Posted on | July 18, 2012 | 6 Comments
What are your greatest personal strengths? Honesty, optimism, intelligence, creativity, modesty… So many that we try to live up to but of all personal strengths which do you think is the greatest predictor of success? Sorry for the bad news, but it’s the one that people most often rank dead last on self evaluations: self control.
That’s right, the strength we need the most to succeed in life is the one at which we’re the worst.
Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength cites study after study illustrating how weak we humans are at exercising self control, yet how much happier and more successful we become if we find a way to master this discipline.
One area where I struggle with this is email. Oh, how tempting to spend hours reacting to emails as they hit my computer and iPhone! At the end of the day, though, I find myself tired but unfulfilled. Did I really move our business forward today or did I burn all my energy just treading water? I can almost feel the little devil on my shoulder whispering, “C’mon, Ben, forget that thank you letter to your mom/customer/business partner. Click this joke email from your buddies instead.” (Sorry, Mom ☺)
Here are a couple tips I picked up from the book about how to beat back that whispering devil and master self control:
We have only a limited amount of self control within our bodies.
Exercising self control requires fuel. Glucose, actually, which you marathoners and triathletes will recognize as the same fuel our bodies require for long endurance events.
Tip: If you know you’re about to enter a scene that requires self control, such as confronting an angry customer, a party with a lot of junk food and alcohol, or a boring meeting where you have to appear attentive, make sure you fuel up beforehand on a sports drink or healthy snack. Enter on an empty stomach and you’re much more likely to fail.
Suppressing emotions is a huge drain on our finite supply of self control.
Subjects asked to watch a sad movie but not cry or funny movie but not laugh performed miserably in the very next situation where temptation showed itself. For example, those who suppressed their emotions during the movies ate about three times more ice cream after the movie than those who were not asked to suppress emotions.
Tip: Ask yourself, “Am I living a life that’s aligned with the real me?”
If you’re not, whether it’s a career poorly aligned with your personality or a social network that pressures you to act unlike your normal self, chances are you’re expending lots of willpower and leaving yourself vulnerable to other temptations.
One final tip from the book, actually the simplest of all, but I just didn’t feel I could convey it in words alone. So here it is, a video message on how to eat healthy and lose weight without dieting or losing the battle against self control. Something I’ve tried for the last few weeks and it works.