention, even though it wasn’t exactly about self-control. It seemed like a lot of people in the self-control field were talking about it because it had some unexpected discoveries.

This paper talked about everyday temptations, or basically, how desires work in our daily lives. They used a method called the “experience sampling method” to study it.

The researchers in Würzburg, Germany, gave around 200 people beepers to wear for a week. Whenever the beeper rang (seven times a day), they were asked to share their current wishes or desires. If they had a desire, they were asked some questions to understand it better. Sometimes, they were also asked about their situation, like if they had been drinking alcohol or if they were alone or with others.

The study found some expected things:

  • About half of the time, people felt like doing something.
  • Mostly, they wanted to eat, sleep, drink, watch TV, or spend time with friends.
  • When they tried, they could resist these urges around 80% of the time.

But the surprising part was about people who are really good at controlling themselves. They didn’t have fewer desires overall, but they had fewer tough ones: They didn’t struggle as much with their desires.

So basically, people with strong self-control have fewer hard times dealing with their everyday wants.

The researchers also said that people with high self-control are good at dodging temptation, not just fighting it.

This idea makes sense if we think about how habits play a role. Habits make things automatic, which can help in resisting urges.

To stay away from things that tempt you needs self-control. It needs thinking ahead, knowing yourself well, and being ready for what might happen. It’s like a strategy to control yourself, helping you use your self-control better. If you avoid temptations, you won’t have to use up as much willpower to resist them. This means you won’t feel as tired or weak from trying to resist them all the time. “

Studies show that people with high self-control:

  • Snack less on unhealthy food
  • Stick to exercise routines better
  • Meditate more regularly

This suggests that they rely on habits to make good choices easier.

But this doesn’t mean they’re equally good at everything. They’re best at controlling themselves at work or school.

So, strong self-control is about building good habits and breaking bad ones. It’s not just about saying “no” all the time.

This idea challenges the belief that self-control is just about resisting urges. It seems there’s a difference between easy and hard self-control.

Lastly, people who are good at self-control aren’t super

good at resisting temptations all the time. They’re just better at avoiding situations where they might be tempted. This way, they save their energy for when they really need it. So, being good at self-control might mean being smart about avoiding temptations before they even happen.



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