Back to the Future: Why Grit and Self-Control Matter in Health and Achievement


Bob Swoap

Robert Swoap, PhD, MS

Clinical & Health Psychologist; Professor of Psychology, Warren Wilson College Private Practice, Clinical and Health Psychology

CHES 1.0* | ICHWC 1.0 |CDR 1.0

As technologies in health promotion grow and evolve, it is worth examining a few of the basic principles in health behavior change. In this breakout session, we explore why self-control and grit matter, why it is important to know the difference, and how to build both. Grit allows us to pursue and reach goals over extensive periods of time. Self-control involves the capacity to move our thoughts and behaviors away from momentary temptations and towards responses consistent with our goals. Drawing on the science of health & sport psychology, we will discuss how to develop both grit and self-control as complementary skills rather than as immutable traits. We will investigate neurocognitive processes involved in this pursuit, and what brain stimulation technology tells us about self-control. Finally, we will examine the central role of psychological connectedness to the future self in health behavior change.

Presenter Bio(s):

Dr. Bob Swoap is Professor of Psychology at Warren Wilson College in Asheville, NC, where he teaches and conducts research in health psychology. Swoap has investigated among other areas the relationship between stress, hostility, and heart health; the impact of brief exercise bouts on children and college students in the classroom; and the effects of mindfulness-based practices on psychological and physical health of college students. Swoap advises the campus athletics and wellness programs. In addition to his academic duties, Swoap is a licensed clinical psychologist who works with medical populations in a health care setting. He conducts sport psychology interventions and workshops with athletes, teams, coaches, and sports medicine personnel. Swoap writes about sport psychology, behavior change, and the pursuit of excellence on his blog at