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Targeting Self-Regulation: Skills and Strategies

One of the most impressive signs of a truly evolved and self-aware adult is the ability to self-regulate.

This refers to the ability to make intelligent decisions regarding your thoughts, words, and actions. It’s the ability to avoid acting on poor impulses.

People who self-regulate well are less likely to have tumultuous lives, overeat, or make regretful short-term decisions.

Those with self-regulation skills also have control over their emotions.

If all this sounds attractive to you, targeting these strategies will allow you to gain real control over yourself and your life:

1. Avoid substances that are irritating or disorienting. The more natural your body’s state, the easier it will be to regulate your actions and emotions. Things that alter your physiology or consciousness create unnecessary challenges.

  • Some common things to avoid are alcohol, drugs, foods that irritate your body in any way, and caffeine.

  • Examine your diet. Note how you feel before and after eating something. Eliminate those foods that negatively alter your mood, energy levels, or perception.

2. Exercise. Exercise is great for self-regulation for a variety of reasons:

  • Consistently following an exercise routine creates discipline.

  • Exercise reduces stress and makes it easier to regulate yourself.

  • Exercise enhances mood and wellbeing. Both are useful for self-regulation.

3. Sleep. It’s harder to manage yourself effectively if you’re overtired or are sleeping too much. Energy and alertness will give you better control over your thoughts and behavior.Most people find the optimal amount of sleep to be between 7 and 9 hours. Experiment and see what works best for you.

4. Set goals. Goals provide a framework for making decisions. When you’re faced with multiple options, you can ask yourself how each of those choices will affect your ability to accomplish your goals.

  • Without goals, it’s much harder to make a decision. So, it’s also harder to regulate yourself.

5. Have standards. Having standards has a similar effect as having goals. Your standards are a powerful way of limiting and regulating your behavior. Standards are similar to values. If you know your values, it’s easy to develop your standards.

  • If you’ve never thought about your values, now is a great time to do it. Make a list of your values and then develop some standards for yourself. (Personally, I have values for my self, our family, and my company.)

  • For example, if good health is a primary value, a standard related to that value might be to never eat foods that contain added sugar. If you don’t eat foods with sugar, you’re regulating your behavior.

6. Monitor. Constantly monitor your mood and thoughts. When you drift from normal, you’ll be able to catch it quickly and subdue it before it gets out of hand.

  • The same goes for your behavior. If you’re doing things you normally wouldn’t do, such as yelling at someone, ask yourself what’s going on.

7. Mindfulness. Keeping your mind in the present and on the task before you is one form of self-regulation. It also makes self-regulation easier, as your mind isn’t drifting away and creating challenges for you.

  • Throughout the day, notice how often your mind is in the past or future. Also, notice how often your mind is thinking about things other than what you’re doing. It’s amazing that anyone manages to get anything done!

If you think about the people you know who regularly struggle with life, you’ll see that their ability to self-regulate is poor. Now, examine those you know who seem to sail through life with little difficulty. Their self-regulation skills tend to be quite high.

The ability to manage your thoughts, emotions, words, and actions can’t be overstated. Self-regulation is an important part of success.


Mike Acker

President & Lead Coach at ADVANCE

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