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Posted on Nov 30, 2018

10 Ways to Develop Self-Control

10 Ways to Develop Self-Control

In 2012, I wrote a post about Self-Control and how to help others master it. A surprising discovery at the time was the fact I could find nothing online with the title “What is self-control.” Yet this is an essential value for leaders that want others to follow them.

Self-Control means ability to master one’s desires and impulses; resolutely controlling one’s behavior.

The lack of published work on self-control might be due to the fact that most people want to “teach” discipline vs. developing self-control. For example, consider the following search results:

  • There are currently over 7 million titled resources that are specific to “how to discipline” (up from 85,000 in 2012). And most of these still appear to be related to disciplining children.
  • There are only 149 titled resources specific to “how to self-control” (up from zero). Of interest, try a Google search using the term: allintitle “What is self-control” and you’ll likely find only 4 results, one of which is my 2012 blog post.

There is little dispute that self-control is an important quality for everybody to possess. It’s even mentioned in the Bible as one of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), an important quality God expects of us.

But unlike discipline, which can be taught, self-control must be developed.

10 Ways to Develop Self-Control

Since 2012, I’ve modified the list of nine ways to help others master self-control. I’ve also added a tenth way: prayer. As self-control is an inside job, I believe we would do well do ask God’s help to develop this value.

Here are 10 ways I’ve discovered to develop self-control, within yourself and others.

  1. Stay calm. Breath. Remain matter-of-fact. No yelling allowed.
  2. Take a break. Step back or move away from a challenging situation. It allows you – and others – to regain focus on what matters most.
  3. Be heard. Don’t bottle it up. Seek someone who will listen without judging (hint: #10 works well too). We all need validation that we’re being heard and understood.
  4. Identify emotions.  How we feel affects the choices we make. Becoming self-aware of our emotions is the beginning of self-control.
  5. Analyze. Take time to ponder over what is challenging control of self. Think before responding to a situation.
  6. Visualize. Walk through different scenarios to help uncover both acceptable and unacceptable behavior.
  7. Make it real. It’s important to link new insights and learning to an actual experience. This helps make it stick.
  8. Seek positive models. A powerful way to learn is to see it in action. Observe those who practice self- control and model it.
  9. Reward it. We all need consistent, positive feedback to learn appropriate behavior. Seek ways to reward and reinforce desired behavior.
  10. Pray for it. Self-control is an inside job and we need God’s help to develop it. Share with Him how you’re feeling, and ask Him for help. (Believe me, this works!)

Now, maybe you’re wondering if the effort is worth it?

Various research confirms that self-control is a great predictor of success – in education, career, and even marriage. For leaders specifically, self-control is an essential element of Emotional Intelligence (EQ), as outlined in various books including  Daniel Goleman’s bookon this subject.

But most importantly, developing self-control benefits all of us as individuals. Being master over our own emotions and desires means we are no longer open to being controlled like a puppet on a string by those who would manipulate us for their own gain.

Self-control helps us be more authentic to who God called us to be.