Each week for 12 weeks, I’ll blog about one habit. And if you feel inclined, you can road test it for yourself. Habit 5 is about Self Insight and Regulation. Remember that some habits can be formed quickly (like drinking a glass of water before breakfast each day to get at least part way through that pesky daily water quota), others take much longer (like wanting to be able to describe yourself to new people you meet as a “runner” when you’ve only ever run about 50m to the bus). If you know someone who could benefit from boosting their resilience and making the shift towards thriving in every aspect of the life, then please share.
Habit 5: Self Insight and Regulation
Resilient people are aware of their thoughts and feelings. This self-insight means they know what they are feeling and why they’re feeling it. They know that unhelpful emotions may impact their performance. They’re aware of their strengths and where they could improve. Their self-regulation allows them to control outbursts that may harm them or others. A simple description of self regulation from the folks at Psychology Today is this: “Emotionally, self-regulation is the ability to calm yourself down when you're upset and cheer yourself up when you're down.”
We’ve all let our emotions get the better of us at some point in our lives. We’ve blown our top. I’ve been there too and it doesn’t feel nice.
Self regulation helps us from living like hostages to our impulses. It helps us reflect on our thoughts, accept uncertainty and change, and to refuse impulsive urges. It’s the core emotional intelligence element we can call upon in uncomfortable situations. It’s the powerful weapon we can use to disarm heated and unhelpful encounters with our self, with others, or with a specific situation.
Many years ago, a member of a senior management group that I was also a member of, had a reputation for losing it. You could see it building as white spit started to gather around the corners of their mouth. They’d shift from their seated position at the table to a standing position. Then you’d wait for it. Their fist would hit the the table and even though you knew it was coming, you were never quite prepared for the loud thud. They were eventually “moved out” of the organisation. Years later, I heard they’d started their own company which had failed. Their marriage failed too. I can’t help but wonder if their lack of self insight and regulation had been a major cause of their journey so far.
When you hear the words “self insight” or “self regulation” you may also hear the chime of little brass bells or see crystals hanging over the doorway of the self-help master. You would also be barking up completely the wrong tree. Self insight and self regulation are about understanding what makes you tick. It’s about knowing, recognising, and tuning in to your beliefs, needs, biases, desires, feelings, emotions, habits, and so much more. Unless you have this knowledge, you can’t change what isn’t serving you or others well. There’s no point in slapping on some new “latest productivity or great leadership band-aid” to find it can’t cover the enormous, festering, unhelpful belief or bias you have underneath.
But how do you do that deep dive investigation into you? With a lot of difficulty I hate to say because we’re not going to be as objective as we need to be. How often have you been surprised at what people say about you in a 360 degree feedback exercise?
The first step is admitting you have a problem. Yes, we all have a self insight/regulation problem. Not one of us can honestly say, we’re 100% brilliant at knowing our biases, let alone all the other emotions, habits etc. I like to think of this habit for resilience and thriving as a work-in-progress throughout my life. I’ll continue to discover and adjust. What I know for sure, it is critical to hone if I want to lead a life that is resilient, thriving, and mentally healthy.
Habit 5 - Road test
One way to start your deep dive investigation would be to write a story about you but from someone else’s perspective. Imagine you were an author asked to write a short essay on you. As the author, you’re to write the essay assuming that a difficult situation has arisen. Write about how you would normally behave in this difficult situation. Consider your persistence, tolerance, soothing over ability, impulsiveness, positive or negative outlook, paranoia, obsessiveness, calmness, anxiety, confidence, guilt, shame, sadness, anger, or fear.
Is there one behaviour that you present in your essay that gives you the most pain? It might be pain you cause someone else? Now that you’ve detected it, what action are you going to take to change this behaviour?