Self-Control: Why You Need It to Succeed and 7 Ways to Develop It

develop self control

Your ability to control your emotions, feelings, and without being interrupted by other things is one of the most important keys to your success. And this key is called self-control.

Many people fail to achieve their goals because they don’t have self-control.

Yes, they want to be successful. They want to be rich. They want to build successful businesses. But the problem is that they lack the self-control to follow through their plans.

They are often distracted by other people and things. They choose to do things according to their feelings and emotions.

When they don’t have the motivation or they don’t feel like doing, they procrastinate.

This is what is happening to most people out there.

Successful people, on the other hand, have higher self-control. They understand that in order to achieve the outstanding results, they must learn to control themselves.

This is why you must learn how to control yourself. You must choose to work and act regardless of how you feel.

Extraordinary people don’t wait until when they are motivated to do things. They work at their goals no matter whether they are motivated or not. They take action regardless of their feelings and emotions.

At the same time, people who have higher self-control will never allow other things to distract them.

They will lock themselves in their rooms to get things done. They choose to switch off their phones so that they can focus better. And they are willing to do whatever it takes to complete the tasks that they are supposed to get done.

So tell me, do you want to have better self-control?

Before we talk about how you can boost your ability to control yourself, let’s discuss a little about the fundamentals…

What is Self-Control?

If you look it up in the dictionary, it was defined as “the ability to control oneself, in particular, one’s emotions and desires, especially in difficult situations.”

It is an extremely important trait of success because everything that you do will be governed by your ability to control yourself.

There is no point to say that you want to lose weight and eat healthily when you can’t control your diet and keep feeding yourself with ice-cream and sweets.

This is also why most people fail to reach their goals and to live their dreams.

A lot of people say that they want to build a successful online business. Whether they want to build a money-making blog or a successful e-commerce business, you need to have the self-control to follow your plan and to stick to your goal.

Don’t just say that you want to build a successful internet business but at the end of the day, all you do is sit in front of the TV and enjoy the day. It takes a lot of effort and discipline to follow through.

And the problem comes when you lack self-control.

You will be easily distracted. When your friends ask you out for a drink, rather than working on your goals, you choose to have fun with your friends. When your spouse is watching TV, you choose to watch along because you lack the self-control to discipline yourself to face your computer and write the article.

People who have higher self-control have better ability to resist temptations and are able to delay gratification.

Just like how the famous Marshmallow Test uncovers, children with higher ability to delay gratification will have a higher chance to perform better later in life. Read this article:

Why Delay Gratification Can Greatly Impact Your Success in Life

Why Self-Control is Hard

Like willpower, self-control is a limited resource. As we go through the day, we use our self-control to act and make decisions.

Psychologist Roy Baumeister once conducted a ground-breaking research on self-control. He and his team examined a group of 67 participants in a tempting food challenge.

In the research, Baumeister divided the participants into two groups. One group was asked to eat chocolate chip cookies while another group was asked to eat the radish instead.

After that, the participants were asked to solve a geometric, persistence-testing puzzle that cannot be solved.

Those who ate the radishes made far fewer attempts and put in less time to solve the puzzle compare to those who ate the chocolate cookies.

The discovery was that those who resisted the chocolate cookies and forced themselves to eat radish could not be fully engaged in another tiring task.

They used up their willpower and were too tired. As a result, they lacked the self-control to go through the puzzle.

In other words, our self-control works like muscles. It can get tired as we use it.

The good news? We can build up our self-control by exercising it.

Why is Self-Control Important?

Everything you do in life has something to do with your self-control.

According to this article from Steven Aitchison, here are some of the benefits of self-control:

1. It increases your decision-making capacity

When we use our self-control to make difficult decisions, it may become more difficult for us to exercise our willpower after that.

For example, if you force yourself to write a 2,000 words article for your blog in the morning, you may find that it becomes more difficult to focus later the day.

2. It boosts your chances of success

Angela Duckworth, the famous psychologist and best-selling author for the book, Grit, acknowledged that when self-control was measured against talent, the one who practiced grit rather than relying on talent came out more successful.

In other words, people who have better self-control are more successful at what they do. They tend to have more willpower to stick to their plan and to develop better habits to succeed.

By the way, the book Grit is one of the books that I recommend reading.

3. It helps us focus better

Self-control allows you to focus better on what you do. You become more immune to distractions when your ability control yourself is high.

It also helps you get rid of negative thoughts in your head. People who have higher self-control tend to be more optimistic, which plays a major role in long-term success.

4. It promotes congruency with your self-image

Self-control allows you to be more consistent with your self-image and who you really are.

Like what Steven Aitchison wrote in his blog post:

“People that are able to practice self-control have more harmonious lives because they avoid situations in which they have to choose between desires.

Instead of fighting with themselves over eating the last piece of cake or to stick to their diet, they would not have bought the cake in the first place and therefore prevent themselves from being exposed to conflicting desires.”

This is why self-control is important. And the best part is that you can practice it to have more of it. Here’s how…

How to Develop More Self-Control

Some of the methods below aim to help you boost your self-control and some are great ways to strengthen it.

