Developing Self-Control

Happiness & Well Being | 0 comments

Maybe it’s all those Christmas and New Year’s parties, or the fact that you’ve had to loosen your belt a notch (or several). Maybe it’s the wallet that’s still smoking a little from those holiday gift purchases. Or, maybe it’s because of those New Year’s Resolutions that are coming up. Whatever the reason, this is the season where many of us start thinking a little more seriously about increasing our self-control in some way or another. Here are a few tips on how to succeed.

It Starts With Your Attitude

The majority of psychologists, counselors, and therapists all agree that there are two basic ways of looking at the world, and you can really only subscribe to one or the other. The first is called, in clinical terms, an “internal locus of control,” and it means that you believe that life and the things that happen in it are basically under your control or influence. The second is an “external locus of control.” People with this view see their lives as the product of outside forces, such as good or bad luck or the actions of others. 

Generally, the people with an internal locus of control see that attitude transfer into increased self-control. It makes sense – if you see yourself as a free agent who is responsible for your own actions, then you won’t have any excuses for losing control!

A second part of your attitude that you can work on to increase your self-control is called self-efficacy. Essentially, self-efficacy is believing that you can and will accomplish the things you want to get done. To use a common phrase, “you gotta believe in yourself!”

Set Goals and Make a Plan


After last year’s two articles on setting goals and sticking to them, we can’t help putting in another plug for goal-setting. It really does work!

Once you’ve set a goal, make a plan for what exactly you want to accomplish, when you want to have it done by, and how you plan to do it. If there’s a certain situation that tends to trip you up (such as eating out if you’re trying to lose weight or irritating situations if you’re trying to control your temper) make a plan for how you’re going to react to that situation when you find yourself facing it.

For example, if you’re trying to spend less and tend to impulse buy when you go grocery shopping, walk yourself through the exact steps you’re going to take the next time you go to the store – and don’t include distractions!

You can also find ways to monitor your progress and keep yourself accountable. Track all your expenses, weigh yourself, or write down successes and failures so that you can watch your progress. This can also be very motivating for the times when you do lose control because you can look back on the times you’ve succeeded.

Exercise Your Willpower

Willpower is similar to the muscles in your body. If you exercise, it grows stronger. However, like muscles, willpower can also be overexerted, causing you to binge, spend, lash out, or otherwise do that thing you’re trying to quit doing. Whatever your goal is, make sure to cut yourself a break every once in a while and indulge in a healthy way. After all, self-control isn’t the same thing as self-denial; it’s about learning to enjoy good things in a way that’s good for you, and keep a rein on emotions, thoughts, and actions that could be destructive if left unchecked.

Avoid Temptation

One of the single best ways to keep in control is to avoid temptation. If there are certain places that make you want to overindulge (like the local bakery, your favorite store, or online shopping hubs), or lose control (like situations or people that strain your temper) then stay away from them!

How have you learned self-control? Share your successes in the comments below!