I am taking the Dan Ariely on-line course on behavioural economics and one of the elements on the self control modules sounded like it needed to be shared on Hackerspace – the impact of self control on our lives. The course introduces research which indicates that self control, demonstrated as a young child, is an indicator of a number of traits later in life. The traits the mention were not small things; they cited a range of indicators from success at college, average earning, or likelihood of serving time in prison and financial success. It seems that self control can have a bigger impact on our lives than our intelligence!
I thought I would share with you a video of a test that was conducted monitoring self control in children. In the test, a child was given a marshmallow and told that if they waited 15 minutes by themselves without eating it, they would be given a second. If they ate the first marshmallow, they would not be allowed a second. Check out the video below of the kids alone in the room with the marshmallow! Some of the kids do really well to resist. One inhales the marshmallow almost immediately!
I am not sure if I would have the will power at that age to resist. I still struggle now and find I need all the help I can get to exercise, eat properly or spend my evenings and weekends productively.
The other part of the research that I found especially interesting was the description of self control being like a muscle; this has pros and cons. On the positive side, this means the "muscle" can be trained to perform better. But on the negative site, if you used the "muscle" all day, it would get tired and be very depleted by the end of a day!
If you need help with your own self control, an economic professor from Yale co-founded a website called stickK, to help. You can register your goals with the website, put your money or reputation on the line for achieving the goals, add a referee to validate you progress and a bunch of supporters cheering you on, and it claims to improve your chances of success. It's worth a look.
Image created from openclipart.org & edited in pixlr