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Key Ways to Improve your Self-Control

"Most powerful is he who has himself in his own power." Seneca

Self-control is a vital skill if you want to be a great basketball player, student, musician, or artist.  Research shows the importance of self-control.  Students with higher self-control have higher IQs and higher grades.  Athletes with higher self-control work-out with more intensity and personal discipline.  It’s a crucial skill which can be improved.

Out of control?  Here’s how to strengthen your self-control.

1.       Recognize the Let-Down of Self-Control
Numerous studies have shown people who exert a substantial level of self-control in one task will experience a drop-off in their level of self-control afterward.  Plan accordingly.  Recognize you will be most vulnerable directly after a period of high self-control typically in a different area.  For example, a person who is working to have self-control with eating healthy may become angrier in the home and less able to regulate control over his or her temper.   The more you understand this principle, the better prepared you will be to counteract its tendencies.

2.       Distraction – a vital weapon against temptation
Children given the test to resist the marshmallow as a study on self-control were observed on how they were able to resist the temptation to eat the marshmallow.   Children who touched, watched, smelled and tasted the marshmallow were not able to resist like those children who faced away from the marshmallow and focused on other things such as singing or playing a game to distract them from the temptation.    Counting to 10 before your speak is a similar distraction.   Find ways to help you distract yourself from temptation. 

3.      Dream Great Dreams
Research has shown people whose thoughts centered on higher level goals such as “I want to be a Division 1 athlete” versus “I need to practice shooting today” maintained a higher level of intensity, self-discipline and quality of practice.   Be a dreamer of great dreams and fill your mind with those thoughts. 

Action Plan

1.       Write down the big dreams you have for your life and put them on your bathroom mirror.

2.       Make a plan. The next time you exert a great deal of self-control, anticipate the let-down and prepare to put yourself in a place you can succeed.  Protect yourself by eliminating temptations to let down in other areas you need self-control.   Look at your day and find the areas of vulnerability.  Ask others to help you. 

3.       Find healthy distractions. Find ways to occupy your time and thoughts which distract you from losing your self-control.    
Suggestions:  Struggling with bad thinking, addictive behaviors, or anger? Memorize a verse in the Bible or a great line of poetry.  Focus on going through this in your mind any time tempting thoughts emerge. Struggling with watching TV or video games? Unplug the device and do something you enjoy instead like basketball or guitar.  Don’t go into the room that causes you difficulty.  Change up your routine.
In the book of Proverbs it says, "A fool gives full vent to his anger."  So remember, controlling what you say, think, and do requires becoming wise.  Be wise and work on self-control. 
"Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.”  Benjamin Franklin


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