Key Life Skill: Self-Control

    Self-control is the ability to manage your feelings and actions logically and responsibly. Self-control is a key life skill because effective self-control allows you to make good decisions and deal with frustrations. Without self-control, it is hard to achieve your long-term goals.

    The Benefits of Self-Control

    Self-control affects every part of your life. Scientists who study human behavior have found these benefits of self-control:

    • Increased Self-esteem
    • Better Physical Health
    • Increased Willingness to Learn
    • Perseverance
    • Moderation

    When you have self-control, you understand your abilities and limits. Knowing what you can accomplish and what you still need to work on increases your self-esteem.

    Your successes boost your self-esteem and knowing you can improve even more gives you a positive mindset. Control over your thoughts, emotions, and actions is crucial to self-esteem.

    Because people with self-control positively manage frustrations, they experience less stress than other people. Stress can cause physical issues like a decreased immune system, high blood pressure, and insomnia. These issues can weaken your body and lead to poor health.

    Self-control is also a key life skill for learning and overcoming obstacles. Instead of quickly giving up when things are difficult, self-control helps you make the effort needed to learn, grow, and succeed.

    Generally, too much or too little of anything is not healthy.

    People need balanced amounts of rest, activity, work, and fun. Lack of self-control can contribute to excessive alcohol use, over-eating, taking work too seriously at the expense of life’s pleasures, or spending too much time on immediate gratification instead of long-term goals.

    Self-control helps people limit excesses in their life, so they stay balanced and physically and mentally healthy.

    Developing the Skill of Self-Control

    According to psychologists, you need to be aware of your patterns of behavior, or how and why you lose control. Practicing self-control begins with understanding what you need to change.


    Once you identify your patterns, you can change them by creating a system of rewards and punishments for yourself until you’ve gained more skill and better self-control.

    Entrepreneur magazine suggests these steps to increase your self-control at work and in life:

    • Know Your Weaknesses
    • Remove Temptations
    • Have Clear Goals and Plans
    • Create New Habits
    • Have an Escape Plan
    • Reward Yourself
    • Accept Your Mistakes

    First, you need to consider what causes you to lose self-control and why you find it hard to remain in control of your thoughts, emotions, and actions. People often have triggers or circumstances that lead to an emotional reaction instead of a logical one.

    Triggers are usually based on fear. If you fear rejection, loss, embarrassment, or even the fear of how you will handle success, you may be causing you to lose control of your emotions instead of using logic to build on your strengths.

    If your loss of control involves over-indulging in things that could harm you, remove the temptation. Don’t leave candy in your desk drawer, stop at the bar after work, over-schedule yourself, or leave every weekend open with no plan or purpose. 

    Instead, snack on vegetables, make plans with someone to go for a run, schedule family or down-time, or have an accountability partner who encourages you to take a class or exercise on the weekends.

    Building the key life skill of self-control also involves having clear goals and plans for times you face frustration and stress. Many psychologists suggest counting to 10 or taking a sip of water before you reply to someone.

    These strategies give your mind time to overcome your emotional reaction. Imaging people in their underwear breaks the psychological fear of public speaking. Taking deep breaths or a short walk before a stressful meeting can help you gain self-control.

    You will need to create new habits to replace your old ways of reacting to your triggers. You should also have an escape plan or a way to leave an emotionally charged situation before you lose control.

    A trusted friend or family member can support your efforts by helping to distract you or offer a break from the situation.

    Building self-control involves rewarding yourself when you successfully make changes to your behavior. Keep a journal of your experiences so you can reflect on your successes and build your self-confidence. Use your self-control to guide you to even greater rewards.

    And when you do react emotionally, remind yourself that learning a skill is a process. Consider why you weren’t able to stay in control and look for ways to change your behavior next time.

    Self-control is a key life skill with physical and mental benefits. Your success in life depends on having the self-control to learn, grow, and overcome challenges logically and effectively.

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