O ne of the greatest quotes of all time was by the Greek philosopher, Heraclitus of Ephesus, who stated that “The only constant in life is change.” However, despite this notion, most individuals have a hard time dealing with change and, oftentimes, become repulsive to the idea of it as time passes. The development of this fear to change had allowed individuals to constantly hover on the idea of it but only a few had the bravery to really act upon it. Most can easily say that “I will change for the better starting now.”, however, only a few can deliver this to a certain extent as some are unable to integrate new routines and habits into their old ones. Being unable to do this, however, is not something that is uncommon.
Cultivating self-discipline in order to facilitate and promote positive change is something that most individuals have difficulty doing. This is where self-regulation comes in. When defined, self-regulation is the individual’s intended approach to modulate, modify, or prevent negative thoughts, behaviors, and perceptions to achieve an ideal and satisfactory goal (McClelland et al., 2010). By changing their approach and intention, individuals are able to grasp the idea of change easily since directly approaching it can inhibit them from positively changing their actions to produce and achieve the goal that they want to acquire.
Self-regulation, in itself, is ineffective if the individual is not able to fully grasp the idea of it. Understanding how self-regulation works can allow the individual to effectively develop positive change, as well as develop a positive routine that works best for them. Berkman et al. (2017) had suggested that focusing one’s attention on his identity can allow the individual to be motivated in doing things that are difficult for him. By also focusing on his identity, the individual can also subjectively perceive change in a more positive way, as compared to something negative. Redirecting the individual’s focus from the idea of change into something that is beneficial to him, self-regulation can easily follow, even without fully adapting to the idea of change.
Beshears et al. (2021) suggested that adopting and doing small and repetitive actions willingly can, ultimately, result in long-lasting effects on an individual’s daily life in the long run. By creating and repeating micro and manageable actions, individuals should be able to slowly but surely integrate self-regulation into these actions to build up his confidence in doing things. When the individual is confident enough to facilitate and regulate their actions, they can now easily integrate positive changes in their routines, which could result in the development of healthy habits. The constant deliberateness in repeating micro and manageable actions enable individuals to enjoy the previous tedious and tiresome tasks, which are, sometimes, the inhibiting factor as to why they are averse to change. This was also suggested by Shnayder-Adams and Sekhar (2017) in their study of micro habits.
In addition, Arlinghaus and Johnston (2018) had suggested that adhering to the positive changes in an individual’s lifestyle is as fundamentally important as breathing. They placed importance especially on the development of habits and routines so that the individual can exercise self-discipline and control. By adhering to essential behaviors and positive emotions, the individual can effectively integrate highly engaging and health-promoting actions easily into their daily life. Planning, monitoring, and even distracting negative thoughts and perceptions, no matter how small they are, allows the individual to accept failures in their attempt to develop and cultivate self-discipline, as well as the difficulty that they might encounter along the way (Stoewen, 2017). Accepting failures and difficulties can ultimately allow the individual to develop and cultivate some sort of discipline that is needed when promoting positive change. Besides accepting and adhering to positive changes, learning how to act upon these is also relevant.
Inzlicht et al. (2020), on the other hand, had suggested that the dual systems model, the impulsive and the control systems, of self-regulation allows an individual to practice self-regulation in a more controlled way in order for it to become more effective. In other words, when the impulsive system of an individual works together hand in hand with his control system, behavior is seen as something goal-oriented. However, when both of the systems are in conflict, any behavior done by the individual can be considered as contrasting or opposing in nature. This conflict can often be seen mostly when individuals want to go on a diet but are unable to do so since they are tempted to eat the foods that they are craving.
Leyland et al. (2018), in addition, had suggested that practicing mindfulness can help in the enhancement of an individual’s ability to self-regulate. Practicing mindfulness can allow the individual to become grounded and aware of his actions by recognizing the emotion that exists with the want or the desire to positively change their behavior. In the development of this self-awareness, the individual can, then, recognize the maladaptive behaviors that can go along with his negative thoughts and perceptions, which can become a hindrance in cultivating habits to promote positive change (Cook-Cottone, 2015). By being able to recognize and acknowledge these maladaptive behaviors, the individual is able to develop control and discipline to promote healthy habits and routines. In this way, mindfulness and self-regulation can become an added instrument for the individual in sticking to positive and healthy routines.
Developing habits and routines are not easy and, sometimes, can be time consuming. It is at the discretion of the individual to develop and cultivate change in order to promote positive changes and be able to stick to healthy routines. Cultivating and developing the self, as well as integrating positive changes to their daily routine can be easier with the help of the individual’s acceptance and awareness of his actions. This, nonetheless, might still be difficult for some to do especially if they are not willing to do so. Therefore, the willingness to change should be an initial priority in cultivating self-discipline and regulating one’s actions, because, without it, self-regulation can become worthless.
Arlinghaus, K. R., & Johnston, C. A. (2018). The importance of creating habits and routine. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 155982761881804. doi:10.1177/1559827618818044
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Beshears, J., Lee, H. N., Milkman, K. L., Mislavsky, R., & Wisdom, J. (2021). Creating exercise habits using incentives: The tradeoff between flexibility and routinization. Management Science, 67(7), 3985–4642. https://doi.org/10.1287/mnsc.2020.3706
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