Perhaps your story is one of wanting to lose weight, become a better person, or simply self-improvement in general, but you never stick to the plan. As a result, you may look down on yourself for not achieving these and other goals. If that sounds like you, then you may need more discipline and self-control. From personal experience, I realize that the journey to self-improvement is a hard one. It's a fact that human beings cannot obtain perfection. Nevertheless, that means that you can always continue to grow and improve, while also accepting yourself.

No matter what you desire, if it is willpower to stay on a diet or a sprint out the door to lose weight and gain benefits from Exercise, you need self-control. It's an important tool that helps in all aspects of life with other great benefits such as resisting temptations, regulating emotions and adjusting behavior to reach goals. With this in mind, researchers discovered in a recent study in the Psychology Bulletin, that a strong desire for self-control leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy.

"The more you want something, the harder it is to obtain it."

Color me the hues of irony and dark humor. Isn't psychology beautiful?

A deeper look at the study itself

The study focused on the relationships between the desire for self-control and performance of a task.

The participants answered questionnaires that increased their desire for self-control. Researchers accomplished this by targeting their behavior, emotions, and cognitions through the questions (e.g. "I want to be better able to resist temptations." I want to have more control over my feelings.").

As an exercise, the participants were asked to complete anagrams of various difficulties.

Afterward, the researchers found that in the face of situations where there was a strong desire for self-control, it led to impairment, disengagement and bad performance of the task, in this case completing anagrams. Consequently, this desire could have been a factor that caused the participants to doubt if they could finish the activity.

Additionally, it caused the participants to quit before finishing the exercise, and yet another side effect was a decrease in willingness to do future activities.

In a second phase of the study, the participants divided into two groups anc wrote an essay on one of two topics. One group, on how self-control was beneficial, the other on how it could lead to problems. The purpose was to increase desire on those who did better in the first phase of the study but also decrease it in those who performed worst. The idea was that a role reversal would prove that a strong desire leads to impairment.

Subsequently, the results were that the group that wrote the essay on self-control being beneficial performed worse while those who wrote about how it was problematic did better.

Therefore, in other words, the results were the same as in the first phase. In conclusion, individuals with increased desire do worse than those who have decreased desire.

What can you do about it?

Researchers recommend thinking of self-control less ideally, instead of as something that you cannot have more or less of but rather as an unlimited resource to help accomplish what you desire. Do not psych yourself out, take a stand, and make the necessary choices to meet your goals. Associate the idea with what you want to carry out and how to do it.