Do you know of someone who has great will power? Do you ever wish you could borrow some of their self-control when you need to resist a tempting cookie or to get yourself to the gym.
Well, recent research suggests that actually thinking about that person can give you some of their self control.
Michelle vanDellen of the University of Georgia did several experiments that show that just thinking about a person with great will power can increase your own.
In one study 36 people were divided into three groups. One group was asked to think of a friend with good self-control. Another group was asked to think of a friend with bad self-control. And a third group was asked to think of a neutral person Those that thought about a friend with better self-control persisted longer on a handgrip task that’s often used to measure a person’s self-control. Those who thought of a friend with poor self-control did worst of all with the neutral group in the middle.
The explanation. Thinking about a friend with good self-control makes it easier to access ideas related to self-control and to act on these ideas. And the same is true for thinking about people with low self-control. Thinking about them makes it easier to think about and act with less self-control.
So how can you use this information?
First, when working on a challenging goal such as losing weight spend more time with people who have great self-control. Some of it will rub off on you.
Second, keep pictures of friends and family around you that also have great self-control. In other studies pictures of supportive family members or friends has been shown to increase persistence. So if you choose people who also have great self-control in addition to being supportive that may magnify the effect.
Third, in one of the experiments described in the same paper just observing people make choices that showed good or bad self-control increased or decreased the will power of observers. So avoid watching TV or movies with people who have no self-control before getting into a situation in which you’ll be tempted. Or at least think of people who great self-control when the film is over.
How will you use this study to enhance your life? Please leave a comment below telling me about one way you’ll use this information.
Reference to the study quoted above: