Self-control’s all about having the discipline to deny a strong impulse. Saying no to the fourth piece of apple pie. And silencing that loud motherfucker of a voice in your head that’s certain you don’t need to exercise today.

But wait. Isn’t it great to bend your mind to the bridge to push away the fourth piece of pie and muscle your way to the workout? Absolutely. But doing it by improving self-control is a road paved with stones shaped into fists and elbows.

First, riding the self-control horse named Discipline usually works great until you’re exhausted and stressed after a day’s work, haven’t eaten since 11am, know you can’t sleep because you have to prep something for the morning, and have your kids slamming doors at you when you forgot to buy Vegemite. The fourth piece of apple pie? Uhhh, yes, please, thank you very much.

And second, once you improve your self-control and coat your brain with the battle armour built of determination, then what? You still have to fend off these strong impulses in your head constantly.

It won’t stop. Your brain becomes an eternal battlefield of ye! no! ye! YE! NO! Sigh. That just sounds super unappealing. Even if you win most of these self-control battles.

Instead of building self-control, improve your self-regulation

Whereas self-control is about resisting strong impulses, self-regulation is about reducing the frequency and temperature of these impulses. It’s about tuning into your inner dialogue instead of just trying to fight off every urge that arises.

When you improve your self-regulation, you don’t have to have a mind of steel because the impulses aren’t there like they used to be. Bye bye ye! no! ye! YE! NO!

Here’s where it’s at.

The way to improve self-regulation is relatively straightforward.

1. Work on your stress management. Both in terms of how you handle stress and your overall stress load
2. Work on your rest/recovery. Whatever that means to you. Probably not golf though
3. Work on your thinking. If you’re one of those people who can’t meditate, learn to meditate
4. It might not be a bad idea to see a therapist, psychologist etc. Someone who went to more than a Sunday school to work with the mind

Any of these easy? Certainly not. But the good news is that as you improve your self-regulation, you’ll also improve many other aspects of your health. Instead of just spending time trying to master one-dimensional self-control.