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Self-Control is not On Short Supply

Update Date: Jan 15, 2014 12:00 PM EST

Based on several studies, researchers have reported that a person's self-control dwindles throughout the day. Due to stressors and a lost of energy, people might report feeling less control and restraint over their behaviors. However, according to a new article, researchers reported that self-control is not in short supply despite what people and experts might believe.

For this report, the research team composed of Michael Inzlicht from the University of Toronto Scarborough, Brandon Schmeichel from Texas A & M University and Neil Macrae from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland first defined the concept of self-control. For the purpose of their argument, self-control is an individual's ability to override emotions in order to change their behaviors to fit the context or situation at hand.

According to the researchers, they stated that self-control is tied strongly to one's priorities. They argued that self-control wound not be a depleting resource if people altered how they viewed their goals. If people were to enjoy and find pleasures in their activities and goals, they would not need self-control. For example, if someone plans on exercising more, becoming and staying active could be easier if that person views these activities as fun as opposed to something they have to do. By viewing exercise as a fun task, the individual would not need to use self-control when he/she decides between running and watching television.

"If someone wants to eat healthier, they should think of the enjoyment that they can get from eating delicious, yet healthy, foods; in contrast, they should probably not frame their eating goal as something they feel obliged to do because their doctor or spouse is trying to convince them to do so. The key is finding a way to want and like the goal that you are chasing. Some people do this naturally - think of the person who loves to run and jogs as a way to relax or take a break," Inzlicht explained.

He added, "The main contribution of the paper is to say that although self-control is harder for people in these moments of fatigue; it's not that people cannot control themselves, it's that they don't feel like controlling themselves, at least on certain tasks. In short, when people are 'depleted' or fatigued, they experience a change in motivational priorities such that they attend to and work less for things they feel obliged to do and attend to and work more for things they want to do - things they like doing."

The authors believe that if people changed how they relate to their goals, they would be more successful and would not feel as if they have no control over their desires. The study was published in Cell Press's Trends in Cognitive Sciences.

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