As a writer, my great interest is human nature, and in particular, the subject of happiness. A few years ago, I noticed a pattern: when people told me about a “before and after” change they’d made that boosted their happiness, they often pointed to the formation of a crucial habit…
Habits were the key to understanding how people were able to change. But why did habits make it possible for people to change? I found the answer, in part, in a few sentences whose dry, calm words disguised an observation that, for me, was explosively interesting.
“Researchers were surprised to find,” write Roy Baumeister and John Tierney in their fascinating book Willpower, “that people with strong self-control spent less time resisting desires than other people did.… people with good self-control mainly use it not for rescue in emergencies but rather to develop effective habits and routines in school and at work.”
In other words, habits eliminate the need for self-control. Self-control is a crucial aspect of our lives. People with better self-control (or self-regulation, self-discipline, or willpower) are happier and healthier. They’re more altruistic; they have stronger relationships and more career success; they manage stress and conflict better; they live longer; they steer clear of bad habits. Self-control allows us to keep our commitments to ourselves.
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