If you're not familiar with pigs as a species, you may not know that they make fantastic wrestlers. A key trait of a quality wrestler is having a low center of gravity. The lower your center of gravity, the easier it is to move athletically, maintain your balance, and hoist your opponent in the air. Pigs have extraordinarily low centers of gravity. So when you have a wrestling match between an 8-year old boy and his 250lb. market hog, the pig will always be the heavy favorite.
When I was six years old I started raising pigs. Whenever it came time to load a the pig into the trailer, it became a wrestling match. My first ever market hog I named "Lights, Camera, and MOSTLY Action." On move-in day for the fair, I remember trying to get her into the trailer for nearly an hour. My mom was trying to help me, but to no avail. All three of us (the pig, my mom, and I) were panting and covered in someone's feces when my mom's high school student Randy showed up.
He was a big dude and generally optimistic. He surveyed the situation, rolled up his sleeves, and approached my pig with a smile on his face. He crouched down to lower his center of gravity and spread his arms out as he approached her. Only a few steps away he made his move and confidently said, "Where there's a will, there's a way!" As he lunged towards her, attempting to bear hug the hog, she smartly took off between his legs. As the middle part of her back met the middle part of Randy's legs, he was upended and landed face first into a pile of manure.
What I learned from Randy that day is that willpower doesn't always prove effective in getting us our desired end result. While important to have grit in the face of challenges, there are other more effective methods. Chayce Baldwin of the University of Michigan confirmed my takeaway in a recent study of nearly 20,000 high school students SAT preparation methods. After being surveyed on how they prepared, they found that students who relied on willpower alone scored lower on average than students who used a different method.
That method? Self-control. They found that students who employed at least one self-control strategy, such as turning off their cell phones, tended to spend more time studying and scored higher. Instead of relying on sheer force of will to add the necessary study habits to their already busy life, they simply removed obstacles instead. Rather than hire a tutor, they removed their cell phones.
Whether you're studying for the SAT's or have less academically-focused goals, instead of willing your way to success and being miserable in the process, try strategic self-control instead. Setting up boundaries and removing obstacles can be just as effective as gritting our teeth and putting our heads down.
Oh yeah... after another hour of pig wrestling I realized how hungry I'd become. I figured my pig must be hungry as well. I set a bowl of food in the back of the trailer and she walked right in. Food is a powerful self-control strategy.
Try gamifying a task you will yourself to do every day. In other words, turn the task into a game.
What is something you have been willing yourself to do? What self-control strategy can be implemented to help you achieve success?
“The is a secret for greater self-control, the science points to one thing: the power of paying attention.” - Kelly McGonigal