Before patting yourself on the back for resisting that cookie or kicking yourself for giving in to temptation, look around. A study from the University of Georgia has revealed that self-control — or the lack thereof — is contagious.
Researchers found that watching or even thinking about someone with good self-control makes others more likely to exert self-control. The researchers found that the opposite holds, too, so that people with bad self-control influence others negatively. The effect is so powerful, in fact, that seeing the name of someone with good or bad self-control flashing on a screen for just 10 milliseconds changed the behavior of volunteers.
Picking social influences that are positive can improve your self-control.
People tend to mimic the behaviors of others around them and characteristics such as smoking, drug use, and obesity tend to spread through social networks. But vanDellen’s study showed that self-control is actually contagious across behaviors. That means that thinking about someone who exercises self-control by regularly exercising, for example, can make you more likely to stick with your financial goals, career goals or anything else that takes self-control on your part.
By exhibiting self-control, you’re helping others around you do the same.
– Michelle vanDellen
Please reflect on and answer the following questions:
Think of someone in your life that regularly demonstrates self-control in some aspect of their life, i.e., exercise, healthy eating, spending money.
- How does this person exhibit self-control in their daily life?
- What do you admire about their ability to exhibit self-control?
- In what ways does their ability to exercise self-control influence your decisions or ability to demonstrate self-control?
- In what ways are you exercising self-control?
- How does your ability to regulate your behaviors have an impact on others, i.e., friends, family.