Self-Regulation and Habit

Self-regulation has been conceptualized simply as one’s ability to achieve a goal through consciously asserted efforts. This requires one to overcome their simple and automatic impulses that may serve as distractions. Though this process is highly conscious and people knowingly implement strategies in this regard, Vohs and Baumeister (2016) highlight that the process may indeed be automatic. Some examples of automatic self-regulatory behaviour include choices surrounding habits, such as one’s diet, exercise, hygiene or study regimens (Vohs & Baumeister, (2016). Strategies surrounding optimal self-regulation can be summarized to two points: motivation and effortful-control. Zimmerman (1990; 2000) attests to the vital need for one to be motivated, as without this self-regulation is null. There is little distinction between self-regulation and self-control, yet McClelland et al. (2018) argue that effortful-control is more salient. Rothbart and Bates (1998) define effortful-control as “the ability to inhibit a dominant response to perform a subdominant response” (p. 137). By motivating oneself to create and sustain good habits, one can free up cognitive processes that may be susceptible to distraction, reduce stress that may decrease motivation, and enhance will power or effortful-control. For those who have health-focused goals, myself included, Kaushal and Rhodes (2015) provide optimism, in that good habits can be formed in as little as six weeks.

Henriksson, J. (2017). Self-regulation and the motivation to achieve: A quantitative study on the effects of self-regulation strategies and motivation on learning English at an upper secondary school in Sweden. Retrieved from

Kaushal, N., & Rhodes, R. E. (2015). Exercise habit formation in new gym members: a longitudinal studyJournal of Behavioral Medicine38(4), 652-663. doi: 10.1007/s10865-015-9640-7

McClelland, M., Geldhof, J., Morrison, F., Gestsdóttir, S., Cameron, C., Bowers, E., … & Grammer, J. (2018). Self-regulation. In Handbook of Life Course Health Development(pp. 275-298). Springer, Cham. doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-47143-3_12

Rothbart, M. K., & Bates, J. E. (1998). Temperament. In W. Damon (Series Ed.) & N. Eisenberg (Ed.), Handbook of child psychology (Social, emotional, and personality development) (Vol. 3). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley. Retrieved from

Vohs, K. D., & Baumeister, R. F. (Eds.). (2016). Handbook of self-regulation: Research, theory, and applications. Guilford Publications.

Zimmerman, B. J. (2000). Handbook of Self-Regulation. Eds: Boekaerts, M., Pintrich, P., R., & Zeidner, M. E-book, Elsevier INC, 2000.

Zimmerman, B. J. (1990). Self-regulated learning and academic achievement: an overview. Educational psychologist. Vol:25, Issue:1. doi: 10.1207/s15326985ep2501_2

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