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Self control-a trait known as willpower is a common strength of many successful people. In my practice I have always stressed that if you have good ability along with willpower that you will be successful.

I just finished reading “Willpower ,Rediscovering the greatest human strength” by Roy Baumeister & John Tierney.

It seems that willpower starts at a very early age with little enfants taught to fall asleep after they are fed and bathed. The first night they will probably cry for the first hour, the next night for thirty minutes and then five minutes before they fall asleep. If your visiting mother/father-in-law picks up the child she/he will go back to crying for an hour. With practice the baby will get the message that mom/dad is not going to pick them up.

Roy and John did a study with four year olds: they were offered a candy but were told if they leave the treat till after supper they will be rewarded with two. Following the progress of the children into their twenties it turned out that the child who gave up immediate gratification (candy) for long term gains were more likely to finish school and hold a job.

Woody Allen was right when he said, “Half of life is just showing up.”The ability to self-regulate is a large part of what separates the haves from the have-nots.

Good attendance at school is learned by our students and those who are not diligent about going to class have a very high degree of dropping out of high school before graduating.

The stats that I have done shows that boys in grade eleven quit school three times more often then their female fellow students. Often times the males do not have the willpower to say “no” to their friends who would rather skip school then attend classes. Hard to do well in the work force if you do not have a high school diploma.

Multiple attempts for those who quit high school and then come back to try yet again often times results in the same poor school success rates.

I am very concerned that too many of our youth have lost their way to technology. Recently I counseled a twenty year old who had not graduated from school, John didn’t have a job and the prospect of getting up early to go to work didn’t thrill him. He spent ten hours a day playing the most up-to-date video games while his middle aged parents supported his habit.

One of my teen-aged girls, Sara, admitted to spending eight hours a day keeping in touch with her friends. Hard to do well with your home work when you are fixated on texting. I was amazed to hear that she took her cell phone into the shower to make sure that she didn’t miss any of her messages.

The willpower to shut off the gadgets has taken a back seat to immediate up-to-date contacts.

One of my friends, “Moses”, who is the director of an adolescents male residential facility shared with me the skills/reward system that his residents are obliged to follow.

Basic Life skills program are taught. “Everyday skills such as personal hygiene are emphasized. Let’s look at the rules: “All residents wear clean clothes every day and wash them every week. There is a fine of $1.00 if you leave your clothes in the laundry after ten p.m. All residents shower every day. A shower is to last no longer then 15 minutes. All residents brush their teeth after every meal. Watching television is a privilege and you may lose that privilege if you are behaving irresponsibly”.
School is part of the program: attendance is mandatory.

Leaving the residence without permission will result in the Police being informed about your AWOL status and charges may be laid.

Before you can have privileges such as “outings”your school work, chores and house routines must be completed. Outings are a privilege, not a right.

All residents receive $10.00 every week for recreation and hobby purposes. Fines for swearing and other inappropriate behavior are deducted from your moneys.

The program is all about learning proper behaviour for which you can earn rewards and ultimately release back into the community. Sad, that the young men had not learned the willpower to behave in appropriate ways before being taken into custody. They lost their freedom to stay at home.

Fortunately, self-control can be improved. One way is to instill orderly habits into our routines: if you make your bed, floss your teeth, and shine your shoes, your more likely to develop the discipline you need for larger goals. My father taught me not to put it down, put it away. The more you internalize it the easier it gets.

Len Lesser

Len Lesser posts a report every week

You can email Len at lenlesser@hotmail.com