How Willpower Equals Success

The Benefits of Self-Control

How Willpower Equals Success - The Benefits of Self-Control

Self discipline as an indicator for success is not new: in the 1960’s Walter Mischell, a psychologist at Columbia University, tested the ability of 4-year olds to resist eating Oreo cookies when left alone. He found that children who were better at resisting temptation ended up scoring higher on standardized tests and were considered to be more attentive and intelligent. These results inspired psychologist Terrie Moffitt of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina and colleagues, to find out whether childhood willpower, and not just self-discipline, is also an indicator of adult success. The team assessed and recorded a range of measures related to self-control including impulsivity, persistence at a task, patience while in lines, and hyperactivity in approximately 1000 New Zealand children from the age of 3 until their early 30’s, and 500 British fraternal twins from ages 4 to 12.  They found that children with less self-control at age 5 were more likely to begin smoking and perform badly in school by age 12, twice as likely to have health problems in their 30’s, earned 20% less by age 32, and were three times more likely to have substance addictions and crime convictions. Furthermore, Moffitt found that each child exercised a range of disciplined behaviors, leading her to believe that there is a willpower spectrum: “It means all of us could benefit from improving our self-control.”

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