Humans are fragile, and each day we go through many situations where we lose our control and then, things go terrible. Sometimes, we believe it’s our fault and other times we blame others. Some people help us control our behaviour then some try to trigger us to lose it. We try so hard to keep things in places and, therefore; tend to self-control theory.
For some days things go well, everything works fine according to self-control theory, but no matter how strong we try, in the end, we invariably do things that we shouldn’t. And again we force ourselves to follow the god damn same theory we followed before- even though how much ineffective it was.
According to Wikipedia, self-control theory is an aspect of inhibitory control, meaning suppress our thoughts, an emotion or a particular behaviour to have control, but this doesn’t work, and you already know it.
For example, when we get angry and try to repress it, then what happens? It comes out with high intensity like a volcano. Because the case with our thoughts, emotion and behaviour is like a spring, the more we press it, the higher it will jump.
So, if self-control theory putting us in trouble, then what should we do? There has to be another way? Yes, there’s an alternative, but before that, we should understand why self-control theory, itself becoming chaos.
Why it doesn’t work?
(1) It’s impossible to control our emotion, thoughts and feeling.
Our emotions, thoughts and feelings are like steam in cooked food. We can’t cook food without having water vapours, and thus, here, the theory fails because it tells us to eliminate or control the key elements of a process to get it done, which is impossible.
(2) Whatever we do, we always deal with our feelings.
We fail or break our routine, or lose our control, all because of our feelings. For example, many people struggle to get up early. They set the alarm, try to sleep early; yet in the end, they can’t make it. Why? Because for people who in decades never got up early feels bad to leave their nice warm bed and go on a walk. If they try to control their feeling, then it becomes a conflict between good feeling and the bad feeling. Where good feeling wins because lying down feels good. And it’s easy; rather, get up and go out-which is hard and feels bad.
(3) We save ourself to caught up in a fight with ourself. (It’s hard to resist)
We can control only our actions, and here all the trouble starts because every action produces emotion and feeling.
For example, a smoker is trying to quit his/her smoking habit. So, in a day, he/she would have to face his/her urge to smoke many times. And for that, if he/she tries to control his/her temptation, then he/she will get caught up in a fight with own.
Conflict with ourselves is much worse than the fight with others. And it’s very tough to resist those short term and pleasant temptation.
Because in both cases we will lose, so, we choose the side where we feel good in the present moment, whether it’s for a short time.
(4) We Always need support.
Whenever a tragic thing happens in our life, we look for support, and sometimes this support comes from bad habits. People often choose drug, alcohol and unlimited sex with prostitutes to ease up their pain in their worse time. And because they think involving in these activities help them, so, it is hard for them to resist them.
If they try to control and hold themselves back from connecting with these activities, then they harm themselves in pretty much bad way. Because if they can’t get these, then they want nothing else.
And in the end, they make a much worse decision and take life-threatening actions.
Again, self-control theory failed itself, and if it is not functional, then what should we do? How we stop ourselves from doing the same thing over and over and stay away from guilt and regret.
So, for this, there’s an easy saying, “If you want to find a way, there’s always one.”
How to navigate ourselves in life without using Self-Control Theory?
(1) Choose other options.
When a feeling like anger boosts up in our mind, we should go with other options; rather, repressing it. We shouldn’t try to say to ourselves that we need to control it.
Remember, only actions we control, and action creates the feeling. Chanting I need to calm down, won’t help. Because when it doesn’t work, it creates more stress and anxiety in us. Therefore, we should do something which generates good feelings which do not hurt others. Like, we can listen to music, drink water or go on a walk. We are neither repressing it nor expressing it. Here what we are doing is simply feeling other emotions.
Other than anger, we should express our feelings because sometimes letting go of our feelings, feels good.
(2) Compare feelings with responsibility.
To stop ourselves from doing the thing we always do that we shouldn’t, we can compare our present time feeling with our goal or responsibility.
By doing so we get our priority, that what’s important for us and what’s not.
And feeling to fulfil our responsibility always win over the feeling that feels good for a short period. If you tend to lose control and do unproductive things that are a waste of time, then you should compare your responsibility with it. You will be surprised to find that the height of your temptation is shorter than the height of your obligation.
(3) Make fun as the reward of your work. Put work first.
Most of the time, we put the fun first in front of us as compared to our work. We only put our work first when we are in pressure, and of-course pressure is a bad feeling, and it messes up everything because we are not so versed to handle our pressure. If we put our work first, then there will be less guilt and much fun later.
There will be more productivity, on-time work completion and no burden of heavy work.
We can invest our time on better things or enough time to spend with family and friends. Need no self-control theory at all. However, it’s our nature to get rewarded by doing nothing.
Whom you’d choose, a person who’s demanding you to go on a trip, do some work for him/her and get paid. Or a person who’s giving you the money first and then expecting you to do his/her work.
Most probably, we choose the second option because it’s in our nature to put the reward first than work.
If you go with life and its situations choosing the second option, then it isn’t a wise decision because if you have your reward first, then you’ll not work as you supposed to. You won’t pay any attention because you’ve not to worry about deduction in your payout. So, you’ll learn average on this job. Whereas, if you choose the first option, then you will always try to be more focused and attentive at your job. You will try not to mess around; will give your best work, so, you won’t see any decrease in your payouts. In this way, you will learn a lot which would help you in the future.
The second option is the only cause of unproductivity.
(4) Current feeling vs future feeling.
When we face a specific situation, there are always two choices. And related to these choices, there are always two feelings, one is after feeling, and the other is before feeling. In a situation, where an action to make, we always have two decisions, and we can only choose one.
For example, as shown in the diagram below, you have an action: eat the burger, and with that, you have two decisions to take: Yes and No.
With yes decision you would feel good, and with no, you would feel bad in the present time. Now, what’s tricky is, these two decisions, too, have future results with respective feelings. If you go with yes, then in future you will face high cholesterol and bad feeling. Whereas, with no decision, you will get a nice look and Good Feeling.
So, by comparing, you get a clear answer to your decision. Your future feeling helps you to figure out the nature of your present feeling. It encourages you to tolerate it and saves you from losing control. It supports you to bear the pain as a bitter brew to get healthy quicker.
Before we indulge ourselves in activities which are at some point good for us, we should ask ourselves what good we have done, that, that particular feeling or activity deserves us. Like, binging TV shows, eating fast food, going out with friends and browsing social media. If we haven’t done something, then we should push them aside and repeat step 3. Put work first, then fun as a reward.
(6) Make a small milestone.
We all use self-control theory to stop ourselves from something we are doing regularly- consciously or non consciously. But quitting a habit all at once is a very tough task where we find ourselves in between storms, where we have no option left other than surrendering to it. But as said before there’s always a way if you want it.
So, what if we create a milestone to get control over an uncontrolled situation. For example, if you want to quit smoking, then you can create a bridge or a safe window of about one week.
First, you have to resist the temptation for six days, and on the 7th day, you should surrender to it, then again for 6th day resist it. In this way, you’ll smoke for, four times in a month.
Then increase your window to fifteen days, and you will smoke two times in a month. Then again increase it, and soon you’ll be free from your habit. As shown in the diagram above.
Self-control theory is a soft shit on the floor, the more you clean it, the messier it will become. Therefore, it’s much better to understand our situation and act accordingly. Try to self-limit yourself because, in the end, it is the thing which works fine. And try to listen to your mind.
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