A School For Tomorrow
THE PATHWAY TO EXCELLENCE | WORK | PLANNING

SELF-REGULATION

We need to identify and understand the consistency of our self-regulation – how well we take responsibility for and follow through with organising ourselves and our lives.

At some point, we will believe that we have the goals and tools necessary to do the thing that we need to do. Execution and commitment will then be required to complete the task, achieve the goal, or enact the change that we believe is important. It is the ability to do what we say we will do and stick at this task that distinguishes us from others. We have all heard the expression 'if you're going to talk the talk, you've got to walk the walk'. Learning about self-regulation is learning to walk, learning to keep on The Pathway to Excellence.

It starts with a belief in our ability. We need to have confidence in our self-efficacy and capacity to achieve what we set out to do before we get started. We need to look to the markers of our past performance, the cohesion of our practices and the character and competencies we hold in our present. These will remind us of our ability to achieve things, and reinforce in our minds the methods that are most likely to work to this end. We should, therefore, assert that we can do it while we reflect on how we are going to do it.

Self-regulation relies heavily on our ability to manage our time and ourselves. Whether our parameters are set by us or by some external entity, all of our tasks have explicit and implicit due dates which define the limitations of the timeline that we have to work within. We then must start planning. We identify what needs to be done, in what order we need to do it, and what information and resources we will need. Allocating each piece of work so that task matches time allows us to define the scope and sequence that will confirm the sense of mastery, autonomy, and purpose we need to remain motivated along the way. It is then a matter of execution and evaluation of our progress; getting up and doing what needs to be done so we stay on track, as well as recording the achievement of our milestones. This is where self control and good practice comes into play. We need to recognise when we are doing good work and when we are not. We need to hold ourselves accountable to the process we have designed and understand which of our behaviours are helping us move forward and which are holding us back. We need to be able to regulate our emotions in the light of this experience so that we can promote positive behaviours and delay the impulse to act on less productive behaviours.
"The biggest challenge to self-control is emotional regulation. Successful people know how to make their emotions their servants rather than their masters."
Paul TP Wong
Self-regulation, ultimately, is about understanding how we work as a learner. It’s about identifying how we feel in the moment and responding to those feelings and emotions in a constructive fashion. At its heart lies the capacity to defer gratification of an immediate desire to be pleased or relieved of a burden in pursuit of a longer-term goal. It works hand-in-hand, therefore, with self-awareness and self-mastery. We need therefore to recognise what works for us, how we can play to our strengths, and how we can build our capacity to adhere to the task at hand. This process – regardless of which area of our life we found ourselves using it in – will require temporary sacrifice for long-term reward.

Leaning into the resources we have around us is also important. Bringing in other people to inform them of our plan so that they have an idea of our process and goals can create an external accountability mechanism. When we show our plan to someone else it becomes an accountable reality that exists beyond our own minds. We can use this external structure to help shape our own internal motivation. In due course, however, we will need to internalise this process. We can't rely on others forever. It comes down to practice and the way in which we use others to coach us. We need encouragement and recognition when we succeed at self-regulation. In time, it becomes a habit, one that can underpin a personal discipline and the collective discipline that we can contribute to those around us.

We can contemplate our mastery of our Self Regulation by considering the following questions:
    • Do I have the resilience to overcome setbacks and to frame mistakes as opportunities to learn?
    • Am I developing my sense of efficacy as I develop my goals, pursue my ambitions, and learn how to adapt to change and uncertainty?
    • Do I have good time-management and work habits and do I continue to refine and improve these to meet new expectations, standards and challenges that I will encounter?
    • Am I prepared to make sacrifices today in order to gain success and achieve my career goals?
    • Do I control my reactions to difficulties, tensions, and disagreements with others and find ways to strengthen productive collaboration?

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