Try coaching for free  >
Try coaching for free  >Try coaching for free  >

Change your life with coaching

Build self-control in minutes / week

Your very own AI-powered coach is waiting...
...with your own personal AI coach to help.
Try coaching for free
No items found.

My Coaching Plan:

Our expert coaches created the following plan to help you hack your life and work:
Our expert coaches created the following plan to help 
improve your self control:
Big Picture Thinker
Goal Catcher
Personal Power
Reflection & Patience
Start Fast
Trust Your Gut Feel
Vital Wellbeing

My Coaching Plan:

Our expert coaches created the following plan to help you hack your life and work:
Trust Your Gut Feel
See the Big Picture
Goal Catcher
Start Fast!

Get started
 with our AI-coaching program, 
No items found.

Self-control is a top achiever's best-kept secret to a successful life.

Self-control is often seen as a trait that you either have or you don’t. You either have the power to control your impulses, or you’re impatient and undisciplined.

But that’s not entirely true. And understanding how it works is super important to being able to consistently achieve your goals.

Studies have shown that self-control is more accurately described as a limited resource. Once you’ve spent enough of it resisting temptation and completing certain tasks, maintaining self-control becomes increasingly more difficult throughout the day.

If that’s true, then self-control can be strengthened. Why is that important? The benefits of self-control have been well-documented over the past few decades. And while scientists are still trying to figure out exactly how the brain handles it, we know that as a character trait, self-discipline is massively undervalued.

Most of us aim to be more focused and goal-oriented as a means of being successful. But rarely do we stop to consider how and why self-control affects that success. Here’s how it works.

Table of contents

What does self-control mean?

Self-control means regulating your emotions, thoughts, and behavior, and governing your impulses, temptations, and desires as a result. In other words, it’s your capability to resist negative behaviors and bad habits despite wanting to indulge in them. 

A single self-control definition isn’t enough to capture the essence of the term. As you probably already know, it’s a concept that comes by many names.

In everyday life, we might refer to self-control as discipline, self-discipline, self-constraint, self-government, repression, or strength of character—just to name a few.

In philosophy and religion, self-control often shows up as temperance or sophrosyne. In Hippolytus, Euripides paints sophrosyne as the building block of sanity and excellence of character. In the Bible, it’s often associated with the Holy Spirit, and it’s a sign of pureness, holiness, and divine transformation.

In the modern world, self-control has often been studied as a limited resource that can expand over time. In the brain, it’s correlated with an area in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex - a part of the frontal lobe. This part of the brain is involved in decision-making and problem-solving, and it develops slowly - which is probably why we see a lack of impulse control in children.

What causes a lack of self-control?

Most psychologists agree that self-control is built during childhood. Some children struggle with self-control because they have trouble understanding social rules

But for most children—and adults—who show signs of low self-control, it’s usually a matter of habit; a way of dealing with stress and anxiety. 

That said, recent studies on twins and other genetics research have come up with a compelling argument for the potential hereditary nature of self-control. Psychological factors play a huge role for sure, but genes may also be to blame. This might explain why some people naturally demonstrate impressive levels of self-constraint, while others don’t think twice about devouring a bag of chips despite being on a strict diet.

Why is self-control important?

Self-control has been correlated with improved academic performance. It has also been linked to better health habits, better interpersonal relationships, and better quality of life.

Religion and philosophy have championed self-control as an integral virtue for millennia, but science and psychology have only just begun examining its benefits.

Countless studies outline the benefits of self-control in academic settings. It contributes to better performance and limits counterproductive behavior as students stick to their goals. Which is understandable, right? The student that says ‘not tonight’ to the party invitation, and instead works on their essays, is more likely to get better grades. 

The relationship between health and self-control has also been extensively documented. One 2019 study found negative relations between self-control and impulsive drinking.

(Those with poor self-control are more likely to drink impulsively). Those with low self-control were also more likely to eat impulsively and less likely to exercise. Participants with higher levels of self-control drank less alcohol and exercised more frequently.

