The Piece of Cake
Matt Gomez, the teacher who wrote the post on self-control activities for kindergarten students, writes about modeling self-control for his class. "I give examples often of adults that have to have self-control so they know we all have to make choices. For example: “guess what class, I saw a piece of chocolate cake in the staff refrigerator. I could have eaten it but I chose not to because it wasn’t mine.”" I found this interesting for several reasons.
- Gomez is interested in self-control in relation to people getting along with one another. He says he didn't eat the cake because it wasn't his, not because it wasn't good for him, a reason many people exercise self-control around food. I'm interested in self-control in relation to staying on task with my work and getting more done faster, not because it will improve my relations with others. However, according to Kelly McGonigal's book, The Willpower Instinct, working on improving willpower in one area of life often leads to improvement with other areas that require willpower. It doesn't appear to be a spot specific strength. Therefore, the children learning to control themselves so they can get along within a group, may find themselves better able to control themselves when needing to stay on a task. If I am able to improve my control with my work, I may find myself getting along better with others.
- Unless we've been receiving some kind of self-control instruction or are undergoing some kind of training in it, how often are we actually aware that we are practicing self-control or need to? For instance, take the example of seeing a piece of cake in the refrigerator. How often do we see something like that and consciously think, Time to exert a little control here and walk away from that thing? I think it's probably much more common for us to realize we've experienced a self-discipline success or failure after the fact (I knocked off a chapter today! I lost half the day to phone calls!) than while we're in a position to do something about it. Is this because that's the nature of humans or because we simply haven't learned a particular behavior or skill?
- Gomez's description of modeling self-control for his students raised this point for me--I would have to remember I was looking for self-control examples, particularly if I wanted to find any coming from me, before I would recognize that not eating that cake was a golden opportunity to create one. And that brought up the whole issue of memory and self-control.