Learning Self-Control

Learning self-control is not as difficult as it may sound.

Think of your mental and physical energy reserves like a gas tank in your car.

When the tank is empty, the car immediately shuts down and strands you at the most inopportune moment.

We learn our lesson and make it a reflex to frequently check the gas gauge.

Intellectually, people understand the idea of gas/no gas, but when it comes to their bodies and personal lives, they drive themselves beyond the no-gas bend, until they end up sick and tired.

If “sick and tired” is in your daily vocabulary, you are definitely operating in the no-gas zone.

It is a fact, proven scientifically, that we humans operate in the gas/no gas mode.  The reason we eat and sleep is to recharge our batteries.  If we do not eat or sleep in a certain way, our energy stores become depleted.

It is explained best this way.  From my book Take the Quantum Leap into Abundance:  A Guide to the Good Life:

“Energy stores are depleted after an emotionally or mentally taxing experience.  Resisting a tempting food or engaging in a trying conversation is exhausting, and we must take the time to replenish, physically and mentally.

When our mental reserves are diminished, we make poor decisions. What was the state of your body and mind the last time you lost your temper or made a decision you later regretted? 

We fall in love after a long night on the town.  We cause rifts in our relationships when we are tired and cranky.  We yell at our family when we are most fatigued.

When the body is out of metabolic balance, such as an autoimmune disease, the reserves meant for decision-making go to the imbalance. Staying awake for twenty-four hours is the same as drinking alcohol all night.  Most violence occurs between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m.  Alcohol is involved in forty-percent of late-night violent crimes (DeWall, 2013). 

At the end of the day, instead of home in bed, an out-of-control person is mentally fatigued, tired, hungry, and most likely intoxicated.

Mental energy can be strengthened.  Self-control is not a character trait, but a skill.  A skill that can be learned and improved upon.


    • Walk backward with your eyes closed.
    • Use only your non-dominant hand for a week.
    • Check your posture often.
    • Be mindful of your actions.
    • Regulate your speech.
    • Keep your personal history to yourself.
    • Be pleasant and respectful.
    • Avoid energy-depleting people.
    • Fill your stores before energy-depleting events.
    • Take time to recharge after a stressful encounter.

By making a conscious effort to monitor and regulate your actions, you are building your self-control mental muscle.  Once you become aware of how your body reacts when it becomes depleted, you can take simple actions to build it back up.  Better self-control, better decisions.”

take the quantum leap into abundance a guide to the good life

So you see, like the gas tank in your car, your energy stores must be filled up.

“But how do I do that?” you ask.

Well, I am not going to tell you to get the stress out of your life.  You have heard that a million times before.

But seriously, the #1 necessity for rebuilding your energy stores is to eliminate the stressors.

A word of caution:  Be sure eliminating one stressor does not increase stress in another area of your life.  What good does that do?

Step #1.  Examine your stressors.

Step #2.  Start with a small behavior you can take out of your life that you would not miss.

Step #3.  Conquer the small stressors first.

  • Declutter your house.
  • Go for a walk.
  • Make an effort to not yell at your family.

A clean house is the sign of a clean mind.  The one thing you can control is your living environment.  After the Depression in 1929, my grandmother couldn’t afford shoes they were so poor.  She taped up the holes in her shoes and bound them with rags because she could barely afford to feed her family.  She told me many times, “You are never too poor to afford soap and water to stay clean.”

You are never too poor to put effort into keeping your house clean and decluttered.  By cleaning the clutter from your house, you eliminate many of life’s small annoyances.  Once you declutter your house, you will be motivated to make other small changes in your life.  This is life-changing.

As you continue to eliminate the stressors (clutter) in your life, you will find, over time, you have more energy to do the things you need and want to do.


When your house is in order, your mind is in order.

Chinese proverb



Scientific Secrets for Self-Control
The Great Courses

DeWall, C. N. (2013). Scientific secrets for self-control.
USA. The Teaching Company.

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