Researchers have gone as far as to claim that people with trait self-control (TSC, or the tendency to exercise self-control more often than not) may experience greater life satisfaction or happiness. In 2014, the Self-Regulation Lab of Utrecht University published a large study involving hundreds of people, demonstrating that TSC can positively predict happiness.

Conversely, lack of self-control has been associated with financial debt, impulse buying, and maladaptive eating habits. People who struggle to control their impulses tend to procrastinate more and have problems with the law more often.

It’s important, then, that you recognize the importance of self-control and the huge impact it has on your life. 

What is a self-controlling person?

A self-controlling person is in charge of their impulses, emotions, and desires. They are in full control of their thoughts and actions, even in the face of unexpected events and unforeseen circumstances.

What are some examples of self-control?

Self-control comes in many shapes and forms. There are three distinct types to identify:

  • Impulse control is the ability to think before acting upon a thought, usually through visualizing future consequences. You’re practicing impulse control if you choose to ignore your buzzing phone while on a tight deadline. You know that checking your social media notifications will likely mean you’ll have to work overtime to finish everything in time.
  • Emotional control is the ability to manage and control feelings by focusing on future goals. You’re practicing emotional control if you fail an important interview, but you decide to walk into your next one with a smile on your face, instead of adopting a defeatist attitude. Your goal of getting hired means letting go of your frustration and focusing on what’s really important.
  • Movement control is the ability to overcome natural stress responses. You’re practicing movement control if you can detect common triggers and avoid coping habits, such as biting your nails, pulling your hair, or grinding your teeth. In general, movement control limits fidgety behavior. 

In most cases, people use several types of self-control to deal with stressful situations effectively. 

For example, emotional self-control is necessary to maintain a balanced life after a life-changing event (getting fired, breaking up, losing a loved one); it helps people push negative feelings away by focusing on the bigger picture (e.g., finding happiness, leading a fulfilling life).

Impulse control is also important, as it shields you from bad habits and dangerous reactive behavior. You might want to stock up on snacks after a devastating breakup, but your impulse self-control will convince you to buy healthy stuff instead—you might miss out on a little pleasure and distraction, but it’ll make you feel better in the longer term. 

How to have self-control

As we’ve discussed already, self-control isn’t a character trait you either have or don’t have. Instead, it’s something that’s built and cultivated over a long period of time. Just like you can learn to be focused, kind, and empathetic, you can learn how to control your impulses and desires as well.

So, self-control is kind of a big topic. The research is extensive, but what do we make of it, and how do we make use of it in our daily lives?

How do you develop self-control?

You can develop your self-control by taking advantage of certain tried-and-tested strategies. It’s not easy, but learning to keep your impulses and desires in check will bring about positive change in your life.

Avoid temptation

If you know that exposure to certain situations will likely activate an unwanted response, you can simply bypass the problem by avoiding temptation altogether. If, for example, you can’t say no to unhealthy snacks but want to lose weight, keeping your chips and chocolate out of sight can minimize cravings. (Even better - don’t buy them in the first place.) 

Temptation and desire’s effects are fleeting. If you hang on long enough, they simply dissipate as your mind moves on to different things. 

Think of the big picture

The truth is that you can’t always avoid unwanted responses. When you can’t avoid temptation, it’s good to let your mind do all the hard work.

Giving in is easy when the desire’s still fresh. But if you can take a moment to consider the consequences of your actions, you’re much more likely to resist temptation. According to psychologist Kentaro Fujita, people’s mental state impacts their self-control success. High-level thinking will allow you to see the forest beyond the trees, but your mind needs to be clear in the first place.

Before acting on your impulses, take a moment to stop, and evaluate the situation. Those few seconds are enough to push those primal instincts away. As your higher cognitive functions take control, you quickly begin to consider not just the consequences of losing self-control but the many benefits of maintaining it. Before you know it, temptation and desire slowly lose their grip on you. 

