The festive season is here and as young people it is important to live with a purpose during this period. This can be achieved by our ability to resist temptation and focus on our goals often referred to as self-control or willpower. Delaying gratification is the central part of this behaviour (i.e. putting off short-term desires in favor of long-term rewards). Previous studies have found that the aptness to delay gratification is crucial in not only for achieving goals but plays an important role in well-being and overall success in life (Baumeister, Vohs, & Tice, 2007).
Baumeister, R. F., Vohs, K. D., & Tice, D. M. (2007). The strength model of self-control. Current Directions In Psychological Science, 16(6), 351-355
A well-known study conducted at Stanford University in the 1960s explains a lot about why it’s beneficial to delay gratification. In the study, four year old preschool children were placed in a room with one marshmallow on a plate. The lead researcher gave the children an easy instruction: You can eat the marshmallow now, or wait 15 minutes and receive two marshmallows. The researchers found that the children who were able to wait for the second marshmallow without eating the first one scored higher on aptitude tests, had better health, and were less likely to have behavior problems (https://youtu.be/QX_oy9614HQ). When you consider the results of this study and think about your actions or self, you may want to ask the following questions: Are you able to wait for things you really want, even if it involves sacrificing pleasure and satisfaction now? Do you make decisions based on your life purpose or on what feels good now? Do you sometimes give up too soon? Can you think of a time when you accomplished a difficult task? How did it make you feel about yourself? What were the results of waiting? The tolerance you exhibit when waiting for something you want says a lot about you.
Secrets to self-regulation
• Avoid Temptation: Do not use up your available self-control before it is needed. Whether it is the desire to drink, spend, eat, indulge in some undesired behaviour, please avoid the temptation by engaging in a healthy distraction such as going for a walk, cook, do laundry, call a friend or do whatever it takes to get your mind off the tempting moment.
• Plan Ahead: Always consider possible situations that might break your resolve to self-regulation. What actions would you take when faced with temptations to avoid giving in? Research has shown that one’s ability to plan ahead can enhance the willpower even in circumstances where people have experienced the impact of ego depletion (Baumeister, Vohs, & Tice, 2007). For instance instead of meeting a friend of the opposite sex in a closed room late in the evening which might lead sexual indulge it would be important to plan ahead to meet him/her early in the day and in an open area.
• Practice Using Self-Control: Self-control is like a muscle (Baumeister, Vohs, & Tice, 2007) while hard work may exhaust the muscle in short-term the muscle grows stronger as you continue to work it (the more you practice self-regulation the more you are likely to be strong enough to exercise self-control). While your self-control may be consumed in short-term, regularly engaging in behaviours that demand you exert self-regulation will improve your willpower overtime.
• Focus on One Goal at a Time: Setting too many goals is an ineffective way to accomplishing self-regulation because your willpower will be depleted in one area thus reducing self-control in other areas. It is crucial to choose one specific goal and focus your energy on it since you turn the behaviours needed to reach the goal into habits which demands that you devote as much effort toward maintain them. For instance at the moment your studies should be the main goal that demands you focus your energy on.
• Remind Yourself of the Consequences: A lack of self-control may have negative impacts on your education, self-esteem, career, relationships, finances, health and overall well-being. Once you remind yourself of these consequences then you should be motivated to your goal and manage your self-regulation.
• Self-regulation is Transferable: If you are able to practice self-regulation in one area of your life you could also practice self-regulation in another area of life. For instance, even simple practice of discipline in terms of punctuality, sitting straight in the classroom, all this can contribute to general orientation of self-discipline.
• Meditate: This is important in strengthening one’s self-control as it aids in slowing of thoughts which helps in controlling any gut impulses that might get in the way of self-regulation.
Lastly, note that discipline is simply the rhythm of life that helps you achieve your life-purpose. In fact, discipline has two functions: it helps you be accepted in the social group, and it helps you achieve your own goals. Things that bring us instant gratification such as drugs, food, sex, gambling, partying do not bring out the best in us. True happiness is about developing right habits and surrounding yourself with people who grow your goals. True happiness demands that you delay pleasure by being disciplined, putting in time and patience required to achieve a specific goal and not feeling good now. Living a life of purpose is aligned with seeking true happiness which creates real joy in the end. So which path would you take? Instant gratification or delayed gratification in achieving your purpose?
Have a Merry Christmas 🎄 filled with purpose.