Beginning with the simple marshmallow test, self-control and its importance in day-to-day life has become quite evident to school teachers and people at large today. Learn the different ways in which you can teach yourself self-control.
One day Susy’s school teacher called her into a room and sat her down at a table. She placed a tray of assorted sweets and candy in front of Susy. Susy looked at the tray and smiled. The teacher asked Susy her favorite sweets and candy. Susy pointed at the juicy marshmallow in the tray. The teacher smiled. Then the teacher told Susy that she was going to step out of the room for a while. If Susy wanted to, she could pick the marshmallow (or any other sweet) from the tray and eat it. However, if Susy waited till the teacher came back, she would be rewarded with another marshmallow. Saying so, the teacher stepped out of the class. Susy sat looking at the tray, wondering how long it would take for the teacher to return…
One simple question: what would you do if you were in Susy’s place? Would you wait for the teacher to return? Would you have the marshmallow? Self-control is an important aspect of life. Children who are taught the importance of delayed gratification have been shown to do better in life – they turn out to be more successful individuals than their counterparts and classmates. So how does one learn self-control? How can you train yourself to learn self-control? Find out some simple and fun self-control activities as you read on…
9 Novel Self Control Activities
Self control is required in various spheres of life, and can be achieved through various techniques, following different disciplines and ways of life. Here is a list of nine different self control activities, split in three different categories.
Self Control Sports / Exercises: One of the best ways to learn self-control would be to engage yourself in activities that require a lot of patience and tenacity. With respect to this fact, here are three important forms of sports or exercises that will teach you self-control.
Yoga is far, far more than just a form of exercise. Yoga is a way of life. Yoga ensures the best of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. A lot of people take yoga asanas (singular “asana” = posture) rather casually, and end up doing them wrong. But technically correct yoga can help you achieve great levels of control over the health of your mind and body. The asanas are not as easy as they may seem. Enduring a yoga session can indeed teach you a lot of self-control, along with keeping you in the pink of your health.
Meditation is probably the single best thing that will teach you self-control. There are different types of meditation techniques that help us deal with different aspects of life in general. Meditation aims at attaining a state of inner balance, equilibrium and sanctity. It takes a lot of practice to be able to block all our thoughts and all the voices screaming inside our heads and minds for us to be able to focus on our breathing, which is one of the initial steps of any type of meditation; and it needs a lot of self-control to do that.
T’ai Chi is an ancient form of Chinese martial arts. Some of the forms, postures or movements of T’ai Chi are characterized by slow movements, so that a lot of balance is required to sustain the completion of a technically correct and well-coordinated movement. The hand forms or postures especially require a lot of concentration and focus as well. T’ai Chi hence becomes a good way to learn self-control.
Self Control Games: It is important to inculcate self-control among children as well. Any good habit if embraced at an early age is sure to remain with you till the end of your time. Here are some fun self-control activities and games for kids.
In this simple game, kids are supposed to sit in pairs across each other at a table or preferably on the ground. At the count of three, kids stare into each others eyes. The first one to blink, loses the game. It so happens that kids (even grown-ups, for that matter) are often tempted to do things they are specifically instructed not to do. You are told not to blink, and that is exactly when your eye will itch, twitch or act funny! ‘Blink’ can be a good way to learn to control your instincts.
This is a game that even adults can play. It can be a group activity, or can be played in pairs. One of the kids has to think of a word, and then act out to give the other partner clues about the word. However, he/she cannot speak even a single word! It is rather difficult for kids to not blurt out the word as they become frustrated with their partner’s progress (or lack thereof). The grown-up version of the game could have movie names instead of random words.
Marble and Spoon
This is in fact a form of race. Kids are made to stand at the start line with a spoon held in their mouths and a marble placed on the spoon. At the count of three, the kids are supposed to walk (NOT run) to the finish line without dropping the marble from the spoon. They cannot touch the marble in any way. Another way to add fun and raise the stakes would be to instruct the children to begin the race when you say ‘Ready? Get set? GO!’ but to in fact not say ‘GO!’ – instead you say words like ‘Gorilla!’ or something that rhymes with ‘go’ (like ‘sow’, or ‘mow’).
Self Control in Daily Life: Even adults need to learn self-control with respect to certain situations in life, like when they are angry, or frustrated. Here, learning self-control is more about maintaining your peace of mind and harmony rather than achieving a long-term goal.
Anger is a short-term madness; and though it is good to let yourself go and act mad sometimes, it is not a pleasant thing to let your temper and anger get the better of you and win over you in every instance. Yes, it is important to vent your feelings, but there are other ways to do it than to bad-mouth someone.
Dealing with Authority
Sometimes dealing with authority can demand a lot of patience and self-control, especially if you have an exceptionally bossy boss, or a micromanaging boss. It is important to learn not to blow your lid off under such situations, as a lot is at risk; and anyway, you blowing the lid off is not going to take care of the situation – it will only aggravate it. So why do it?
Don’t React – Proact
This is extremely important when dealing with children. Children learn by imitation – so you losing your patience and shouting at your kid when he/she, say, breaks a glass plate, or spills food on his/her clothes is going to remain as a bad memory with your child. Be patient and forgiving, and proact instead of reacting. Your child will develop more responsibility if you explain things rationally and kindly rather than shouting at him/her. Think about it.
The experiment given in the beginning of this article was originally conducted at the Stanford University by a team led by Prof. Walter Mischel and was known as the Stanford marshmallow experiment. The concept was ‘testing one’s ability to resist temptation’. It was a part of the studies on delayed or deferred gratification, wherein an individual had to make a choice between an immediate reward and a reward of greater value for which he had to wait. It was done on children where a child had to choose between a small reward (often a marshmallow) offered immediately and two small rewards that would be offered after a waiting period of about 15 minutes (which required him to resist temptation). Earlier, this experiment was performed in Trinidad where Mischel studied how one’s social and economic backgrounds affected one’s self-control.
So those were some easy self-control activities. Hope they help you gain the required balance and equilibrium in your life… all the best!