There’s a common example of this in the personal finance world. The advice goes, if you’re about to make a big purchase (say, over $1000), give it 24 hours before committing. If you can do without it for a whole day, then can you do without it forever? Giving yourself some distance away from your impulses might help you see things much more clearly. 

Make sure you get enough sleep

Remember the correlation between self-control and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex of the frontal lobe? Well, according to studies done by Clemson University, sleep deprivation drains glucose in the prefrontal cortex. Glucose is a monosaccharide (the simplest of carbohydrates), and along with fat, it’s one of the body’s preferred sources of fuel.

Essentially, this means that not sleeping well limits the fuel of the brain region responsible for self-control. Even small amounts of lost sleep had significant effects on participants’ behavior in the study.

Getting eight hours of sleep every day isn’t always easy. If you work early in the morning, try to avoid screens and devices before lying down. Blue wavelengths emitted by most modern screens today suppress melatonin secretion, disrupting our circadian rhythms as a result. Sleep hygiene is an entire discipline in itself, and getting better at it can massively improve your mental performance. 

Get your body moving

According to research published in the British Medical Journal, short bouts of exercise increase blood and oxygen flow to the prefrontal cortex. More blood and oxygen to the part of the brain responsible for controlling self-control means more energy to withstand unwanted urges and desires. In short: exercise makes your self-control stronger, as well as your body. 

The good news is you don’t have to sign up for an intense workout program to see some results. The study indicated that moderately intense exercise a few times a week is enough to boost brain function and increase self-control. All three age groups in the study (from six to thirty-five years) improved their memory, concentration, planning, and decision-making by taking part in various workout programs.  

Treat relaxation like you treat work

We often think of self-control as an internal fight to control impulses and push away temptation. While it’s true that you need to exercise willpower to see results, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be on edge all the time. 

Research has actually shown that people willing to take a step back and relax are more likely to keep their impulses in check. A study conducted at the University of Illinois found that people primed with strong action words (like start, fight, and begin) had more trouble controlling their behavior than those primed with passive, inactive words (like stop and pause).

It’s hard to think right when you’re under extreme pressure—and with everything going on in the world right now, who can really blame you? Meditating and practicing mindfulness can help you fight stress and build the resilience required to say “no” when temptation strikes. 

Know yourself

Strong impulse control is a sign of high emotional intelligence. The more you know about yourself, the easier it’ll be to manage your feelings and emotions. Do you have trouble controlling your anger? How patient are you? Do you find yourself cracking under pressure a bit too often? How do you react when under extreme stress?

Finding the right answers to these questions won’t be easy if you haven’t taken enough time to look inward. You can begin your self-awareness journey by assessing your emotional intelligence and looking for ways to learn more about the real you.

Don’t use up all your willpower

Remember to think of self-control as a limited resource. Both decision fatigue and ego depletion describe a state in which an individual has used up all their available willpower and can no longer practice self-control.

Instead of going all out and using up your energy on trivial matters, try to preserve it for when it’s needed most. For example, don’t spend all your energy trying to come up with healthy breakfast ideas when you’ve got an important meeting ahead. Instead, plan ahead and make a diet plan for the week.

Stay organized and avoid trivial distractions. With time, your self-control ability will strengthen, and you’ll be able to do more of your available willpower. Never make big decisions at the end of the day, when all your self-control reserves have been depleted.

Learning self-control takes time and effort. Understand the source of your anxiety, and fight your desires and temptation from within. Avoid temptation when you can, and make sure you spend more time relaxing, meditating, and finding yourself. 

You can easily improve self-control by sleeping better, exercising, and making an effort not to ignore the bigger picture when things get tough. 

Just think of where those better decisions might take you.

Rapidly improve your work and life with fast AI coaching.

