How to Learn Self-control: 3 Key Factors

Often achieving goals is associated with strain because it’s necessary to change the habitual way of life, to use the available resources. The same can be said about seeking psychological help, because this process is directly related to internal and external changes. At the same time, it isn’t surprising that natural mechanisms of resistance to such changes are triggered. For example, avoidance of unpleasant emotions, such as fear of changes in one’s life, or fear of solitude (if we are talking about increasing independence) can promote refusal to carry out the task or not following the initially organized plan of action. In this case, besides direct work with resistance (preferably together with a psychologist), it’s possible to simultaneously train self-control so that at the decisive moment, one will not turn away from the appointed way.

Training in self-control will be useful not only to people with a tendency to avoiding or dependent behavior but also to those who find themselves in difficult life situations accompanied by prolonged stress. For example, one can imagine a person who has been searching for a job for a long time, while not being able to get a job, not having enough money to live on, having difficulty interacting with people close to him, etc. Over time, he despairs, criticizing himself, and whatever he does seems useless, pointless to him. He starts procrastinating playing at Hellspin or chatting with friends instead of doing activities for achieving his goal.

Self-control training includes three components: self-observation, self-assessment, and self-reinforcement. We should learn about each of them to understand how these concepts work.


It involves the ability of a person to record the frequency, intensity, and duration of certain actions they take to achieve their goals. Being able to keep such records can help to see certain changes and improvements.


It involves comparing observed performance to a “standard” of performance. This means that each person, depending on his or her abilities and capacities, has his or her own “standards” for performing an activity. Often these standards are borrowed from other people, which can lead to ambiguity in the results (“I don’t know if I’m happy or not”) or frustration (disappointment). Learning to evaluate oneself more accurately can help develop such standards. For example, it’s useful when it’s necessary to determine whether or not to ask for help with a task.


It involves having appropriate consequences for doing the job, satisfying one’s own standards. This is not surprising, since any activity requires reinforcement to maintain motivation. Reinforce one’s desired behavior with concrete rewards (a gift, a nice walk, watching a favorite movie, etc.) as well as positive cognitive reinforcements: “I really did it and I did it well! I’m awesome!”.

Forming desirable qualities in yourself that will help you achieve your goals and improve your own self-efficacy is sometimes a long and time-consuming process, but by understanding yourself, knowing your capabilities and having self-control skills, this process will go much faster and more enjoyable.