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Self-control is Much More Powerful as a Cause of Personal Success

Students - Ambro - Free Digital Photos

Image by Ambro, courtesy of

One of the most satisfying outcomes as a class teacher is when a group of challenging children eventually recognise the benefits of self-control and apply it in such a way that they see the difference it makes to their learning, their relationships and their success – and then continue the journey.

Not only is it rewarding for the children to see this change in themselves, it is immensely gratifying for adults involved to see children take responsibility for their behaviour for the sake of it – not just because they want the stickers.

No one can argue against the fundamental necessity for children to take responsibility for their own behaviour – to exercise self-control – if they are to become ‘successful’ human beings.

At the beginning of this year (2013), the BBC reported on the ‘American Freshman Survey’, which, for the past four decades has analysed the way American students view themselves. During that period, they have observed a dramatic rise in the number of students who describe themselves as being “above average” for academic ability, drive to achieve and self-confidence. The BBC report states that ‘while the Freshman Survey shows that students are increasingly likely to label themselves as gifted in writing ability, objective test scores indicate that actual writing ability has gone down since the 1960s’.

In a brutal nutshell, American students are becoming increasingly narcissistic whilst becoming less academic.

Rather than confidence (or self-confidence) being the key to success, the article quotes the argument that ‘self-control is much more powerful and well-supported as a cause of personal success’. It concludes: ‘you need to believe that you can go out and do something but that’s not the same as thinking that you’re great’.

So, does intervention that encourages students to feel good about themselves motivate them to try harder? Apparently not – in fact, it does the exact opposite: it may remove the very reason to work hard.

Narcissism, evidently, seems to be synonymous with failure.

Are you narcissistic? Take a Narcissism Test here. Between 12 and 15 is average. Celebrities often score closer to 18. Narcissists score over 20.

I scored 13…