In midlife, people can become so overwhelmed with multiple demands on their time that they can’t get started on anything, much less those tasks that they need to get through somehow. You’ve got to get stuff done at work, pick up your kids, finish cleaning out your closets, maybe head to the gym, and get dinner on the table. Instead of starting any of these seemingly unmanageable tasks, you plunk down on the couch, turn on the TV, and pretend you can make it all go away.
Logically, you know that if you want to succeed at anything, you’ve got to persevere. However, you may not think of yourself as someone whose strong point is stick-toitness. You can take heart in a study published by Florida Institute of Technology psychologist Patrick Converse and his collaborators (2013) on what they call “dispositional self-control.” In this fascinating study, Converse and team tested a national sample of 5000 10-year-olds, following them until they were in their mid-20s. The researchers looked at a whole set of personal characteristics including educational attainment, income, and job “complexity,” or degree of mental effort required by their work. The participants also contributed data on negative, or antisocial, teen behaviors as well as positive teen behaviors such as studying, working and belonging to high school clubs and teams.