Do you know anyone who seems to have an endless supply of self-control and hope that you can borrow some of that? You don’t have to be envious anymore—in fact, you can even take full advantage of that. According to one study, you can become infected with someone’s self-control simply by visualising or imagining that person exercising self-control. The authors found that ‘merely perceiving someone use self-control can improve one’s self-reported self-control ability and reduce one’s feelings of fatigue’.
It is therefore a good idea to imagine a person or a friend working out at the gym and shedding a few pounds when you are trying to resist the urge to eat that cake.
Also, there is a caveat to this self-control strategy—it is possible to have too much of a good thing. If your imagination of that person exercising self-control is too detailed (eg., imagining the difficulty or struggles the person faces, trying too hard to take the perspective of that person), it can actually reduce your self-control. The researchers found that ‘simulating that person’s actions (through perspective taking) reverses these (self-control boosting) effects’. Fortunately, this makes it even easier for those of us who already lack self-control to indirectly catch some of it.