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Willpower, Self-Control Can Be Learned

I’m a little astounded by how quickly some people are willing to just throw up their hands and, rather than learning how to gain more willpower and self-control in their life, use technology tools as a substitute for learning those skills. Or suggesting how we seem to be at the mercy of social networking sites, which have some sort of undeniable power over us, our choices and our behaviors.

I’m talking about the article in today’s Boston Globe from Tracy Jan bemoaning how college students nowadays are “tangled in an endless web of distractions.” The article reads like college students are saying, “The Internet and Facebook are just too darned addicting, I can’t help myself!”

It’s gotten so bad that some college professors — even at the venerable technology institute MIT — are outright banning laptops in class. Oh, the tragedy!

Except none of this is new. Or news.

4 Comments to
Willpower, Self-Control Can Be Learned

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  1. So, John – got some tips for learning it?? I’m all ears – seriously!

    For a month or so I’ve been using Lumosity, which I see happens to be advertised in the sidebar here. Subjectively, it feels like it works. Any other suggestions (besides the common “just grow up”) on how to develop these skills?

    (Obviously at age 61 I agree with “learning skills in your life that you lack.” Some “skills” may be better classified as overcoming some endowed inclination, but I’d agree that even that’s a skill.)

  2. Great article….if only we could get through to our 24/7 -texting-facebook teens! As a parent, I’ve found it helpful to ask that my teen puts the phone down while we’re having a conversation. I ask for eye contact. HOWEVER, I do remember raising my son before the texts and tweets era, and I also had to ask for eye contact :)

  3. Interesting article. I have often thought that one of the reasons why this multi-tasking and media like facebook are so addicting is that they follow the intermittant reinforcement schedules associated with the gambling addiction. Adults, i.e. teachers and of course parents need to set that rational limits.

  4. Great article! I particularly loved what you wrote towards the end of your article about these choices being difficult, and that the decision to remain distracted or unfocused is much “easier.” In each present moment we all have the opportunity to make different, more positive choices that utilize self-control. If we can’t learn to do what is in our own best interest, why do we expect others to bend over backwards for us? Thanks again for the excellent thoughts and reminders.

  5. Technology & Your Life 101 will not be any more effective than any other course if the students are distracted. As a professor, I have decided that rather than banning connections to technology, I am going to tell students that I am monitoring their behavior. Then, I’ll have a record when I have a student expressing concerns about their grades.

  6. “You can learn how to do that — all it takes is some education, some practice, and voila! You know have greater self-control.”

    I’m with e-Patient Dave, in both years and burning desire to learn self-control! If self-control is truly easy to learn through education and experience, then yes, of course, we should help guide our students down that path and let them learn from their mistakes. But if it’s so tough that those of us four decades older than our students still suffer mightily from a lack of self-control, then maybe just letting our students drown in it in the hopes that they will eventually learn from the consequences is a tad too optimistic/pessimistic.



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