Self-control wears out when used, researchers say
In a recent study, subjects were asked to suppress their feelings while viewing an upsetting movie. In a subsequent test that involved self-control, the subjects performed worst than average. According to the researchers, this proves that their self-control ressources were used up during the first test. More details here : http://www.world-science.net/othernews/071011_self-control.htm
I think this study raises a lot of questions, questions that have to do with procrastination.
Chronic procrastinators often go through these cycles of procrastinating, doing everything at the last minute, thinking that this will never happen again, and then when everything is done procrastinating again. Could it be that when we are working at the last minute, we use up all of our self control ? Then we would HAVE to procrastinate afterwards, because our self control just doesn’t work anymore.
If this is true, then what would be a good way to deal with it ? Maybe our self-control needs a rest. Maybe it restores naturally with time, but maybe it restores better if we let it rest. I’m not saying I advocate it, but I’m just wondering : would getting drunk, gambling all my money and generally acting silly help me be an overarchiever the next morning ? For some reason I doubt it. But there might still be an element of truth in there.
It’s often said that self-control is like a muscle : the more you exercise it, the stronger it gets. Maybe that’s true on the long term, but on the short term, the more you use a muscle and the less it works. Otherwise I could do an infinite number of pushups, and that wouldn’t even be impressive because you could do it too. What this study suggests is that self-control is just like a muscle : you have to stop using it after a while, or it gets exhausted.
Of course, the idea that you should have fun after you’ve worked too much is common sense. But this study brings a new light to it : what you need precisely is not “fun