6 Best Tactics to Improve Your Self-Control

By Dr. Kurt Smith

October 11, 2017   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

How do you improve your self-control?

For most of us, this is a work in progress. Self-control, at its most basic, is the ability to control our emotions and actions. Having the ability to do this effectively has been tied to being successful in all areas of life. It allows us to achieve goals and accomplish tasks that may seem daunting or even impossible.

For example, self-control in the financial arena can help you make wise buying or investing decisions. You may deny yourself frivolous items, opting instead to save that extra dollar or two for more worthy choices. As a result, you are more likely to find yourself feeling secure in your finances and creating the life you desire.

Self-control in relationships is also important. Everyone has found themselves feeling strong emotions, both positive and negative, in a course of a relationship. If we are not able to control how and when we express these feelings, we can destroy a relationship needlessly.


Just because you think it does not mean you need to say it.

With self-control, you create a grace period to determine whether what you are feeling is really something that is worth saying.

So, what do you need to do to improve your self-control and set yourself up for success?

Check out these 6 tactics.

Set a goal

Setting a goal is one of the best first steps toward improving self-control. With a goal in mind, you can determine which actions are needed in order to achieve it and which could be detrimental. This may mean that you have to control certain desires and emotions along the way.

Take getting in shape, for example. In order to change your shape in any fashion, you have to make a number of choices. Many of those choices require a great deal of self-control. It would be far more pleasurable to eat a doughnut than a carrot stick. But, if you want to get closer to your goal, you have to control that impulse to indulge in a sugary treat.

See Also: 4 Powerful Ways To Stay Motivated And Reach Your Goals Through Tough Times

Understand the ‘Why’

five whys

If you know why you are doing something, you are far more likely to work hard to achieve it. If you are a person who is prone to emotional outbursts, understanding why you need to work toward controlling them will motivate you to focus on that control.

Knowing that an unchecked emotional outburst can hurt someone you love unnecessarily, jeopardize your position at work, or cause people to lose respect for you can be a strong motivator. This is WHY you need to exercise control over the impulse to speak before you think.

Change your environment

If the things that test your control are always in front of you, consider modifying your environment. This is not a sign of weakness but, rather a sign of control and strength. When you proactively alter your access to temptation, you are helping yourself and practicing control at the same time.

A smoker who is trying to quit knows to get rid of cigarettes. However, if he really wants to be successful, he may also want to make changes to the places or people he spends time with. This change of environment not only improves personal control but also strengthens one’s ability to control the other aspects of life as well.

Keep a journal

If you are working on something continually, it can be hard to see your daily progress. If you jot down the time you said no to the doughnut, held your tongue or chose not to spend that $10, you will be better able to see your track record of success.

And success breeds success. If you can see what you have already achieved, you are more likely to push further.

See Also: Writing Therapy: How It Can Make Your Life Easier


practice meditation

Meditation is a form of self-control. You are forcing yourself to quiet your mind and focus. This simple act can be far more challenging than it seems.

Finding time to stop, be still and explore your own thoughts requires a certain amount of discipline and self-control.


Studies show that the simple act of routinely moving your body and raising your heart rate will help improve your focus and clarity. The act of physically exhausting yourself can give rise to mental calm and it requires you to actively control the impulse to stop and sit.

Mastering self-control can be difficult. Many of us work toward this every day in different ways. More important than any tip you can be given, however, is the personal knowledge that you have the ability to do whatever you set your mind to. After all, the only behavior you can truly control is your own.

Dr. Kurt Smith

Dr. Kurt Smith is the Clinical Director of Guy Stuff Counseling & Coaching, a Northern California counseling practice that specializes in helping men and the women who love them. His expertise is in understanding men, their partners, and the unique relationship challenges couples face today. Dr. Kurt is a lover of dogs, sarcasm, everything outdoors, and helping those seeking to make their relationships better.

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