“It’s alright letting yourself go, as long as you can get yourself back.”

Two posts in two days?! Damn Mezz. Had to share though. Loved this article I read.

How to improve your self-control through abstract reasoning (pulled from PsyBlog):

  • Global processing. This means trying to focus on the wood rather than the trees: seeing the big picture and our specific actions as just one part of a major plan or purpose. For example, someone trying to eat healthily should focus on the ultimate goal and how each individual decision about what to eat contributes (or detracts) from that goal.
  • Abstract reasoning. This means trying to avoid considering the specific details of the situation at hand in favour of thinking about how actions fit into an overall framework – being philosophical. Someone trying to add more self-control to their exercise regime might try to think less about the details of the exercise, and instead focus on an abstract vision of the ideal physical self, or how exercise provides a time to re-connect mind and body.
  • High-level categorisation. This means thinking about high-level concepts rather than specific instances. Any long-term project, whether in business, academia or elsewhere can easily get bogged down by focusing too much on the minutiae of everyday processes and forgetting the ultimate goal. Categorising tasks or project stages conceptually may help an individual or group maintain their focus and achieve greater self-discipline.

I’ve always been a person of details. Specificity, each step, exactly as it’s “supposed to” be. So the above statements are kind of against what my mind prefers to do. However, I can see the benefits of it and why it would work. I’ve noticed this before in my life; too much thinking is detrimental to your health!

A well-known study – the marshmallow study – was done by researchers who presented kids with the option of getting a treat now, or waiting a while and getting double the amount of treats. These kids were then followed in their lives, and the ones who resisted getting immediate gratification were found to deal with stress and frustration better than those who could not wait for the treat. They also scored higher on the SAT and were considered more dependable as adults. Those who couldn’t resist eating the single treat – therefore missing out on the double treat – were found later in life to have trouble paying attention and had difficulties maintaining close friendships and had overall more behavioral problems at home and school than those who controlled themselves (Shoda, Mischel, & Peake, 1990).

The Marshmallow Test

If I would have been put to the test when I was the same age as the kids in the video, I’m almost positive I would have eaten the single marshmallow. Now this brings the question, how do we teach our kids self-control? It’s a good thing to admit you have weak self-control, and to work on improving it in ways such as the three listed above, but how can we build it up from a young age? It’s interesting how much having self-control affects our lives. Another interesting thing is, I’m almost positive that if you were to ask anybody if they would take the single treat right away or the double treat after a while, without actually putting them to the test, they would say the double treat after a while. Social desirability effect perhaps? What they would do in actuality is anybody’s guess.

This actually kind of ties into the procrastination I talked about in yesterday’s post. If you have self-control, you will resist doing those things (Facebook, television) that keep you away from the things you need to get done (homework and studying). Get your homework done first – Facebook is not going anywhere and will be there when you’re finished. How to apply this to your life…. well that’s another question. Build up your self-control. Instant gratification is not necessarily a bad thing, but I definitely wouldn’t label it a good thing. Look at the bigger picture and keep that in mind.

“Obstacles are things a person sees when he takes his eyes off his goal” ~E. Joseph Cossman

I need to come up with a question to answer/ponder. This post seems…. dry somehow.

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