Self-Control |The Power Behind Health, Wealth, and Good Decisions

Self-Control |The Power Behind Health, Wealth, and Good Decisions

I read an interesting article recently about the famous Walter Mischel, the quirky 84 year old psychologist behind the famous “Marshmallow Test.” Not familiar? It’s that test where they take a bunch of kids, sit them in front of a stale marshmallow and tell them that if they wait 15 minutes without eating it, they will get 2 cookies. If they decide to eat the marshmallow, they will only receive 1 cookie. Mr. Mischel continued to follow the habits of his patients throughout their lives, and deduced that those who appeared to have higher self-control from a young age were generally more successful, slimmer, and more susceptible to healthy habits and less susceptible to habits like drug and alcohol abuse.

My first thought was, well, at 5, I probably would have eaten that marshmallow, because I couldn’t really comprehend the long term benefits of not doing so. I imagine that then immediate gratification would seem much more appealing. Now, on the other hand, I would like to think I could wait. Can we train ourselves, and even our children, to exert this kind of self-control? Mischel thinks we can. He claims that by using methods of distraction, we can buy a few extra seconds of “thinking” time, and stop ourselves from acting impulsively.

This can apply to all areas of life- whether someone’s ticked you off and you'd like to tear them a new one, or you’re starving and the bread basket is the only thing sitting in front of you. Here are 5 “distraction methods” you can use on a daily basis, to train your brain to slow down and reflect rather than reacting impulsively, and so build healthy habits for better life - for successful life lead with peace of mind:

 1. Count backwards from Ten.

  • Before making a decision, whether it’s how to respond to an offensive comment, or if you’d like some of your friend’s potato chips.
  • If you’re about to explode. It will calm you and give you extra time to lend credibility in your argument.

2. Turn the object in question into something undesirable.

  • If you are having trouble resisting the slice of cake, imagine it has maggots crawling all over it, or has been soaked in water.
  • If you're obsessing over some new crush, imagine him/her in the bathroom or some other less than desirable place.
3. Remove the object from sight altogether.
  • You’re more likely to eat the chocolates if they are sitting on the corner of your desk in plain sight than you are to if they are stashed away in a drawer.
  • If this is a girl/guy that’s your kryptonite- duh, don’t go near them. Don’t go to the bar you know they’re going to be at… don’t text them. If you do, you’re asking for it.       

 4. Reverse or de-personalize the situation.

  • Step out of your skin and ask yourself honestly what you would advise a close friend to do if they found themselves in this exact situation. Think objectively and be your own best friend.

Play with those methods regularly, making them part of your daily "way-to-success" routine. Those little mind tricks can help you lead a marvellously stress free life, life of mental wellness and healthy habits! 

Learn more about self-control and the power of being invested in your process

Useful Links

  1. "Learning Self Control" Walter Mischel 
  2. A Guide to Developing the Self-Discipline Habit 
  3. The Secrets of Self Control | The Marshmallow Test 40 Years Later


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