Like what this article says, “there’s a lot we can do to mitigate willpower depletion and enhance our ability to exercise self-control,” below are just some of the tips.

1. Look at the big picture and think further

If you want to have more self-control, just look at the bigger picture and think further into the future.

When you are working on a long-term goal, it is easy to get frustrated by the small and tiny steps and details that required to get you there.

Instead of losing yourself in the tiny and insignificant steps, regularly remind yourself of your long-term goal.

See the bigger picture of the entire forest, not just the trees that are in front of you.

I bet you have heard the story of 3 bricklayers. When someone asked the 3 working men, the first said that he was laying bricks. The second said that he was putting up a wall. And the third said he was building a cathedral.

The 3 bricklayers were doing the same thing. The first man had a job. The second man had a career. And the third man had a calling.

That, my friend, is understanding the big picture and thinking into the future.

This is exactly what you need to boost your self-control.

When you see the bigger picture, when you are being visionary, and when you think about the exciting future you desire, you are in control.

2. Get enough sleep

According to a study by the University of Washington, lack of sleep can drain glucose in the prefrontal cortex of your brain. As a result, it can lower your ability of self-control.

It’s common sense. Think about it, when you are tired and sleepy, do you think you can perform better and able to resist temptation better? You know the answer.

It happens to me all the time. I find it extremely difficult to focus on my work when I don’t get enough sleep the night before.

When I lack sleep, I tend to be easily distracted by other things and it will be more challenging for me to stick to my plan.

In short, sleep deprivation depletes your self-control. Thus, get enough sleep.

3. Take short breaks during the day

You need to take rests and breaks during the day to recharge and refuel your energy. Read my previous article:

The Importance of Taking a Short Break According to Research

Never ignore the importance of taking short breaks. Nobody can fully focus and work 10 hours straight. We need breaks.

When you stop and slow down, you allow your brain some “breathing spaces” and make your creative juices flow better.

After your break and when you get back to your work, you will discover that you will have better self-control to follow through. Your level of focus improves again.

4. Commit to regular exercise

Exercise is good because it improves blood oxygen flow in your body. And this makes you more awake and refreshes your power of self-control.

In fact, exercise not only increases your self-control, but it also develops and makes your self-control stronger.

Think about it. When you are running and you are tired, your mind will tell you to stop. This is the moment you get to practice self-control and grit.

Keep going and go a little beyond your limit. Your mind will tell you to stop but use your willpower to go a little further.

This is how you develop your willpower, self-control, and grit. You make yourself stronger by going beyond your comfort zone.

Your mind is the one who is telling you to stop. You don’t have to listen to all the voices in your head.

That is how Arnold Schwarzenegger built up his muscles. This is what he said:

“The last three or four reps is what makes the muscle grow. This area of pain divides the champion from someone else who is not a champion. That’s what most people lack, having the guts to go on and just say they’ll go through the pain no matter what happens.”

5. Conserve your energy and willpower

The less willpower we have, the less self-control we get. And since we use our willpower as we make decisions and think on our day-to-day work, we must learn how to conserve it.

Do you know that Steve Jobs dressed in jeans and black turtleneck most of the time? And that ex-President Barrack Obama wears only blue or grey suits?

There is a theory behind this. These extraordinary people want to conserve their energy and willpower on other things.

They refuse to spend too much of their willpower and decision-making on what to wear. Hence, they just dressed the same way most of the time.

Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg was once asked about his same dress style too.

According to this article from, this is what Zuckerberg said, “I really want to clear my life to make it so that I have to make as few decisions as possible about anything except how to best serve this community.”

And he also continued to say, “I’m in this really lucky position, where I get to wake up every day and help serve more than a billion people. And I feel like I’m not doing my job if I spend any of my energy on things that are silly or frivolous about my life.”

Therefore, conserve your willpower and energy for something more important.

Learn to make better decisions and spend most of your energy on something that is important to you.

6. Take in some glucose

According to the American Psychological Association, Baumeister said that glucose is the chemical in our bloodstream that gives us energy to our brain, muscles, and other organs and systems.

In other words, glucose is the fuel for our brain to function properly. And guess what, low levels of glucose lead to poor performance, especially on tasks that require our self-control.

The good news is that we can improve our self-control by raising our blood sugar.

Baumeister recommends periodically replenishing glucose to our body, even if it is just with a glass of lemonade. It can strengthen our ability to maintain and have higher self-control.

7. Learn to manage your stress

When you slow down and relax at the moment, you improve your focus, cognitive function, and also your overall wellbeing.

You make poor decisions when you are stressed. You lose yourself and also your self-control when you are under pressure and stress.

Like this article from Forbes writes, “Learning how to manage stress in healthy ways ensures you have the energy to keep grinding when work and life can feel overwhelming.”

Learning to handle your stress indirectly promotes better self-control.


If you want to be successful, learn to develop and have more self-control.

It is the character that separates you from the rest. It is the trait that makes you disciplined when others are partying and having fun. Self-control is the key to achieving what you want in life.

Therefore, learn to manage it, my friend.

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