Self-Control And Confidence Are To Keeping Your Life Boat Afloat


By Zile Singh

Both, as a Noun and as a Verb, Control is a very powerful, positive as well as a fearful word. When one is the controller, one becomes the master and when one comes under someone else’s control, one becomes a slave. None wants to be a slave.  Therefore, all are in the race to   control other individuals and also the situations.  However, the fact is that no one likes to be controlled by anyone else.  Thus, a struggle has been going on since time immemorial to gain control over others.  In the struggle to control, the   civilizations, cultures and kingdoms have been ravaged. Control can be gained and maintained only with a conviction of confidence. With the passage of time and mutual understanding, the forceful control over the  individuals and the situations has diminished and a cooperative feeling for progress has evolved. Today, political, social, economic and religious controls have come under the ambit of free will in the form of democracies.  People, choose their representatives to rule them or control them according to the peoples’ will and understanding for their well-being.  Representatives who have been chosen to control or handle the day-to-day affairs of the masses have been termed as ‘public servants’.  The masters and the servants need self- control to come up to a mark which is beneficial for all the sections of society.

The interest and well-being of all cannot be safeguarded without learning how to have self-control. “Self-Control” is the ability to control one’s emotions, habits, behaviour and desires in order to get a reward.  Self-Control can be called self-regulation also.  According to Syrus, “A man’s own character is the arbiter of his fortune.”  An old Hindu proverb says, ‘There is nothing noble in being superior to some other man.  The true nobility is in being superior to your previous self.”  Also, “A man’s own self is his friend, a man’s own self is his foe.”- Bhagavad-Gita.


There have been several types of  researches to promote self-control. The consequences of good and bad behaviour play an important role in improving self-control.  When we do good things, good results happen and when we do bad things, bad results happen.  If Adam and Eve had managed to cool the hot temptations they faced, they would have been able to hold on to their garden longer.  Without knowing the consequences of the future,

they ate the ‘forbidden fruit’ and lost their blissful inner calm. They became part of a worldly  rat-race.  Similarly, people who

became victims of their cravings; whether for alcohol, tobacco, drugs or fat-filled fast foods never thought of the consequences of their actions in the future.  We have learned the maxim of ‘one bird in hand is better than the two in the bush’ is not always correct.  From the age of antiquity to the enlightenment or the present day, human beings have been characterized as impulsive, helpless, and unable to delay gratification and seeking only the immediate satisfaction.

The traditional belief that self-control is an inborn faculty is false.  In fact, the self-control skills can be learnt and enhanced so that they become useful when you need them.  There is no need to be victims of our social and biological histories. Nothing is pre-destined.  Man is the maker of his destiny.  Self-control skills protect us from various vulnerabilities.  It requires planning, goals, motivation, insight and persistence.

The Marshmallow Test, one of the most important experiments conducted by Walter Mischel   with pre-school children at Stanford University’s Bing Nursery School in the late 1960s opened the way that enabled delay of gratification and self-control begin in early life. His experiment has yielded strong predictions for consequential health and well-being outcomes and essential skills for self-control and ‘willpower’.

Our positive attitude is essential to control ourselves.  More specific goals can lead us to be in control.  Instead of pursuing the goal of ‘being healthy’ we may pursue a goal of ‘walking at least half an hour daily’.  Self-confidence helps to achieve our goals.  People with no self confidence doubt their abilities to accomplish a given goal.  Plato counselled  “Do one thing and do it well” is a key to be successful.  Self-control is a pattern of behaviour.  Actions of today affect the actions of tomorrow.  Not smoking today makes it easier not to smoke tomorrow and not smoke tomorrow makes it easier not to smoke the next day, and so on.  By recognizing our impulsive thoughts and behaviour, we can build self-control.  Developing new hobbies can be wonderful distractions as you practice self-control.  Part of changing behaviour is replacing that behaviour with something else that is healthier and not vulnerable to impulsivity.

Self-control is not at all about denying ourselves of our reasonable desires and pleasures, but it is working towards a higher purpose and sacrificing some thing temporarily in the present so that we can harvest better fruits in the future. Its positive effects will allow us to make better decisions and experience a better life and reality.

“I am, indeed, a king.  Because I know how to rule myself.” Pietro Aretino

Mr. Zile Singh is much respected Link Columnist, writer and a Vipassana Meditator. He can be reached at zsnirwal@yahoo.ca .

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