Our programs were designed by world-renown coaches, and sessions only take 5-15 minutes. Get started for free with personalized program now by chatting in the box below:

Start personal coaching for free

Loved By:

500 Startups
SAP
Atlasssian
Verizon
Canva
KPMG
Techsauce
ZOHO

My Coaching Plan:

Our expert coaches have designed hyper-effective programs that will help 

you improve your mental health, wellbeing, productivity, leadership and more.

Our expert coaches have designed hyper-effective programs that will help 

Coach Marlee (your amazing AI-powered personal coach) will analyse your unique traits and goals to let you know which program to start with (and if there are any you should skip)!

Your recommended programs include:

Big Picture Thinker

Inspire yourself and others to see the bigger picture! Increase your comfort and use of abstract and strategic thinking to gain a broader perspective in work and life. Big picture thinking is key in communication, leadership, businesses, selling, marketing, and situations where you need to get the gist of things quickly.

5 - 15 minutes
 per session
8 weeks
Show more programs
Hide

Goal Catcher

Inspire yourself and others to see and achieve grand visions and goals. A focus on goals is especially helpful for inspirational leaders, starting your own business, impactful communication, or for achieving awesome outcomes at work and in life.

5 - 15 minutes
 per session
8 weeks

Personal Power

In this high impact eight week program Coach Marlee will help you increase your comfort and confidence to be in positions of influence and leadership, navigate organizational politics and also help you develop greater confidence to compete and influence at the top of your industry or field.

5 - 15 minutes
 per session
8 weeks

Reflection & Patience

Develop ‘step back’ mastery for increased self-awareness and developing mindsets and tools for constant improvement. Reflection and patience is core to consolidating learning, development, strategic thinking, recharging and living an authentic and meaningful life.

5 - 15 minutes
 per session
8 weeks

Start Fast

Close the gap between your great ideas and starting them. Energy and drive for starting is key for inventing new things, starting businesses, selling, marketing, socializing or in situations where you need to think on your feet.

5 - 15 minutes
 per session
8 weeks

Trust Your Gut Feel

Explore, strengthen and stand by what you believe in at work and in life. Trust in your ‘gut feel’ and point of view is especially helpful for influencing, starting your own business, having your personal needs met and for living an authentic and meaningful life.

5 - 15 minutes
 per session
8 weeks

Vital Wellbeing

In this high impact nine week program Coach Marlee will help you to increase your energy, vitality and general wellbeing while also helping you to break through self sabotage and develop life long skills for emotional resilience and self-esteem. Enjoy weekly cutting edge science backed wellbeing resources from both Marlee and our wellbeing partner Blisspot.

5 - 15 minutes
 per session
8 weeks

My Coaching Plan:

Our expert coaches have designed hyper-effective programs that will help you improve your mental health, wellbeing, productivity, leadership and more.

Coach Marlee (your amazing AI-powered personal coach) will analyse your unique traits and goals to let you know which program to start with (and if there are any you should skip)!

Your recommended programs include:

Vital Wellbeing

In this high impact nine week program Coach Marlee will help you to increase your energy, vitality and general wellbeing while also helping you to break through self sabotage and develop life long skills for emotional resilience and self-esteem. Enjoy weekly cutting edge science backed wellbeing resources from both Marlee and our wellbeing partner Blisspot.

5 - 15 minutes
 per session
2 sessions per week
Show more programs
Hide

Attention to Detail

Impress yourself and others with your attention to detail! Develop a genuine appreciation, energy and stamina for detailed thinking to execute your vision, measure performance in yourself and others while also accelerating your ability to learn and change.

5 - 15 minutes
 per session
2 sessions per week

Personal Power

In this high impact eight week program Coach Marlee will help you increase your comfort and confidence to be in positions of influence and leadership, navigate organizational politics and also help you develop greater confidence to compete and influence at the top of your industry or field.

5 - 15 minutes
 per session
2 sessions per week

Multiply Your Impact

Multiply your impact by embracing the experience and genius within others. During this eight week program Coach Marlee will help you to develop a genuine appreciation for experimentation and data and a willingness to empower the opinions, feedback and insights within your team and others in your life.

