Self-Control: The Greatest Achievement

  • Synergistx Synergistx
  • Updated:

Understanding Self-Control

Self-control, while commonly understood, is one of the most difficult skills to master. Synergistx, with BlueEQ™, defines self-control as the ability to control emotions and show restraint over impulses, especially under stress. Elie Wiesel, renowned author and recipient of the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize, affirmed, “Ultimately, the only power to which man should aspire is that which he exercises over himself.”

As the third of five skills associated with emotional intelligence, self-control challenges nearly everyone. It seems that self-control is easier to identify than sustain. However, to create psychologically safe environments, mastering this skill must be priority. Here are a few concrete tips that help cultivate self-control when put into practice.

Three Tips to Develop Stronger Self-Control:

  1. Identify impulses that trigger an emotional reaction and overcome them.

Often, in stressful situations, we overreact and later wonder what happened. We find ourselves mid-sentence in a fiery retort while simultaneously trying to figure out why we are reacting with such intensity. Many of us resign ourselves to the fact that, once we are emotionally charged, our options are limited in the choices we have. We are often caught in the middle of an emotional reaction with little clarity about what could have prevented it or how to redirect the outcome. Every emotional reaction, however, has a trigger that leads to our response. When intentional, it is possible to assess any reaction and identify the triggers that spark our emotions. Once we identify what triggers our emotional reactions, the choice becomes ours in how we respond. As we become increasingly more alert, we are better able to anticipate and redirect emotional reactions to the inevitable stress we all face.

  1. Pause and take time before speaking under stress.

Take a deep breath and count to 10 may sound cliché, but it really works. Thomas Jefferson said, “When angry, count to 10 before you speak; if very angry, count to one hundred.” When faced with a potentially tense situation , our first impulse is usually that of emotional fight or flight. When incited to fight, we may fire back with a passive-aggressive comment or explode in anger. Reactions that are impulsive are the ones we often regret later. These reactions have the power to escalate disagreement into intense argument in seconds.

However, when we stop to think before reacting , we have the power to influence entirely different outcomes. Recognizing emotions yet taking time to master our thinking frees us to choose a productive response rather than an undermining reaction. Mere seconds can be key in gaining profitable self-control.

  1. Make decisions in a timely manner.

Indecision provokes unneeded stress. However, making competent decisions in a timely manner tempers the stress indecision causes and, instead, reinforces self-control. Consider accessible information. Avoid needless wavering. Make the most appropriate decision. Confidence built by making dependable decisions strengthens self-control in response to the stress that is sure to confront us.

More on the Issue:

These are only three of the many ways to develop self-control and emotional intelligence to create psychological safety professionally and personally. Learn more by participating in our BlueEQ™ personal assessment and workshop. Visit our website at for more information on self-control, emotional intelligence, and psychological safety.

Do you still have questions about self-control, and why it is important to improve?