Self-regulation is critical in the quest for an efficiently productive life. So often you hear of those—or may even have been one of “those” in the past—who can’t get going in life because of side tracks and diversions. Good habits, personal responsibility, and work ethics may sound boring, but they are vital in producing a successful life.
Self-regulation can be likened to stoicism, which was developed by Zeno of Citium in Greece around 300 B.C. What stoicism means to me is, keep a stiff upper lip. Not the same as “grinning and bearing it,” it is about being content in whatever circumstance you find yourself. There is always going to be someone with more money and someone with less money than you. There will always be someone with a more prestigious job, and one that is lowlier. You only have to be you. You can be content.
There were other stoics. Marcus Aurelius is perhaps the most famous, but Epictetus was also a philosopher of the stoic tradition. His life was especially interesting because he was a slave for some reason, and contented himself with his work until he was freed to live a simple life on his own.
Stoicism says things like, “…but if a thing is humanly possible, consider it to be within your reach,” by Marcus Aurelius, and “You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think.” It constantly reminds us that time is not to be wasted and that we must be able to respect ourselves enough to always behave appropriately and do the right thing. Here are some practical examples.
- Write down your goals and steps to take to get there.
- Then, write down things that could be obstacles to your goals. How can you overcome them?
- Think about consequences of various behaviors and that will help you regulate.
- It may be helpful to seek the advice of a personal coach or life planner to help you uncover any unproductive patterns you may be following.
What this has done for me in my life is remind me that there’s always another sale, another time for a vacation, another day to do fun but less important things. Let your conscience be your guide because you will never regret doing the right thing. If a family member needs help, and you had a day of sailing planned, the lake will always be there but the loved one might not be. In the long run sailing and other diversions won’t matter in 100 years and you can’t take it with you anyway.
This should get easier as we get older. One of the benefits of aging is one has gone through breakups, crises, and losses. The world didn’t end and your heart recovered. You learned that we are as strong as we need to be and that people matter more than things. You learn the value of working to save for what you need, and maybe even what you want. Think long term and you won’t be tempted with high interest schemes to finance a pricey lifestyle.
Still, self regulation means you may need to pace yourself. You can’t eat all your favorite foods every day and expect to stay healthy. Once you’ve determined goals, you can set up steps to take to reach those goals. For instance, if you want to get a new job in your chosen field let’s say you would be a physician’s assistant. If you haven’t gone to college you will have to face the fact that you will need more education. Education takes a lot of time and money. So instead you could start with phlebotomy, which a local hospital will train you for on the job. They might even pay something for schooling to help you advance.
Steps to success might include saving a certain amount of money every week for the ultimate goal of school tuition. You could also find grants and scholarships to help you raise the money, or even find a benefactor or fundraising scheme. But when you go to school, or even to keep the phlebotomist job, you must apply yourself or you will fail. Failure is letting yourself down with self-defeating behaviour.