Along with intelligence, self-control or willpower is the personal trait most predictive of a good life.
The book cites a multitude of studies to show just how powerful willpower can be. The “strongest evidence” the authors say, comes from our own shores. The Dunedin Multidisciplinary Study has been tracking a cohort of 1,000 people from birth. Those who had better self-regulation as children, even when factoring in the effects of socio-economic status, ethnicity, and intelligence, are now doing better on a myriad of indicators – health status, education levels, criminal activity, and so on.
Some on the left think that your destiny is set by your socio-economic status, ethnicity, intelligence etc. And they certainly do have a big impact. But willpower is not something that is set by destiny. You can develop it by discipline and training. And as the research shows, it can have a huge impact on how you perform in life.
In Australia some on the left have been appalled at a documentary series called Struggle Street, because what it has exposed is how large a factor willpower plays in poverty.
Fortunately, willpower can be developed. Dr Dione Healey from the University of Otago, for example, has developed a programme that helps pre-school children at risk of developing ADHD to better self-regulate.
Helping people to help themselves is always a more empowering way. The goal should be to work towards a society that is regulated not by government, but by people powering and willing their own way forward.