Self-Control: The Greatest Achievement


Understanding Self-Control

Self-control, while commonly understood, is one of the most difficult skills to master.

“Ultimately, the only power to which man should aspire is that which he exercises over himself.”
– Elie Wiesel (1928-2016) – 1986 Nobel Peace Prize laureate

Self-control challenges nearly everyone. Too often, self-control seems easier to seek than sustain with consistency. However, to create psychologically safe environments, mastering this skill must become priority. When put into practice, these concrete tips help cultivate sustainable self-control.

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 emotionally charged, our options are limited in the choices we have. We find ourselves caught in the middle of an emotional reaction with little clarity about what could have prevented it or how to redirect the outcome. Nonetheless, every emotional reaction has a trigger that leads to our response. With intention, 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 reaction to the inevitable stress we all face.

  1. Pause and take time before speaking under stress.

Take a deep breath and count to ten may sound cliché, but it really works. Thomas Jefferson offered, “When angry, count to ten 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. Impulsive reactions are the ones we most 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 process our thinking, frees us to choose a productive response rather than an undermining reaction. Mere seconds become key in gaining expedient 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 reinforces self-control instead. Consider accessible information. Avoid unproductive wavering. Then, make the most appropriate decision. Confidence built by dependable decision-making strengthens self-control in response to the stress that is sure to confront us.

Action Item:

Considering these important tips for developing self-control, what practical action item will you implement immediately?


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