We often feel powerless. Better self-control can help. Condensed from BONDS – Elizabeth Bernstein – Wall Street Journal – August 26, 2020
Mastering Emotional Self-Control Requires Discipline
You can control yourself even if you can’t control your life. In a time of uncertainty and stress, the one thing that you are in command of is your emotional self-control. Self-control–the ability to manage your thoughts, feelings and actions to achieve a goal–is a necessary skill to master in the Covid-19 era. You can’t overcome a challenge–big or small–without being disciplined. When we’re under extreme stress, out brain works overtime to regulate our emotions, attention and behavior. All of this taxes our mental resources, depleting our ability to stay motivated, experts say.
“You can think of self-control as bandwidth,” says Angela Duckworth, professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, who studies self-control. “And right now, it’s divided.” The Ancient Greeks had a word for the lack of self-control: Akrasia–acting against one’s better judgement because of a weakness of will. It’s what happens when we succumb to a temptation that feels good in the moment, rather than doing something that would be good for us in the long run.
The good news is that everyone can strengthen their self-conntrol. “The Victorians called this building character,” says Dr. Baumeister, who is co-author of “Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength.”
Imagine Your Future Self
One of the reasons it is so hard to choose a future goal over immediate gratification is because it’s so hard to relate to our future self, says Dr. Duckworth. She suggests visualizing yourself in the future the way you want to be, as a way to connect your current actions to your future goals. Then–this is important-you need to identify the obstacles that stand in the way. Angela Hale, who owns a coaching business in Nevada City, California, often imagines her future self when she feels irritable, overwhelmed or doubts herself.