Training for Life

An interesting article in the April issue of Scientific American  by social psychologist Roy Baumeister discusses self control as  “another name for changing ourselves—and it is by far the most critical way we have of adapting to our environment.”  The writer discusses how all the self esteem in the world will not bring the results we hope to achieve in our lives if we lack the power to control ourselves and manage our own energy expenditures.

According to the author, research findings indicate that “the act of opting to not express anger or of choosing to forgo a marshmallow is akin to drawing on a store of energy that gets you through mile 26 of a marathon.  As with any source of energy, it becomes depleted over time and needs replenishing.”

Doing the right thing, when it needs to be done or not to be done, is a practical approach to building up the energy that we call self control.  Doing our paperwork or paying bills requires one action at a time.  Sticking to an eating plan happens one bite at a time.  Quitting a self defeating habit happens one cigarette or drink or expenditure at a time. Becoming excellent at something happens after some 10,000 hours of practicing, one hour at a time.  Being a better parent happens following through on one issue at a time.  Being a better partner or friend often requires holding our tongue, one episode at a time.

Training is slow.  Strength in the body or in the emotions comes on subtly.  When we begin to notice that we have developed muscles for self control, our self esteem takes care of itself.