PROBLEM: "Among humankind's most valuable assets" is self-control, according to Wilhelm Hofmann and his team of researchers at the University of Chicago. They define it as "the ability to override or change one's inner responses" and to refrain from acting on impulses. As an immediate consequence of leading lives of constant self-denial, it would seem that people with a lot of self-control aren't likely to derive a lot of pleasure from life, although in the long run they might benefit from the satisfaction of being better able to realize long-term goals. They don't get to enjoy the cronuts, but they get to be thin, healthy, and otherwise better than the rest of us.
- Among Groups of Friends, Obesity Is Contagious
- Forcing a Smile Genuinely Decreases Stress
- Castration Adds Years to Men's Lives
METHODOLOGY: To start, 414 adults completed an online survey, in which they rated their self-control by indicating how much they agreed with 14 statements (such as, "I do certain things that are bad for me, if they are fun"). The participants also reported their current emotional state as well as their overall life satisfaction. Holfmann's team then turned to data from a study in which 205 adults were given smartphones and prompted to report their emotions at random moments throughout the week. At the same time, they were also asked to report whether they were experiencing any desires, and if so, how hard they tried to resist them, and whether they ultimately ended up acting on them.
RESULTS: The more self-control people reported having, the more satisfied they reported being with their lives. And contrary to what the researchers were expecting, people with more self-control were also more likely to be happy in the short-term. In fact, when they further analyzed the data, they found that such people's increased happiness to a large extent accounted for the increased life satisfaction.