Some interesting research out by Terrie Moffitt and team shows how costly lack of self control can be. Low self control in children leads to huge increases in involvement in crime, debt problems, and health problems. Better self control worked all the way up, so they found if you are good at self control you have less problems if you get better at self control, all the way to the top.
So they are recommending that we all try to improve our self control, which fits my earlier blog about Kicking the Habit.
Improving our self control is not easy, as shown by the fact that probably most of us can sing the song, ‘I want it now!’ Wanting it now resonates with us, why should we wait? A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, as the saying goes.
Wanting it now is a big thing with children, as any watcher of Supernanny will know and anyone who has had little children knows all too well. Learning to wait is one of the first lessons of importance in childhood, and it seems that learning that lesson well is good for us, and of course, pretty good for the planet too.
To learn the benefits of waiting we have to have learned to trust, trust other people and also, something easily missed, to trust our own judgements. Research into trusting our own judgements shows how faulty they can be. We rely on emotion to tell us what is true and what is not true, but Loftus reports that ‘just because it’s vivid, just because it’s detailed and expressed with confidence and emotion doesn’t mean it is true.’
The kind of advertising we get comes from knowing how to nudge that feeling of wanting it now. ‘Because you’re worth it’, says it all, you deserve it and you deserve it now. Injury claim adverts are very good at hinting that only if you ‘feel’ an injustice has been done would you contact then to make a claim. No appeal to logic and reason here, your judgement of how it feels is all that is needed to make that claim and gets thousands.
Wanting it now is paralysing in all societies, whether you are in business and you want your bonus rather than investing back into the company, or whether you are after that new car and can’t really afford it, the debt society is riddled with a want it now attitude.
The payback comes later. And the interest owed on our planet might be too much for any of us to bear. So how do we change? Well, one step at a time, a 20 second delay, in that cigarette, that purchase decision, that statement of desire, is enough to reduce the want substantially, and a little distraction, and the urge for now has gone. Little victories, that’s how you start, and that is how we change our destruction of the planet.