Seven Components of Self-Regulation

Self-Regulation Theory

Self-regulation is the process of guiding thoughts, behaviors, and actions in our long-term interest. These skills are the premise behind self-regulation theory and a factor in academic achievement. Self-regulation stems from self-awareness, or the knowledge of one’s strengths and limitations. This practice is pivotal for goal attainment, personal responsibility, and developing growth mindset.

In character development it’s common to talk about traits as all encompassing. If you have grit, self-control, or compassion that’ll be the cornerstone of your success. We know this isn’t the reality. Every person needs social skills to navigate the complex relationships in their lives.

Thankfully, self-regulation doesn’t operate in a silo. It’s components skills and functions culminate to maximize effectiveness. The discerning use of each of these processes is adaptive. Because, only the individual knows what they are seeking, and how they can best achieve their goal.

Mental Abilities

Specific Proximal goals

These goals act as progress indicators and a source of motivation. They have immediate action steps achievable in relatively short amounts of time. Proximal goals work as stepping stones towards a distal goal. Ideally, you set a long-term, or distal, goal first and work backwards with proximal goals.

Strategies for goal attainment

Setting strong goals doesn’t guarantee goal attainment. We must develop processes supporting our chosen pursuit. Research by Kurt Lewin highlights four problem areas for goal attainment. They are getting started, staying on track, willingness to give up on ineffective methods, and staying energized.

Monitoring performance for signs of progress

Growth Mindset IconOne of the primary ways to promote intrinsic motivation and an important mechanism in change and growth. Self-monitoring is different for every activity and may be an in depth process or incredibly simple. Health related goals range from tracking steps to intricate body measurements . It’s up to each individual to determine how beneficial their method is and what they’re looking to achieve.

Belief and understanding that cause gets results

This competence helps determine the effort individuals put into overcoming challenges and the choices they make. It’s often referred to as growth mindset or self-efficacy and has seen a huge resurgence in education. Lacking self-efficacy means you attribute failures and successes to outside sources or strokes of luck. You’re less likely to internalize accomplishment and have a tendency to avoid challenge. If you lack growth mindset you believe circumstance and outcome are predetermined, so what’s the point?

Restructuring one’s physical and social context to make it compatible with goals

To me, the most difficult aspect of self-regulation. This process can include distancing yourself from friends and family who detract from your ideal state. Or, needing to pursue spaces conducive to your work style. Finances, social dependency, and physical location limit this skill. Unfortunately it’s difficulty is related to its necessity. It’s absurd to expect long-term goal pursuit when immediate gratification is present. But, that doesn’t mean you’re hampered if you can’t follow this skill completely. Communication can provide a lot of compromise.

Effective time management

A suite of smaller skills that serve to make the most of your time. Time management includes quality sleep, single task focus, removing distractions, and keeping a schedule. There are dozens of time management techniques, or ‘life-hacks’, but some are far more beneficial than others. I’d suggest limiting the amount you try and use, otherwise you’ll end up wasting time trying to be more effective.


Adaptation and flexibility to interruption

Few things ever go as planned, but our ability to rebound determines whether we achieve our goals. That’s why adaptive people think ahead and see failure as a time for readjustment rather than a stopping point. Planning for interruptions is an easy way to work flexibility into your distal goals. A buffer ensures you won’t have to readjust your schedule for every negative event.


NYU Psych – Gollwitzer

Zimmerman – Self Regulation

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