The balance between self-control and impulsivity is something that touches every part of our lives, and can have a huge impact on our future health, success, relationships and wellness. If the difference between high achievers and everyone else is simply who clocks in their 10,000 hours, you could say that self-control is the trait that predetermines success.
While on the surface, it seems people with a high degree of self-control possess an incredible amount of grit, endurance is only part of the equation. After a period of time, repeated actions literally re-wire your brain to prefer them. Self-control is the ability to choose discomfort for the sake of a greater good. It is the ability to empathize with one’s future self. But more importantly, it is the ability to use the power of habit to your advantage.
People who possess a high degree of self-control, particularly in the face of difficulty, aren’t anomalies. They’ve adapted.
We only have so much expendable energy in a day, and our willpower is limited. Many people suggest that you should prioritize the tasks you like the least for when you have the most energy. This is because we cannot deny our impulses forever. Eventually, our bodies will take over. This is why any change that is not enacted piecemeal — step by step, day by day — typically fails. This is why grandiose, excessively extreme restrictions backfire.
We don’t think of self-control for what it really is: the harnessing of habit.
Character is something we can choose by the way we choose our actions. With time, these become our comfort zones. They become preferences. What was once an aspiration is now part of who we are, simply because with repeated action, our brains have grown to prefer it. Self-control has more to do with programming your body to respond the way you want than it does trying to manipulate it to act against what it wants. People who learn to capitalize on habit rather than grit are the ones who thrive.