Top Tip #8

The tip: Don’t be controlled by your own emotions, thoughts, and behaviors that don’t work; instead take charge of them and your self by training yourself in the life skill of SELF CONTROL.

This skill is critical and could easily have been my #1 Tip Top Tip as the most important and useful of all life skills. It is actually essential for developing any skill including all the life skills we are discussing. I present it here as #8 because in my opinion the topic is a bit more complex and difficult to implement than the life skills we have discussed up to this point.

LEVEL 1 – The technique

The technique for the life skill of self control is an extension of the technique we used for the life skill of upper level smart thinking discussed under top tip #2. Not only do we have an upper and lower level for thinking, we have the same 2 levels for emotion and behavior, whereby the upper level can take charge to control or manage the lower level. This means that you can recreate your self or your person-ality by deliberately “getting your act together” and thinking, behaving, and feeling as you would like them to, until the new patterns become engrained and automatic. This is analogous to mounting a horse and taming or retraining it into different patterns of behavior, except that the process goes on entirely inside you between your upper and lower levels of mental functioning; you being the rider or stimulus of the effect of change within yourself.


​LEVEL 2 – The training tool template

On a page, make two same sized circles one above the other. On each circle, mark three equidistant dots and label them thinking, doing, and feeling. Inside the lower circle, write: the problem ways I am at my Lower level. Inside the upper circle, write: the way I want to become at my Upper level “command centre.” Using your will power, you assert your self to put a lid on the ways of thinking, doing, and feeling that you want to reduce or eliminate, and start enacting the ways you want to be-come, as if you already are that way. Begin each day by reviewing the changes you want to work on and dedicating your self to that effort. Personality evolution for the better could be and I think should be a life time endeavor.

LEVEL 3 – Try a trial test and see what happens

Pick a characteristic you want to develop and try it on; see if you want to buy in to it. An example could be for instance, to become a better listener. Try it and see what happens.

To some degree, you can try on different personalities (the upper circle) like you can try on clothes you might want to buy. Initially it may feel like it doesn’t fit or it is “not me.” This is like acting a role in a play that is not your personal character. With time as you use it, it can grow on you or you grow into the role.

LEVEL 4 – The target

The goal here is to strive to keep evolving throughout life into the person you want to be-come.

LEVEL 5 – Typical cases in point

Many of my patients have been going through life thinking that their personality is fixed and unchangeable. This concept leads to the attitude, “Take me as I am because I am the way I am.” Others believe their real, true self is entombed deep inside and they have to find that self and let it out. The result of these assumptions is going right through life without intentionally developing your self.

LEVEL 6 – The theory

Our personal power stems from our ability to make choices. Your real self is your highest level chooser of your choices of how you conduct what you think, feel, and behave, regardless of what goes on at your lower level of personality functions. This empowers us to “sail the C’s” of Choice, Consciousness, Creation, Caring, Commitment, Courage, Control, Change, and Charge. The theory here is that you can, if you want, choose to break your personality mould and become the kind of person you would like to be in the way you think, feel emotionally, and behave. The way to do this is with the life skill of self control.

It is hard to appreciate that we can choose how to think, feel emotionally and behave. For one reason, the way we first react to stimuli is automatic and repetitive, as though it is coming from the “real me” inside. In addition, we speak as though our behavior, thoughts, and emotions are controlled by others when we say: “You make me mad.” This easily leads us to believe that we have no control over our reactions. If you take personal responsibility for your reactions, you can evolve them into better responses.
It is more accurate to say “I am choosing to feel mad about what you did”, but that would sound funny and then there would be no one to blame for the emotion except your self. At least, you can think the right words without saying them out loud so that you remind yourself of the emotional, behavioral, and thought choices you make.

Can we really control our emotions, such as, for example, anger? No, not in the sense that you can switch it on and off; but Yes in the sense you can always choose to walk away and cool down. That is the minimal immediate control we can always exert. Then in the longer term we can re-create ourselves and choose what we would like to become, such as for example, a calm person.

Previously in our discussion of Life Skill #2, we have applied the life skill of self control to your capacity of thinking in the form of smart thinking charting, whereby your upper level of thinking can control and adjust your lower level of thinking with the result of better emotions. The same principles apply to changing your behavior. The process is called behavior modification whereby your upper level of behavior can control and adjust you lower level of behavior. In this regard, you may have heard of such terms as exposure therapy, systematic desensitization, and stimulus→ reaction inhibition. They all utilize the simple trial or experimental approach: choose to repeatedly do what you think is the right thing to do or what you are professionally advised to do, (in spite of how you feel), and thereby prove to yourself what realistically is the right thing to do. Repeated exposures are typically systematically arranged in increasing difficulty from easier to harder. An example could be desensitizing the avoidance behavior of social phobia. In this case a person would use self control to learn relaxation skills and then systematically expose themselves to social situations starting with easier settings and graduating to more difficult ones, all the while gathering experience, confidence, and skills of social conversation along the way. This procedure, when done properly and sufficiently, reliably reduces anxiety through self control of behavior change.

The skill of self control has been given a bad rap as though by controlling yourself, you are not being your real, genuine self and instead, being phony, dishonest, and suppressing your true self. Perhaps an additional useful term to self-control is self-management. If you would choose not to be angry, part of self-control would be not expressing it and self-management would be using life skills to not produce the anger in the first place; thus working on evolving your self into a more tolerant person. It would be the real you at your upper level that would have to engineer the evolution of your self at the lower level.

LEVEL 7 – Try more tests and trials

There are endless useful applications for self control, such as for things such as thinking before you speak, quitting smoking or other addictions, bad habits, procrastination, or starting good things like patience, respect, and so on and on and on. One general application of self control I think is useful, is to always try to push your self to do the right thing on time.

LEVEL 8 – Tracking progress

I have heard it said that it takes three weeks to break a habit or an entrenched way of thinking, feeling emotionally, or behaving. I would say it takes much longer, so you have to be patient in tracking progress in changing yourself with self control. Maybe monthly or so, estimate your percent improvement from the beginning of the process of change whereby you are in charge and in control of your self.

LEVEL 9 – Take off

Use this life skill to launch yourself away from the problems it can help you solve or resolve and to go on to a better way of living in which you can feel good and function well. Make an extensive list of the specific problems and issues this life skill empowers you to rise above and leave behind. Visualize yourself doing so.

LEVEL 10 – Texts for this topic

For more in depth coverage of this topic I can recommend

Please note: Books are not available at this time.