SELF-CONTROL

(Self-Modification, Self-Regulation)

by Dr. James Bell, Howard Community College, Columbia, MD. 1/98
[A handout for students]
jbell@howardcc.edu

A. Defining Self-Control

1. Self-control is the process of changing your behavior by selecting your own goals and selecting ways to reach those goals. The ideas of behavior modification are applied to influence your own behavior.

2. Other terms used to refer to the same process: Self-management; self-direction; self-regulation; self-help.

B. An 8 Step Procedure for Self-Control
STEP 1: Select a problem you wish to work on and then decide if the problem is worth working on.
a. What behaviors do you wish to change? What behaviors do you want to occur more often? What behaviors would you like to do less often? In what situations does the problem occur? How often does the behavior occur? How do you feel about the problem?

b. Is this problem worth the time and effort it will take to bring about a change? Changing behavior is not easy and will involve both time and effort. What will you gain if you can change your behavior? What negative things happen if you don't change?

STEP 2: Write down tentative goals (your target behavior).
a. State your goals as specifically as possible (use specific behaviors).

b. Divide any complex goals into smaller goals.

c. Specify how you will measure the accomplishment of your goals.

1) You might use the frequency or duration of behavior.

2) You might use the products of behavior.

STEP 3: Learn to become a self watcher by gathering data about your problem.
a. Read what psychologists have written about the behavior you wish to change.

b. Ask your family and friends for their observations of your behavior.

c. Start keeping a written record of your own behavior.

1) Develop a method which allows you to record in all situations as soon as the behavior occurs.

2) Gather enough baseline data to be able later to notice a change.

3) Don't try to change any behaviors at this point.

STEP 4: Analyze your observations and brainstorm possible solutions.
a. Analyze the ABCs (antecedents, behaviors, and consequences)
1) Antecedents
What are the antecedents? In what ways can you modify old antecedents? In what ways can you arrange new antecedents? Under what circumstances does the undesired behavior occur? What happens just before the undesired behavior? What seems to be the cues for the behavior to occur? Are there any regularities in your data?

2) Behaviors
How often does the behavior occur? How long does it last? In what ways can you substitute new thoughts and behaviors for previous thoughts and behaviors?

3) Consequences
What positive things (reinforcers) occur immediately after the behavior? What long term reinforcers are missed because the undesired behavior occurs? Were there any unpleasant consequences? In what ways can you use others to dispense reinforcers?

b. Brainstorm possible solutions.
Produce as many ideas as possible. Don't evaluate these ideas until you have produced many ideas. Don't limit yourself to practical solutions. Brainstorm with a couple friends.
STEP 5: Design a comprehensive plan to solve your problem.
a. Reword your final goal into specific and measurable terms. State your goals to increase some behavior rather than decrease a behavior.

b. Start small and start gradually. Divide your final goal into several smaller goals. Work on one goal at a time.

c. Reaffirm your commitment to the change process. Select a goal you are most likely to be able to reach. Save the more difficult goals for later.

d. Use what you have learned from your self-watching.

1) Gain control over the antecedent cues (cues that occur before the behavior).
a) Avoid situations in which the undesired behavior occurs.
b) Avoid the troublesome parts of such situations.
c) Put yourself in situations in which the desired behavior occurs.
d) Develop ways to narrow the antecedent cues which bring forth the undesired behavior.
e) Practice handling troublesome situations.
    1)) Practice escaping.
    2)) Develop responses which remove the cues from you.
2) Learn new behaviors
a) Through imitation (sometimes called modeling).
b) Through shaping.
c) Through doing incompatible responses.
d) Through rehearsing (practicing).
3) Disrupt the chain of behavior
a) Break the chain at a weak point, usually early in the sequence.
b) Build in pauses.
c) Interrupt the chain to record an observation.
d) Change the chain of behaviors.
4) Rearrange the consequences
a) Build in powerful immediate reinforcers for the desired behavior.
b) Provide yourself with reinforces for continuing to make self-observation.
c) Arrange for others to also reinforce you.
d) Decrease the reinforcers for the undesired behavior.
e) Occasionally change your reinforcers to keep them powerful.
                             5) Work on revising your thinking (self-instruction) about your problems.
a) Increase your thoughts about the value of your changes.
b) Decrease your thoughts about failure.
6) Make a public commitment to your plan.
a) Write out your plan.
b) Post your plan so your family and friends can see your contract.
c) Plan to enlist the help of others in helping you carry out your plan.
7) Also include a way to continue to gather data relevant to your progress.
STEP 6: Put your plan into action.

STEP 7: Evaluate and revise your plan (adjust your plan).

STEP 8: Develop a plan to maintain the changes you have produced.

a. Many behaviors, once changed, will need periodic monitoring.

b. Some behaviors, once changed, may start weakening if not monitored and reinforced.

c. Plan to watch and support your changes.
 

Comprehensive useful source: Watson, D., & Tharp, R. (1997). Self-directed behavior: Self-modification for personal adjustment. Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole.

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