The Power of Self Regulation: Stop Letting Your Triggers and Behavior Run Your Life

By: Ron Patulski

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No doubt, we live in a fast-paced, demanding world. This world is full of deadlines, commitments, and expectations that capture our focus and often demand the need for a productive, effective response. As these conditions place more demands on us, they make the skill of self-regulation an essential tool for success and fulfillment. 

I was reminded of this recently when a client stated he felt our coaching relationship had more impact on his life than anything else he could think of. The changes he’s made in his self-awareness and his impact on others have been inspiring and notable. As a result, he has significantly increased his ability to self-regulate. He is visibly a more fulfilled and effective leader, father, husband, and business person. He has nearly tripled his income over the last 5 years and when you’re in his presence, you feel his magnetic energy.

What is self-regulation? 

Self Regulation is “the control of oneself, by oneself”, which means you have the ability independently to respond and behave in any situation in an effective and resourceful way. In a perfect world, this would be your consistent response. Clearly, we know the world isn’t perfect. Let’s look at a few scenarios when the lack of self-regulation may show up in your life. We refer to the lack of it in situations as we reflect back and we realize “I lost my sh**t”, or “I really let them have it”, or “I gave them a piece of my mind”. When this happens, we are not being effective. We are triggered, coming from a place of reaction as opposed to intentionality.

There are 2 areas that determine the level of your self-regulation. The first is the area of awareness and impact. This will be our focus today because it is the foundation allowing you to increase your aptitude in self-regulation.

This is the work associated to the second area. Doing the work allows you to release the multitude of specific sources creating these kinds of responses. That is a much deeper conversation and often requires professional cognitive resources.  However, once you become aware of a response or behavior using the awareness and impact step discussed in this article, you will either choose to live with it or be compelled to change it. This is the work of this second area. It allows you to release the emotional triggers creating the response or behavior you no longer will tolerate to self-regulate effectively. If you are curious or have a compelling need right now, use this link to explore a powerful option for this deeper conversation and resource.   

How do I increase my ability to self-regulate?

The first step to creating a choice to increase your ability to self-regulate consists of a combination of awareness and impact. You must first have awareness of your emotions, responses, and actions to provide the choice to change. Once you are aware of your behavior, it comes down to the impact. Everything you do has an impact, positive or negative. Your behavior can impact your relationships, how you see yourself, and how others see you. It can also impact your environment. Once you become aware of the impact, you’ll have to ask yourself, “Is this impact great enough to warrant change?” Until you realize the cost of your behavior, it will be difficult to make a change. Identifying the cost comes down to awareness of the behavior and awareness of the impact it has on you and others. This is where the client previously mentioned started his journey

Awareness matters. In fact, in the field of human development, there is a belief that “awareness is the first step to change”. Carl Jung realized the importance of awareness when he stated, “until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”  A lack of awareness has an impact because, without it, you’re not afforded choice. With choice, you can choose to change behavior and create a new possibility. Without awareness, you have no choice to change and you remain stuck in your behavior.   

Using the premise that awareness is the first step to change, the first step to self-regulation is to heighten your awareness of how you appear to other people. This requires a perspective of stepping back to consider what it may be like for other people to be in your presence. It requires the intention to be aware of what you’re saying, how you’re saying it, and how those in the experience with you are responding to the way you are being. If they are feeling that you are being harsh or insensitive, is that your intention?  If you’re not aware of how you’re appearing to them, how can you change? This is why awareness is the foundation of self-regulation. With more awareness and intentionality of the experience you want others to have in your presence, you can actualize that experience. Awareness gives you the opportunity to self-regulate effectively. The lack of awareness robs you of this opportunity. 

Impact matters. Your behavior matters because your behavior creates your impact. It doesn’t take any skill to be your habitual self because your habitual responses are automatic. We all have things that trigger our automatic responses. The question is, are you proud of the automatic responses that come out when you’re triggered? Once you are aware of a response and you’re not willing to accept the impact of that response, the impact provides the reason to change. In fact, a strong driver for change is the awareness of the negative impact of the behavior. The greater the negative impact, the greater the motivation to change and the more inevitable the change is.

To increase the power of your self-regulation, apply these steps:

  1. Start each day with the intention to be more aware of your behavior as you move through your day. Intention is powerful and the intention to be more aware reinforced daily activates more awareness over time. Being aware of the responses you get is a valuable feedback tool to heighten your awareness. Let your daily life be your classroom.
  2. As you become more aware of the feedback you receive, assess the impact of the feedback. Does the feedback align with your intentions? If it doesn’t, exercise your choice to change your approach. Consider in this self-reflection process asking; what would I do differently the next time?
  3. Be patient with the process and yourself. Building awareness and impact is much like building muscle, you will get stronger with consistency and time. We often overlook this as most of us overestimate what can be done in the short run and underestimate what can be done in the long run.
  4. If or when you move beyond the awareness and impact stage and are seeking support to continue increasing your ability to self-regulate and make impactful behavior change, consider this next step to explore your options.

Ron Patulski