Self Control: Teaching Students About Their Greatest Inner Strength with Nathan DeWall


self control teaching students about their
greatest inner strength what’s the key to health wealth and success
you might think it’s your looks your background or your intelligence
think again self control is our greatest human strength
and the easiest to improve just think of your heroes Mother Teresa Albert
Einstein Abraham Lincoln and Nelson Mandela they had different backgrounds and different
skills but they share one thing in common self control
they overcame obstacles they persevered in the face of failure and frustration and they
worked harder than others to achieve their goals
you might think you’re worlds apart from these self control icons but I’m here to show you
that you have that same ingredient that will help you achieve your goals
what is self control it has three parts: monitoring how much we keep track of what we’re doing
how often you weigh yourself check your bank balance or keep track of your grades
standards these tell you what’s appropriate laws tell us how fast were supposed to drive
they tell us why we should wear a suit instead of flip flops to a job interview and they
tell us how to live up to our moral ideals and strength this is the energy to use self
control self control is fragile if you use it you
have less energy left over later why should we study self control
three reasons self control improves individual well-being people with better self control
have better mental health better physical health they get better grades and they’re
less likely to struggle with alcohol and drug abuse
to illustrate one study wanted to see which is more important in predicting success in
school self control or intelligence they measured self control and intelligence
at the beginning of the year and then waited patiently to see how well the students did
in their classes at the end of the year the result self control was twice as important
as intelligence in predicting academic success self control also improves relationships and
might even help you deal with frustration but no one had conducted an experiment to
see whether self control helps people overcome their aggressive urges
to test this we had college students come to a laboratory for what they thought was
a taste testing study unbeknownst to the students they had been
randomly assigned to two different groups the first group was given a plate that had
tasty donut on it the experimenter said we want to get your
opinion on how the donut tastes next the experimenter waited as a student
was close to taking the first bite of the donut
once the student’s mouth was open the experimenter interrupted and said wait I messed up please
don’t eat the donut the experimenter then left the room for six
minutes the second group was told the same thing but
this time they couldn’t eat a radish instead of a donut
imagine what those six grueling minutes were like
forcing yourself to avoid eating a tempting donut
probably took a lot of energy much more than forcing yourself to avoid eating a radish
next we ignited an aggressive urge by having all participants get some insulting feedback
Did the mentally fatigued students behave most aggressively
they did they made a stranger suffer by making them
eat lots of unpleasant spicy food what’s this energy resource that becomes depleted
one group of researchers stumbled on the solution in what they initially thought was a failed
experiment they gave some students an opportunity to
indulge themselves thinking this would undo the depletion effect
it did but there is another surprise giving students a gloppy bad tasting beverage with
lots of calories did the same thing a large body of work now points to the importance
of energy as part of the resource that’s involved in will power
giving depleted people a boost of glucose reduces their aggression their irrational
decision-making and their financial impulsiveness it tells your brain that energy is coming
on board and you have to allocate your energy effectively
but wait a minute if willpower relies on a common biological process is it necessary
to have sophisticated mental machinery in order to show these depletion effects
would animals show them and would a boost of glucose restore them
to their normal selves as it does with humans my colleagues and I tested this possibility
using dogs two of which were my own golden retrievers
we depleted dogs by having them sit and stay for 10 minutes
another group just sat in a kennel afterwards we gave the dogs a toy that had
food in it but we rigged it so they could never get any of the food out
we timed how long they tried don’t worry we gave them lots of treats at
the end of the study the depleted dogs persisted about half as
long as the non depleted dogs in a second study we undid this effect by
squirting glucose in some of the dogs mouths so the same thing that undid self control
failure in humans worked with dogs let’s wrap up by talking about four things
you can do to improve your self control as we’ve seen improving your self control
has big payoffs including better health relationships and success in school
you can start to see results quickly first become a mental energy accountant
this relates to our discussion of monitoring you keep track of your daily activities
do you also keep track of when you’ll spend your limited mental energy
for the next two weeks plan your activities not only according to when they’ll happen
but also how much energy you’ll need to do them
second build your self control strength self control relies on an all-purpose energy
resource so it doesn’t matter how you practice it
you get stronger the more you practice for the next two weeks try using your non-dominant
hand to complete everyday tasks like cooking and brushing your teeth
the idea is that you have to override your natural impulse to use your dominant hand
which is what self control’s all about it seems crazy but studies have shown that
this self control strengthening exercise pays off
third play offense against your environment take control over your surroundings
when you can’t keep your eyes off your cell phone try turning it over
you’ll be surprised at how easily you’ll pay attention when you don’t have to worry
about looking at your phone and fourth take the mind out of the middle
self control hurts because we battle against ourselves should I exercise now or later
should I eat one or two slices of cake if you want to study more set up a contract
with yourself whenever I get home from class I’ll do 30
minutes of studying sounds almost too easy doesn’t it
today we covered one of humanity’s greatest strengths self control
each day we marvel at people who appear faultless when it comes to their willpower and we ask
ourselves why don’t I have more self control we can’t make much progress in achieving
our goals if we don’t know about the basics of self control
what it is why it’s important and how it works by resolving this mystery underlying self
control we can gain a new appreciation for people we regard as our heroes and understand
that we have what it takes to achieve our goals and lead a happy healthy and successful
life

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