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Why Is Self-Control So Tiring?

wagonzeke

Photo by MadMolecule

Do you ever notice what feels like a steady pattern of restraint and then “fall off the wagon?” Of course, we all do. It goes something like this:

I will not swear in front of the kids. I will not swear in front of the kids. I will not swear in front of the kids. I will not swear in front of the kids. F*ck, it’s just too hard to not say sh#t.

I will only eat one cookie. I will only eat one cookie. I will only eat one cookie. I will only eat one cookie. I’ll just have one more cookie.

I’m saving for a rainy day. I’m saving for a rainy day. I’m saving for a rainy day. I’m saving for a rainy day. It might rain today and oh! I’ll buy those new boots.

Self-control sounds good on paper. In practice? It’s exhausting. Why? I found this nice post about what psychologists think happens:

“Restraint and self-discipline, they say, are hard work—real effort, not unlike weightlifting. And just as you can overtax your biceps or abs, you can also deplete your reserve of emotional control. When life comes at you hard and you persevere, you quite literally use up your potential to do the right thing one more time.”

So self-control can be exhausting. Give yourself a pat on the back when you succeed at it, and remember that you just might be low on “restraint fuel” when you fall off the wagon. You’re not alone.