Researchers at the University of Zurich have found that a part of our brain - the right temporoparietal junction - is not only responsible for empathy, but also has a role in modulating self-control.
"Empathy depends on your ability to overcome your own perspective, appreciate someone else’s, and step into their shoes. Self-control is essentially the same skill, except that those other shoes belong to your future self—a removed and hypothetical entity who might as well be a different person. So think of self-control as a kind of temporal selflessness. It’s Present You taking a hit to help out Future You."
I imagine that this could potentially have some interesting clinical implications. For example, if we engage in activities that might foster empathy - such as volunteering or immersing ourselves in different cultures - might that also help to enhance self-control? If we work on being compassionate to others, will we then have a greater ability to treat our future-selves with that same kindness? It will be interesting to see the future directions of this research.