Denying instant gratification in deference to long-term goals is virtuous, people tell me. Those people might be right. Psychologists call it self-regulation or self-control. And together with conscientiousness, it’s at least a trait (or a coping mechanism) that’s reasonably good at predicting a young person’s future. People with less self-control are more likely to end up where the world tells them to go.
Even in the worst circumstances, people with the most self-control and resilience have the highest likelihood of defying odds—poverty, bad schools, unsafe communities—and going on to achieve much academically and professionally. Except that even when that is possible, those children seem to age rapidly during the process. That is, their cells visibly age before their time (based on DNA methylation) among other undesirable effects on the body, according to research published this week from Northwestern University and the University of Georgia.
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