[Scientific Research] Here's Why You Lose Self Control


“There were two vices much blacker and more serious than the rest: lack of persistence and lack of self-control …endure and renounce.”
- Epictetus

It's hard to argue that having even a little self control can save us from a lot of miseries, adversities, and errors. This stems from the fact that we live in a world where a constant "uncontrolled" obsession with pleasurable activities can land us in a hot mess.

In plain words, self control is all about doing the right thing even when you don't like it. It involves shunning instant gratification and disallowing the demonic side of you from taking over the reins in the face of temptation.

With this trait, you can overcome the temptation of having sex with a beautiful woman that is not your wife, resisting the urge of gulping down that cookie on the table calling out to you and finally place yourself under lock from going into another "impulsive buying" at Walmart.

When we lack self control, common sense and logical thinking capacity depart from us immediately. That means that at this very moment, the "just don't" rule becomes weak or even totally ineffective in preventing you from indulging in the act.

More times than not, we resolve to make changes in some areas of our life. We will start a healthy diet plan, go to the gym, save more money and finally get around to arranging our badly cluttered wardrobe.
What happens after 2-3 weeks? Most people give up.

Why is our self control so feeble and weak? Why do we catch ourselves doing exactly the things that we have sworn never to do again? The answer to these questions have consequences beyond our waistlines and bank balances.

Series of experiments had been conducted by curious scientists all over the world in an attempt to understand this trait that seem to be a common characteristic of all successful people. In this article, you will discover the three most popular researches as their mind blowing results.

Let's dive right in.

The Marshmallow Experiment: The Power of Delayed Gratification

 In the later part of 1960s, a university professor at Stanford named Walter Mischel conducted one of the world's most controversial experiments.

What did he do?

He invited some children into a room, gave them one marshmallow each and instructed them not to eat it until he returned. There's a reward attached to that instruction. Those that didn't eat theirs before he returned will be rewarded with another marshmallow.

However, as soon as he left, some of the kids jumped up and gulped down their own marshmallow.  Others just engaged in any distracting activity they could think of in order to control themselves from eating theirs. The result of this research was very interesting.

Researchers found that the children who waited patiently and didn't eat the first marshmallow turned out to become successful in life. They got very high SAT scores, achieved high educational status and were very healthy.
In other words, the ability to say "No" to a lot of one's desires and inclinations is a great sign that someone is going to be successful.


Self Control is Like a Battery: Ego Depletion Theory

In 1998, a couple named Roy Baumeister and Daniel Tice performed another interesting research about self control. Unlike, the marshmallow experiment, the test subjects were all adults and the researchers were looking for a completely different aspect of self control. It's worthy of note that both the Ego Depletion and the marshmallow experiment made use of food.

In this experiment, Baumeister and Tice served fresh baked cookies alongside a plate of radishes each to a set of volunteers. They asked half of the volunteers to eat the radishes and not the cookies while the other set was allowed to eat the cookies.

After that, all the volunteers were given a piece of puzzle to solve. That puzzle they were given had no possible solution to it (and only the two researchers knew that). That half of the volunteers that had exercised self control by eating ONLY the radishes and not cookies quit much faster than the other half that didn't have any need to control themselves.

This means that self control is limited; the more we make use of it, the more likely we are to become weak in the face of an entirely DIFFERENT temptation. The researchers termed this phenomenon "ego depletion".


Where Does Self Control Come From? - The Groundbreaking Research

The previous research by Baumeister and Tice raised a lot of dust in the scientific community. Scientists who replicated the research found out exactly the same thing - that self control actually depends on a limited resource.

So, what is that limited resource?

To answer this question, Baumeister teamed up with Dr. Matthew Gailliot of Austin State University to carry out another research in 2007. The fires set by their discovery are still burning till today.

What did they discover?

Baumeister and Gailiot found out that the blood glucose level is a major determining factor of self control. Those who have high blood glucose level will be able to resist their impulses more than those that have low glucose level. Acts of self-control deplete relatively large amounts of glucose. When you find yourself failing to control yourself, it's probably because you don't have enough glucose in your body or that it couldn't be accessed by the brain. In this case, restoring your glucose level will improve self control tremendously.

A lot of behaviours that require a great deal of self control has been found to agree to the research. Examples of such behaviors include the maintainance of focus, control of emotions, stress management and resisting aggressive acts.
Alcohol is bad for self control. This is because it reacts with glucose and quickly depletes it throughout the body. Also, there are certain times of the day in which glucose is used less effectively in the body, self control is low at those moments.

From all these, it could be deduced that the act of being the master of oneself is directly related to the amount of body glucose level.
Therefore, according to this scientific research, to gain more self control, take more glucose.

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