All About Self-Control

Self-control separates us from our ancient ancestors and the rest of the animal kingdom, thanks to our large prefrontal cortex. It is the ability to subdue our impulses in order to achieve longer-term goals. Rather than responding to immediate impulses, we can plan, evaluate alternative actions, and, often enough, avoid doing things we'll later regret. The ability to exert self-control is typically called willpower. It is what allows us to direct our attention, and it underlies all kinds of achievement. There is significant debate in science as to whether or not willpower is a finite resource. Studies demonstrate that exercising willpower makes heavy demands on mental energy, notably on reserves of glucose, the brain's preferred fuel, creating ego depletion. It's one reason we're more apt to reach for that chocolate chip cookie when we're feeling stressed than when we're feeling on top of the world. Recently, scientists have failed to replicate some of the studies underlying the concept of ego depletion, and more research is underway.

Recent posts on Self-Control

Paying Attention to Injuries Among Temporary Workers

Has your company seen an uptick in work-related injuries or illnesses lately? Recent hiring trends may be part of the problem and the solution.

Willy Wonka and Financial Happiness

By Michael F. Kay on October 21, 2016 in Financial Life Focus
Do you have the discipline to make your dreams become reality?

Debate Scorecard for Hiring the President: How to Evaluate

How to bypass your biases and explore proven leadership competencies and derailers for the most important hiring evaluation. Score each candidate so you can ne be more objective.

How History Will Remember Donald Trump

By Mark Goulston M.D., F.A.P.A. on October 21, 2016 in Just Listen
Could Trump be just what civil society needs to resurrect itself from profanity, vulgarity, insensitivity and impatience that can often escalate to violence?

Risky Teenage Behavior Linked to Imbalanced Brain Activity

By Christopher Bergland on October 20, 2016 in The Athlete's Way
A new study from Dartmouth pinpoints the brain mechanisms linked to risk-taking and impulse control during adolescence. This discovery explains why teenagers are often reckless.

Reframing Temperament: “Difficult” vs. “Stressed”

By Stuart Shanker DPhil on October 18, 2016 in Self-Reg
Parents need to understand what their child’s limbic system is “telling” them. And when they’re able, children and teens need to do the same.

Stoic Truths for a Digital World

By John Sean Doyle on October 14, 2016 in Luminous Things
At every turn there are advertisers ready to sell us an image that speaks to our vulnerabilities and dreams. The Stoics tell us something about living the life we want to live.
Ben Harding/iStock

A New Look at the Role of Apps in Distracted Teen Driving

New research reveals app usage is a major risk for distracted driving. The results provide a useful guide for productive conversations between teens and parents.
Dora Calott Wang

Growing Pains in the Teenage Brain

By Dora Calott Wang M.D. on October 11, 2016 in The Kitchen Shrink
Growing pains occur more for the teenage brain, than even the teenage body
James Reynolds

I Feel Like Going for a Run

By Thomas Webb Ph.D. on October 10, 2016 in The Road to Hell
Does how we feel about our progress influence how we pursue our goals?

How Your Regrets Can Actually Help You

Today in America the dominant opinion on regret is to get over it, let it go, or—if you’re a New Yorker—“fuhgeddaboudit!” In her TED Talk on the subject, Kathryn Schulz notes . . .

Aspiration in Evolutionary Perspective

By Nigel Barber Ph.D. on October 05, 2016 in The Human Beast
People who are committed to a long term goal that is not purely selfish are happier, healthier and live longer. This challenges Darwinism that presupposes a nastier social order.

The Personality of Hillary Clinton

By Ryne A. Sherman Ph.D. on October 03, 2016 in The Situation Lab
Leadership emergence and effectiveness are direct results of a person's personality. What is Hillary Clinton's personality? What kind of leader would she be?

Serial Killers Do Not Want to Get Caught

By Scott A. Bonn Ph.D. on October 02, 2016 in Wicked Deeds
It is not true that serial killers want to get caught. Most of them love their work far too much for that to be true.

Is Sexual Objectification Automatic?

By Nathan A Heflick Ph.D. on September 30, 2016 in The Big Questions
Sexual objectification may help preserve self-control.

Constructive Anger

By Paul Ekman Ph.D. on September 29, 2016 in Face It!
Do you use anger constructively? The Dalai Lama and Paul Ekman weigh in.

Do We Control Our Own Purchasing Habits?

By Liraz Margalit Ph.D. on September 20, 2016 in Behind Online Behavior
Flaws in our decision-making ability are fuel for the market. In certain situations we are especially susceptible to external influences.

College Students: Coddled or Constructive Activists?

By Saul Levine M.D. on September 19, 2016 in Our Emotional Footprint
Today, college students are expressing dissatisfaction and even feel threatened, but this is often more about their personal feelings rather than the chaotic state of the world.
Carl Pickhardt Ph.D.

Adolescence and Four Skills of Self-Discipline

Developing self-discipline is part of growing independence as one develops the capacity to become one's own authority when it comes to accomplishing what one needs to do.

3 Questions to Ask Yourself About Every Relationship

Take this quick relationship test to find out if your friends are right for you.

God Is Watching You

By Mark van Vugt Ph.D. on September 15, 2016 in Naturally Selected
Is God our Big Brother who watches over us to make sure we do not do anything bad or foolish?
Pixabay, labeled for reuse

Why the Sex Addiction Model Is Not a Humanistic Approach

By Michael Aaron, Ph.D. on September 14, 2016 in Standard Deviations
Plenty of evidence suggests that harm reduction psychotherapy provides a more humanistic alternative to sex addiction treatment.
CCO Public Domain/Free for Commerical Use

Why Can’t I Lose Weight?

Why can’t I lose weight? Optimism is key to taking off the pounds. By Julie Jarrett Marcuse, Ph.D.

Appetite for Risk

By Adrian Furnham Ph.D. on September 11, 2016 in A Sideways View
Can we classify or categorize people according to the extent they enjoy risk taking?

Is Restorative Justice Exhausting?

By Mikhail Lyubansky Ph.D. on September 11, 2016 in Between the Lines
School teachers and staff are already stretched thin. Is restorative justice the final straw?

Mind Your Weight: Inside Out

By Margaret Moore on September 08, 2016 in Life Changes
Get your inner family on board with your eating and weight.
Thomas Webb

Building a Bridge Between Intention and Action

By Thomas Webb Ph.D. on September 08, 2016 in The Road to Hell
Do you wish you could overcome your reluctance to exercise?

Too Self-Absorbed? These Tips Can Free You From . . . You

By Leon F Seltzer Ph.D. on September 07, 2016 in Evolution of the Self
Solutions offered for detrimental self-absorption vary mostly on the basis of what drives such self-defeating rumination. Does it relate mostly to depression, anxiety, PTSD....?

Are People a Minefield?

By Marty Nemko Ph.D. on September 07, 2016 in How To Do Life
We need to be more careful than ever in what we say.

I Know I Said I'm Sorry ...

By Stephen Gray Wallace on September 06, 2016 in Decisions Teens Make
What responsibility do people in positions of power, honor or prestige have to those who follow, particularly youth?