February 26

Self-Regulation – Managing Yourself and Your Responses

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Self-regulation refers to the ability to manage and direct one's own feelings, thoughts, and actions towards achieving long-term goals. This skill involves recognizing and controlling impulses, emotions, and behaviors to align with personal values and societal norms.

Reaction vs Response

It is easy to react to something, but are the outcomes what we want them to be? Usually, reaction is rapid and not well thought through. That is not necessarily a bad thing when you are in a situation where the triggering of emotions happens to save you from bodily harm. It is a natural part of our survival instincts. The "fight, flight, freeze" reactions are embedded in a part of our brain that houses our survival reactions. We have all experienced times in our lives when emotions have "kicked in" to limit harm to us, giving us the energy and motivation to stay safe.

In our world today, these reactions may not be the best response to everyday emotions. Rarely is fight, flight, or freeze a good thing at home or at work, barring extreme circumstances.

 Responding to emotions that we feel is usually a better way to go. There is real science behind the old saying, "count to 10 when you are mad." The science shows that a flood of emotion(s) that happens when we experience something clears the brain in about 6 seconds, allowing us to think more clearly and be more intentional with our choices. That does not mean the emotion(s) completely go away, just that the intensity is reduced. This is why having strongly developed self-regulation is so important.

Definition

Self-regulation is a critical component of emotional intelligence. It encompasses the ability to:

  • Understand and manage personal emotions and behaviors.
  • Respond appropriately to different situations.
  • Make decisions that consider future consequences, rather than just immediate gratification.

Story

The following is a personal story of a time when I had to practice self-regulation at a high level.*****************************************************************

In my first leadership role, I was a sales manager for a medium size organization. I had the advantage of years of observing my father (the psychologist, consultant, and business man) working with people. This gave me insight that most people might not have. I felt well prepared and equipped to be the leader. That feeling lasted about 3 days into my new role. Then reality set in. One of the older salespeople, far more experienced than I in the organization and in sales decided to test my leadership. In my first sales meeting as a leader, he found fault with everything I was trying to express to my team. Nothing was up to his standards. This became very frustrating very quickly. I honestly thought to myself, "I wonder if it would be acceptable if I fired this guy in the very first meeting?" I had worked for days to prepare for this meeting. It was an opportunity to turn the poorest performing division in the organization around, and I was eager to get started. I did not expect this kind of push back, especially in my first meeting. I had a choice to make. If I fired the guy, it would definitely set a specific tone, but was that what I wanted. I knew I had the authority because the V.P. of sales told me to do whatever I thought I needed to do to make the needed changes. I had to make a decision...and it had to be immediate. This kind of divisiveness cannot be allowed to continue.

Thankfully I remembered one of my father's stories about a similar situation he went through. Instead of pulling the guy out of the room and terminating him on the spot, I got up from my chair, walked over to him, and handed him my keys. He was stunned. Then he said, "What are these for?" I told him that since he had decided to take over the meeting, maybe he should be the sales leader. Handing him my keys was symbolic of that. You could have heard a pin drop in the room. And that was when I said, "Oh, by the way, the V.P. of Sales said this division has to be performing at goal within 90 days, or the entire division will be shut down." Then I went back to my chair and sat down...and practiced what I call "golden silence". It is amazing what will happen when people experience silence in a critical moment. They feel the need to fill the silence because the silence is so uncomfortable.

The outcome...the salesperson that was so disruptive tossed my keys on the table, gathered his things, and left the meeting. The next day he resigned.
*************************************************************************

For me to be able to practice self-regulation at this level, I had to build up that skill ahead of that situation. That is true of all emotional intelligence skills. By the way...emotional intelligence skills are the foundation of most soft skills. The more we can develop these skills, which enhances our internal resources of energy and focus, the more intentional we can be. This is the pathway to better decisions and actions that lead to optimal outcomes.

How Self-Regulation Works

Self-regulation operates through several key processes:

  • Awareness: Recognizing one's emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. (self-awareness and emotional literacy)
  • Self-Assessment: Evaluating these against long-term goals and values. (the goals and standards we hold our decisions up to)
  • Control: Adjusting actions and responses to align with these goals and values. (recognizing our patterns and applying consequential thinking to navigate emotions for better outcomes)

Developing Self-Regulation

Improving self-regulation involves several strategies:

  1. Mindfulness: Practicing mindfulness can increase awareness of thoughts and feelings.
  2. Goal Setting: Clear, achievable goals provide direction for self-regulating efforts.
  3. Self-Monitoring: Keeping track of behaviors and emotions helps in understanding triggers and patterns.
  4. Delaying Gratification: Learning to wait for more significant rewards builds self-control.
  5. Stress Management: Reducing stress levels aids in better emotional and impulse control.
  6. Reflection: Regular reflection on actions and their outcomes can improve future self-regulation.

Conclusion

Think of these emotional intelligence skills as tools in a tool box. The more you practice with them, the greater the skill you develop. Why is this important? Would you like to improve in any of these areas:

* Relationships * Effectiveness * * Well-being * Balance * Focus * Energy * 

* Leadership * Decision Making * Problem Solving * Critical Thinking * Agility * 

* Resilience * Connection * Trust Building *

 These are just a few of the areas that can be enhanced by developing self-regulation. Putting this skill into practice is the path to achieving the outcomes you desire.

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