In my experience, people exhibit an innate fascination with the self and, specifically, the extent to which they are able to command, regulate, or control it. Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle each spoke of the virtues of exerting power over oneself, the importance of regulating one’s morals and one’s impulses is central to Freud’s view of the self, and the earliest known experiments in the field of social psychology are attributed to the study of what is viewed as willful effort allocation in the presence versus absence of others.
This rich history has generated a wealth of literature but unpacking, organizing, and structuring this literature can be quite the challenge for instructors and lay-people alike. In writing Mastering Self Control, my aim was to offer a holistic structure to unpack this varied and nuanced literature in a manner that centers on the readers’ own personal goal pursuits. Said differently, I wrote this book as an attempt to encapsulate the utility of self-control within the entirety of the goal pursuit process.
The book is structured into eight chapters, with each chapter addressing an important facet of the self-control process. The opening two chapters detail the importance of being physically prepared for the mental challenge of self-control and the different methods of motivation that are available to incentivize goal pursuit. The next four chapters then discuss the different standards we use to evaluate our success, the need for realistic expectations when establishing (and pursuing) goals, the steps to take to turn our intentions into actionable behavior, and the short-term benchmarks we set to monitor our goals over the long-term. The final two chapters address the aspects of a strong support system to facilitate goal pursuit and the various factors that help maintain success once the goal has been attained.
The information within each chapter comes from academic research. Yet this book is not merely a summation of academic findings to improve a particular facet of self-control, such as how to form effective habits or create SMART goals. Instead, this book adopts insights from the wealth of academic research in the areas of self-regulation, self-control, and goal pursuit to detail how individuals can strengthen self-control and promote goal attainment. Indeed, Mastering Self-Control offers a way for instructors to organize the vast literature on self-control within a structure that is relevant and informative to the reader seeking to indulge their innate fascination with self-control and gain practical insights in their own goal pursuit.