Self-Control key to adult success…really?

A recent study found that children who learn self-control early turn out to be better adults.  This is going to sound mean, but —duh!  I guess it’s good that a study proved what seems to be obvious, and if it means parents will pay more attention to teaching their children self-control, then I’m happy the study came out.  But, really–did we need a study to tell us that?

Self-control is a driver of responsibility.  If people understand that they DO have control over themselves, they are more likely to understand that they create many of their own outcomes.  They can take responsibility for those outcomes rather than blaming “the system,” “the man,” their parents, and so on.  Even when circumstances beyond their control put them in difficult situations, they can take control of their reactions, leading to better outcomes over time.

I think the most frustrating trait I see in adults is the unwillingness to take responsibility for their part of their situation.  Commercials today really play into this tendency.  The general theme is — whatever your problem, you didn’t cause it, and you can’t help yourself.  The truth more often is–whatever your problem, you likely made decisions that helped bring it on, and you CAN take actions to change direction.  Put more simply, “learn from your mistakes.”

The connection of actions and consequences is an essential building block to rational adulthood.  If I do A and B happens, I’ll either choose to do A again or not, depending on how pleasant or unpleasant B was.  If someone intervenes and keeps me from experiencing B, I’ll never learn.  We parents really DO have a responsibility to teach that. 

I sometimes run into workers who never learned that lesson.  They always look for someone to blame when things go wrong.  They don’t seem to be able to see the clear connection between their actions and subsequent outcomes.  This can be taught to adults, and I hope that we will continue to try to teach it.  It’s a tough lesson, but one well worth working on.

Since we’re talking about “self-control,” let me encourage you to look at yourself.  Do you take responsibility for your decisions and actions?  Even when life deals you a tough blow, do you understand and practice self-control to get the outcomes you need?  I’ll be evaluating myself on this today as well.

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2 Comments on “Self-Control key to adult success…really?”

  1. I had the same “duh!” reaction when I heard about the outcome of this study. Whether it’s business, investing, or health, our ability to delay instant gratification and to take responsibility for our actions each day contributes to a better future. Many self-employed people know this; helping employed workers to know and live this is a valuable lesson!

  2. Andrew Tucker Says:

    This really happens? Of course, it does – I see it everyday! Learning to accept and admit that you’re not perfect is not easy but a necessary trait to have. I had a peer once tell me that she told her staff “if you make a mistake, we cab fix it”. Nobody’s perfect, admit it and accept responsibility for your actions – no one else will!

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