5 - 15 minutes
 per session
2 sessions per week

Trust Your Gut Feel

Explore, strengthen and stand by what you believe in at work and in life. Trust in your ‘gut feel’ and point of view is especially helpful for influencing, starting your own business, having your personal needs met and for living an authentic and meaningful life.

5 - 15 minutes
 per session
2 sessions per week

Big Picture Thinker

Inspire yourself and others to see the bigger picture! Increase your comfort and use of abstract and strategic thinking to gain a broader perspective in work and life. Big picture thinking is key in communication, leadership, businesses, selling, marketing, and situations where you need to get the gist of things quickly.

5 - 15 minutes
 per session
2 sessions per week

Reflection & Patience

Develop ‘step back’ mastery for increased self-awareness and developing mindsets and tools for constant improvement. Reflection and patience is core to consolidating learning, development, strategic thinking, recharging and living an authentic and meaningful life.

5 - 15 minutes
 per session
2 sessions per week

Start Fast

Close the gap between your great ideas and starting them. Energy and drive for starting is key for inventing new things, starting businesses, selling, marketing, socializing or in situations where you need to think on your feet.

5 - 15 minutes
 per session
2 sessions per week

Increase EQ

Explore, develop or strengthen your emotional intelligence (EQ). Awareness of your and others’ emotions is at the heart of influencing, ‘reading people’, impactful communication, deep relating and authentic connection at work and in life.

5 - 15 minutes
 per session
2 sessions per week

Goal Catcher

Inspire yourself and others to see and achieve grand visions and goals. A focus on goals is especially helpful for inspirational leaders, starting your own business, impactful communication, or for achieving awesome outcomes at work and in life.

5 - 15 minutes
 per session
2 sessions per week

Recommended program for you:

No items found.

Coach Marlee (your amazing AI-powered personal coach) will analyse your unique traits and goals to personalize the program so you see results as quickly as possible.

No items found.

Testimonials

This is some text inside of a div block.

“Blew my mind, had no idea how arrogant I have been. Total blind spot. I really like the multiplier stuff”

This is some text inside of a div block.

"With attention to detail program, I learned a whole new way to see and approach projects"

Show more testimonials
Hide
This is some text inside of a div block.

“I learned to be organised and to have clarity of my target”

This is some text inside of a div block.

“I learned how to chunk up and see the bigger picture before turning to the details”

This is some text inside of a div block.

“I learned to manage my stress about details”

This is some text inside of a div block.

“Blew my mind, had no idea how arrogant I have been. Total blind spot. I really like the multiplier stuff”

This is some text inside of a div block.

"I have learned how to communicate better using every tool I have in myself, especially in learning how to use my tone of voice"

This is some text inside of a div block.

“This coaching program has helped me improve the way I connect, relate and communicate - deepening my relationships with others and also with myself”

Meet the world’s first A.I. Coach!

Get started for free with personal (or team) coaching.

Programs are designed by world-renowned coaches & delivered by our incredible (AI-powered) Coach Marlee.

Sessions take just a few minutes and are 100% personalized to fit your unique traits and goals.

Hack your life & work

Subscribe to our newsletter for free access to the latest research and expert tips on Mental Health, Wellbeing, Leadership, Career Skills, Team Building & more!

Bring out the best in your team

Our tools are trusted by teams like Canva to help improve:

Wellbeing
Performance
Team Dynamics
Hiring Top Talent

Hack your wellbeing, productivity and goals

. . . with personal (or team) coaching!

Programs are created by expert coaches & delivered by our incredible A.I. Coach Marlee. Sessions only take 5-15 minutes and are 100% personalized to fit your unique traits and goals.
Start personal coaching for freeStart personal coaching for freeStart personal coaching for free
^ Swipe up to chat with your AI coach!
v  CLOSE