Human beings are horrible at resisting temptation.
Kentaro Fujita, a psychologist who studies self-control at the Ohio State University, says.
Many of us assume that if we want to make big changes in our lives, we have to sweat for it.
But if, for example, the change is to eat fewer sweets, and then you find yourself in front of a pile of cookies, researchers say the pile of cookies has already won.
“Our prototypical model of self-control is angel on one side and devil on the other, and they battle it out,” Fujita says. “We tend to think of people with strong willpower as people who are able to fight this battle effectively. Actually, the people who are really good at self-control never have these battles in the first place.”
The people who said they excel at self-control were hardly using it at all.

Psychologists Milyavskaya and Michael Inzlicht recently confirmed and expanded on this idea. In their study, they monitored 159 students at McGill University in Canada in a similar manner for a week.
“There’s a strong assumption still that exerting self-control is beneficial,” [Marina] Milyavskaya, a professor at Carleton University, tells me. “And we’re showing in the long term, it’s not.”

What we can learn from people who are good at self-control

1) People who are better at self-control actually enjoy the activities some of us resist — like eating healthy, studying, or exercising.
So engaging in these activities isn’t a chore for them. It’s fun.
“‘Want-to’ goals are more likely to be obtained than ‘have-to’ goals,” Milyavskaya says. “Want-to goals lead to experiences of fewer temptations. It’s easier to pursue those goals. It feels more effortless.”
2) People who are good at self-control have learned better habits
In 2015, psychologists Brian Galla and Angela Duckworth published a paper in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, finding across six studies and more than 2,000 participants that people who are good at self-control also tend to have good habits — like exercising regularly, eating healthy, sleeping well, and studying.
“People who are good at self-control … seem to be structuring their lives in a way to avoid having to make a self-control decision in the first place,” Galla tells me. And structuring your life is a skill. People who do the same activity — like running or meditating — at the same time each day have an easier time accomplishing their goals, he says. Not because of their willpower, but because the routine makes it easier.
A trick to wake up more quickly in the morning is to set the alarm on the other side of the room. That’s not in-the-moment willpower at play. It’s planning.
This theory harks back to one of the classic studies on self-control: Walter Mischel’s “marshmallow test,” conducted in the 1960s and ’70s. In these tests, kids were told they could either eat one marshmallow sitting in front of them immediately or eat two later. The ability to resist was found to correlate with all sorts of positive life outcomes, like SAT scores and BMIs. But the kids who were best at the test weren’t necessarily intrinsically better at resisting temptation. They might have been employing a critical strategy.
“Mischel has consistently found that the crucial factor in delaying gratification is the ability to change your perception of the object or action you want to resist,” the New Yorker reported in 2014. That means kids who avoided eating the first marshmallow would find ways not to look at the candy, or imagine it as something else.
“The really good dieter wouldn’t buy a cupcake,” Fujita explains. “They wouldn’t have passed in front of a bakery; when they saw the cupcake, they would have figured out a way to say yuck instead of yum; they might have an automatic reaction of moving away instead of moving close.”
3) Some people just experience fewer temptations
Our dispositions are determined in part by our genetics. Some people are hungrier than others. Some people love gambling and shopping. People high in conscientiousness — a personality trait largely set by genetics — tend to be more vigilant students and tend to be healthier. When it comes to self-control, they won the genetic lottery.
4) It’s easier to have self-control when you’re wealthy
When Mischel’s marshmallow test is repeated on poorer kids, there’s a clear trend: They perform worse, and appear less able to resist the treat in front of them.
But there’s a good reason for this. As University of Oregon neuroscientist Elliot Berkman argues, people who grow up in poverty are more likely to focus on immediate rewards than long-term rewards. Because when you’re poor, the future is less certain.
Berkman argues that the term “self-control” ought to be abolished altogether. “It’s no different than any other decision making,” he says.

In Berkman’s lab, he’s testing out an idea called “motivational boost.” Participants write essays explaining how their goals (like losing weight) fit into their core values. Berkman will periodically text study participants to remind them why their goals matter, which may increase motivation. “We are still gathering data, but I cannot say yet whether it works or not,” he says.
Another intriguing idea is called “temptation bundling,” in which people make activities more enjoyable by adding a fun component to them. One paper showed that participants were more likely to work out when they could listen to an audio copy of The Hunger Games while at the gym.
by Brian Resnick
 Her success in the White House has had as much to do with her comfort with herself as with what might be her central precept: never believe that there is a room you have no right to walk into. It’s a message that she has delivered in speeches at historically black colleges and in her mentorship of girls. It has also come across in her work, with Jill Biden, to support military families. As the stages got bigger, Obama’s oratory became more dominant and yet, at the same time, more intimate. In one of her enduring speeches, given at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, she revisited her fears that the Presidency would change her husband. What she had realized, she said, was that power doesn’t change who you are—“it reveals who you are.”
In her case, it revealed, by way of “Carpool Karaoke,” what it’s like to drive around with a First Lady singing “Get Ur Freak On.” Her cool seems effortless, though her control of it is precise. Her iconoclasm gains strength from its fusion with irreproachability. She has been cheerfully scrupulous about White House traditions and rituals, including such niceties as designing what will be known as the Obama China.
The tenure of a First Lady who leaves the White House as one of the most popular political figures in recent memory.
By Amy Davidson
 When I look back at my twenties now, I can see that they were all leading somewhere. As a story, they make sense. But at the time, as Hannah Horvath says, it didn’t feel like very much was happening. Most things felt haphazard, random, peripheral. I was making decisions, sometimes, without realizing it. Other times, they hit me square in the face, like that bus. Warning: this is the part where I quote Joan Didion. “That was the year, my twenty-eighth,” she wrote in “Goodbye to All That,” the urtext of twenties self-reflection, “when I was discovering that not all of the promises would be kept, that some things are in fact irrevocable and that it had counted after all, every evasion and every procrastination, every mistake, every word, all of it.” The twenties “count,” though they don’t always feel that way. You sleep through a law exam, cross the street listening to Jacques Brel, and it counts. It’s only when they’re over that you can see the shape of things.
April 28, 2016
Meryl Streep’s Twenties, and My Own
By Michael Schulman

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