By Selim Gautschi, Switzerland
How free are our thoughts and actions really?
Isn’t it interesting and fascinating to understand one’s actions and intensions? I think this topic is important in today’s life because everyone has goals and desires and has to struggle with discipline. The origin of our actions often comes from unconscious decisions we make in everyday life. Our emotions are a big part in this process of deciding and thinking.
The term “Action-control” was invented in the early 1980s by Julius Kuhl, a German professor in differential psychology. The term includes processes where intensions are protected from neurological distractions. Everyone who has tried to stop smoking or lose weight knows how hard it is to control their actions. Whether we execute discipline or not depends a lot on our ability to control our emotions. Studies show that people who can control their emotions tend to live a happier, healthier and wealthier life.
Having willpower in your childhood years determines your willpower for adulthood, especially when it comes to emotional situations. Probably the best known experiment in the history of psychology shows what impact willpower has on our personality. In the 60s, Walter Mischel, a personality psychologist, did the marshmallow-test with 4 year old kids. In this popular test, several kids wrestle with waiting to eat a marshmallow in hopes of a bigger prize. This video is a good illustration of temptation and the hope of future rewards. Video: Marshmallow Test
The good news is that we can train and use different techniques to execute and stay disciplined and determined about our goals.
There are five strategies to a more conscious way of acting:
- Environmental control
- Economy of information processing