Exercising Self-Control

Most things in life are easier said than done. It is simpler to think in a particular manner than to convert that thought into actions. Very often, we chide ourselves to think positive, be a better human being, apply self-control, etc., but are unable to behave accordingly. This inability could arise due to various issues – lack of willpower, helplessness, inferiority complexes, and so on. These traits are what help in building self-control and it is in these areas that self-development must take place. Strengthening these qualities is a way that will lead to practising self-control.

Exercising self-control in not impossible, in fact, it should be read as ‘I-AM-POSSIBLE’. The element of possibility resides within oneself as it is all in the mind. If the mind thinks along possible lines, then it is possible. If one thinks in the negative, then feelings of impossibility arise. A turn-around of the mindset from negative to positive cannot happen immediately as the positivism has to be inculcated slowly and steadily.

Self-control has to be constantly practised so that it is strengthened over time. There are various ways of practising self-control:

Improving self-willpower

Self-control is closely linked to willpower, as the latter is an important element. Self-control is an assertion of the mind’s thoughts over actions demonstrated and therefore the need for a strong will power. The mind cannot control actions and spoken words in the absence of willpower. It is often quoted that ‘anger and frustration make the tongue work faster than the mind’. Hence, to strengthen the mind over the tongue, improving willpower is necessary. This can be done through repetitive self-assertions on one’s own abilities to perform and act in a particular manner. The brain must constantly send out “I can do it!” messages. This affirmation helps in building self-esteem and reducing inferiority complexes. With the passage of time, such positive assertion will convert itself into positive behaviour and emotions, which in turn will aid self-control.

Trial and Error

When a child learns to walk, he does not speed on the first day, but falls umpteen number of times. Similarly, there are bound to several hiccups while learning to apply self –control. At each stage, there will be frustrations due to the inability to control oneself adequately, or for the body to act only as the mind directs. However, overcoming these frustrations is a step towards the right direction as well. An apt illustration will help demonstrate this trial and error:

Case: Tom would get angered and frustrated easily and would abuse in retaliation. He would never stop to think of his actions and the repercussions that it would have. He became very unpopular among his peers and realised that he needed to apply self-control on his actions and behaviour.


  1. Step One – Realization of the fact that he is unable to control his actions
  2. Step Two – Training his mind to think what makes him feel angered and identifying the anger triggers
  3. Step Three – Teaching himself to apply self-control and guiding his thoughts in this mannerAn occasion presents itself when he is angered by a peer. His mind starts thinking logically but is unable to process the thoughts in time, and the tongue starts mouthing bad language. Here, Tom was unable to control himself in time.
  4. Step Four – Learning from the past previous experienceNext episode happens, and Tom is able to focus all energies into his thoughts and does not react through words or actions; he remains silent. Now, he has had some success and has been able to apply self-control
  5. Step Five – Tackling emotions and feelings by expressing them in the correct wayA third episode happens when Tom is angered by a peer’s remarks. His mind works fast and controls action. It then sends out logical thoughts to the tongue, which are expressed in a reasonable way. Tom, with the use of correct words, expresses his dislike and cautions his peers against use of derogatory remarks.

Hence, not in one instance, but over time, Tom has effectively used self-control to discipline himself and show restrain. This self-control seemed impossible to him but by being conscientious, he was able to make it possible!

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