Saturday, August 20, 2011

Howard’s Inner Circle, No. 35: How Developed is Your Self-Control Intelligence?

This has been an issue since the first human took a bite out of that apple. But now in We Have Met the Enemy—Self Control in an Age of Excess, Daniel Akst makes a strong case that social, economic, and technological changes have dramatically altered the self-control landscape.

He believes people are having greater difficulty sacrificing short-term pleasures for long-term gains. In part, Akst indicates it is because practical barriers to short-term pleasure are now a lot lower. He also points to a decline in the importance of certain types of communities, changes in attitudes to religion, lack of familial influence, and the appeal of individual self-actualization.

I always thought that lack of self-control was just a matter of not having enough willpower. But it is much more diabolical than that and can be attributed to many other reasons including biological, economic, and even visual ones. Do you know that there is a study that shows people eat dramatically more M&Ms simply by putting ten different colors into a bowl instead of seven (consumption increased 43 percent)?

All is not lost since Akst offers some ideas as to how you can improve your self-control. My favorite is utilizing the Web site referred to as a “precommitment device.” That site lets you put up some money and make a binding agreement let say to lose a pound a week for 15 weeks. You can appoint a person to monitor the progress. If you fail, gives some of the money to a charity you have chosen.

A number of years ago I discovered a book by Daniel Goleman that illustrates in extraordinary detail the importance of emotional intelligence. I believe self-control intelligence is no different, but maybe not as obvious.
© 2011
Above may be reproduced in full if that fact is stated and Howard Wolosky at is credited as the author.

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