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Self Control

dog self controlMost successful people are skilled in self-control. In psychology, a person is characterized as having either an internal locus of control or an external locus of control. A person with an internal locus of control believes that he or she can influence events and their outcomes (high self-efficacy), while someone with an external locus of control blames outside forces for everything. When you have high self-efficacy and a strong belief that you can achieve your goals, you inspire others. Controlling your reactions to disappointment and insecurities is critical for a leader, given how contagious emotions are. Self-control is a skill we all have, and one that we can develop further.

The research regarding the benefits of self-control is clear. Those with high self-control report fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression, are better able to control anger, and generally get along better with people. It is associated with achieving goals and being successful in many endeavors including academic, athletic, and work performance. It is linked with better personal adjustment such as having fewer physical and psychological symptoms and having a greater sense of self-acceptance and self-esteem in relationships. It also helps to prevent addictions. Children who are most successful at delaying gratification early on are more successful academically and socially and that success is long lasting.

According to research conducted at Florida State University, there are six strategies to boost your willpower and keep you headed in the right direction.

  1. Eat. It’s ironic especially since many people measure their self-control (or lack of it) relative to dieting, but if your blood sugar is low you are much more likely to give into destructive impulses. Your brain uses large amounts of glucose when attempting to exert self-control. Eating foods that provide a slow burn (versus a sugar spike) such as a protein or whole grains gives you a longer window of self-control. You will be able to calmly address a combative peer or handle a tense negotiation much more easily if you have these reserves to draw upon.
  2. Exercise. We’re not talking marathons. You need to get your body moving for at least 10 minutes a day in order to release the neurotransmitter GABA, which makes your brain feel soothed and keeps you in control of your impulses. Taking a walk should do it.
  3. Sleep. When you’re tired, your brain cells have diminished ability to absorb glucose. As explained earlier, your ability to exert impulse control without glucose is nil—so prioritize sleep.
  4. Meditate. Meditation is the new “hot” thing and for good reason. It actually trains your brain to become a self-control machine—and it improves your emotional intelligence. Even taking 5 minutes a day and focusing on nothing more than your breathing (mindfulness practice) improves self-awareness and your ability to resist destructive impulses.
  5. Delay. Impulses come and go. When you really want to let loose on someone, wait at least 10 minutes before succumbing to temptation. You’ll often find that the desire has ebbed and you can choose not to act.
  6. Forgive yourself. The vicious cycle of failing to control yourself, experiencing intense self-hatred, then overindulging in the offending behavior is common. Instead, forgive yourself and move on. Don’t ignore how the mistake made you feel but don’t wallow in those feelings. Shift your attention to how you’ll do better next time.

The important thing to remember is that you have to give these strategies the opportunity to work. This means recognizing the moments where you are struggling with self-control and rather than giving in to impulse, taking a look at these six strategies and trying them. It takes time to increase your emotional intelligence, but the new habits you form with effort can last a lifetime.

You are welcome to reprint this article as long as you include the following in its entirety: Reprinted from "Our Corporate Life®," a biweekly ezine featuring practical tips and tools for navigating the corporate world. © MMXVI Our Corporate Life LLC All Rights Reserved. Subscribe at www.ourcorporatelife.com/subscribe

Amanda Mitchell is an executive coach and strategist specializing in helping senior executives deal with disruptive drama within their teams. An advertising agency veteran, she experienced first-hand the business implications of corporate drama both with her Fortune 500 clients and within the Manhattan ad agency she led. She founded Our Corporate Life (www.ourcorporatelife.com) to help executives solve the problems no one wants to deal with. She has been published in Bloomberg Businessweek, and quoted in Fast Company, CNBC.com, and Monster.com. She lives in New Jersey with her family.

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Our Bootcamp is designed to get you back to feeling like yourself fast. To avoid overwhelm, we cover critical topics sequentially so you can make small changes quickly and experience immediate results.

1. New Beginnings

We start by creating a clear picture of your desired outcome and showing how feeling stuck can benefit you. You’ll also learn how to increase your physical and mental energy and a quick (less than 5 minutes!), easy way to improve your mood.

2. Setting Yourself Up For Success

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Values impact your behaviors, decisions, relationships and direction in life. Yet your values are often not aligned with your workplace. Standards are what we honor because we believe they will lead us to our goals. Logically you’d think high standards would result in a superior result but just the opposite often occurs. In this session we’ll cover how to maintain your standards when they’re not shared and how to stay true to yourself without making it an issue for others.

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If you’re like most achievers, you welcome and thrive on responsibility. Sometimes, however, your life can feel like one long “to do” list leaving little time to figure out what is working – or not – in your life. We’ll cover how to retrain your teammates, how to redefine your role and the concept of “responsibility without authority” – having one without the other makes success impossible.

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Control is like catnip to high achievers – we all want it. But surprisingly few exercise control in the one area where they actually have it. This cycle of relentlessly trying to get control over an uncontrollable situation is exhausting and self–defeating. Resetting expectations so you can focus on fulfilling activities will provide the energy you need to regain your perspective and take action.

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