You are the company you keep -- and that applies to behaviors like self control, too, according to a new study.
Researchers found that people who struggle with temptation could improve their self-control by surrounding themselves with strong-willed people.
"What we have shown is that low self-control individuals seem to implicitly surround themselves with individuals who can help them overcome temptation -- you get by with a little help from your friends," study researcher Catherine Shea, a psychological scientist at Duke University, said in a statement.
The study, published in the journal Psychological Science, included several experiments. In one of them, study participants watched a video that had words that came up on the screen. Some of the study participants were instructed not to read those words, while the other group wasn't told anything about reading the words. Then, researchers had all the study participants read descriptions of three kinds of office managers. The descriptions included a manager who had low self-control, a manager who had high self-control, and a manager with demonstrations of both high and low self-control.
Researchers found that those who were asked not to read the words on the screen in the first part of the task (which researchers said had a self-control-depleting effect on them) were also the ones who thought higher of the manager described as having lots of self-control. And in another experiment, researchers found that people who scored low on a self-control test also thought higher of the manager described as having lots of self-control.
In the last experiment in the study, which involved 136 couples who were romantically involved, researchers found that people who self-reported having low self-control were more likely to say they depended on their partner with high self-control.
Another thing that could possibly help boost our self control? Looking at the big picture, instead of the little things we need to do along the way, according to a past study in Current Directions in Psychological Science. This is especially useful for goals like weight loss, where picturing the end result could help you stick to your goals better than focusing on all the work you need to put in to drop the pounds.