How to Develop Self-Control


When thinking about self-control, we tend to think about exerting willpower and controlling our impulses. But there’s another form of self-control that occurs on a deeper level. This second type of self-control is directly responsible for all the results you get in your life. Part of the solution to mastering self-control is just becoming aware of what it means and how it impacts you.

Inner vs Outer World

We have an internal and external world. The external world is all tangible experiences like your health, income, hobbies, friends, and relationships. The ideal situation is for us to maximise success in as many of these areas as possible. We want a great relationship, a great physique, and to earn lots of money.

 The inner world is your thoughts, feelings, actions, habits, emotions, perceptions. We also want to maximise success in as many of these areas as possible. We want to feel happy and fulfilled; we want to take resourceful and productive actions; we want to think positively and experience positive emotions.

But it seems like we can only experience success in the inner world if we’re happy with the situations occurring in the outer world. It feels like all the difficult challenges are happening in the external world, like money issues, relationship problems, or problems at work. So most people are trying to control the outer world because they think this will make them feel better internally.

 But this is why people lack self-control; they’re disconnected from what determines their results and how they feel internally. Despite how it seems, all of your results stem from the inner world. Your income, relationships, health, emotions, and productivity all start from your mindset.

 The outer world problems are real but only exist because you haven’t done the necessary inner work to resolve them. Instead, most people try to use the external world to fix their problems, which might create temporary solutions at best, but the underlying issues resurface again.

 Victim vs Creator

 There are two different types of people, the victim and the creator. The victim has no self-control, blaming the outer world for their problems and reacting to the outer world. So if they encounter some kind of problem, they believe that they are stuck until the right solution comes about in the external world.

On the other hand, the creator has self-control. This person is proactive in controlling the direction of their life. They recognise that the quality of their life is entirely up to them and how they choose to act and think. They encounter a lot more success because they’re being proactive about setting their life up for success. And if adverse situations happen, they don’t blame and wait for the external world to fix their issues. Instead, they turn inwards to identify how they can resolve the situation themselves.

So when something negative happens to the creator, they realise they have the resources to change the situation rather than react to it. By focusing on improving their inner world, their outer world will then improve.

An example of where we can distinguish the victim from the creator is in the context of nutrition. Someone who has no self-control will try to take control of their health by finding a quick and easy diet to follow. They jump around from one diet to another, losing weight for a while and eventually putting it back on. And each time, trying to control the situation by changing their outer world rather than their inner world. Someone who has self-control will introspect to understand why they have bad psychology with nutrition. 

They can identify what is causing them to keep falling off track with their nutrition. They might find that their diet is too restrictive or not intrinsically motivated to eat healthily. After discovering the root issue, they can then begin to work on themselves to resolve it.

Another example of where we can distinguish the victim from the creator is in the context of relationships. 

Someone who has no self-control will try to eliminate the feeling of loneliness by getting into a new relationship. They jump around from one relationship to another, trying to find the person that will make them feel consistently fulfilled in their life. But each time they get into a relationship, it’s never sufficient to fulfil them.

Whereas someone who has self-control will evaluate what’s going on with their psychology, causing them to feel lonely. They might find that they’re lacking a life purpose, or they have self-esteem issues. Whatever the reason, they can then do the internal work to resolve the problem.

Techniques

It should now be clear to you why it’s critically important to have self-control. The next step is to understand how you can start cultivating self-control in your everyday life.

In order to improve your self-control, you have to become mindful of when you’re trying to control things externally. When you’re not happy with something in your life, your natural tendency will be to look at what you can change in the outer world. So mindfulness will help you to overcome this natural tendency.

If you get into an argument with your partner, your natural reaction will be to think about how you can get them to see your point of view or make them stop being so argumentative. At this point, try to become aware that all of the solutions you’re listing are in the outer world. Don’t judge yourself for it or try to change it; just simply become aware of it.

Or, if you’re frustrated with your income, recognise the moment when you’re becoming frustrated. Don’t judge yourself for it or try to change it; simply become aware of it.

Mindfulness alone will provide transformational results for you, but the results will hugely increase when combined with the next step.

Once you’re aware of yourself projecting all of these external solutions, the next step is to turn inwards. Ask yourself what internal solutions there are to your problems. A solution might be to become more open-minded and see the argument more holistically. Another solution might be to disengage with your partner when they’re arguing and instead focus on yourself.

As you find the right thoughts and actions, this will start to change the outer world. If you become unreactive when your partner argues with you, they might stop arguing because they realise you’re not reacting to it.

Or, in the income example, instead of becoming frustrated, think about how you can make yourself a more valuable employee. After you begin developing your career, you can leverage that value to generate a higher income.

Irrespective of what the external situation is, the solution is always going to be solved internally. The external problem could be the economy, the environment, your boss, your job, your kids, your health, your emotions, your confidence or anything else; it all starts internally.

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