Self-regulation: the ability to manage one’s own emotions and behaviors according to situational demands, especially as they pertain to optimal functioning in the pursuit of personal goals
A more basic-but-technical description of the concept: “the way the mind organizes its own functioning [to regulate emotion and behavior]”(Siegel, 2012)
Self-discipline is great, but the term can imply the use of internal force or resistance: resisting temptation, forcing yourself to do what you don’t want to do. Force and resistance can create sustained tension, or in other words chronic stress, which in turn can be counterproductive in the long run relative to the purpose of implementing force or resistance in the first place.
The term self-regulation implies an inherent ability to manage the self, wherein there’s no need to generate extra force or resistance to manage behavior and achieve a desired outcome. It serves in essentially the same manner as self-discipline and grit but without any unnecessary force, and it is ultimately more efficient when applied correctly.
Regulating one’s self is physiologically implemented as follows: “When people move beyond their windows of tolerance, they lose the capacity to think rationally. This initial response may be difficult to alter if it is engrained within deep circuits, such as those encoded early in life in the limbic and brain stem regions. However, the neocortex can override these responses and bring deeper structures into a more tolerable level of arousal. This can be accomplished by any number of “self-talk” strategies in which imagery, internal dialogue, and evocative memory can be activated.” (Siegel, 2012)
In understanding this mechanism you’ll find that using the term self-regulation, often in place of the terms self-discipline, self-control, and grit, will be more useful and effective across situations and over time.
Self-regulation involves a more focused approach to implementing discipline and willpower, and it involves less intensity when applied. It’s also the more versatile term in that it can potentially be used in place of self-discipline, self-control, and even for most instances of grit.
Self-regulation is conceptually all that’s necessary once you’re a sufficiently self-aware individual and once you’re clear about your goals, both situationally and long-term.
If you know yourself, if you know your goal – if you know what currently needs to be done or what you want yourself to do – then all you have to to do is self-regulate.
No need for active force (grit) or resistance (self-control) if self-regulation is effectively implemented. You can generally ‘try your best’ or ‘try your hardest’ by self-regulating alone. You can more efficiently tap into your deepest physical and emotional resources without adding tension. With self-regulating there’s only a need to activate emotional and behavioral regulation based on knowing what you’re capable of and knowing what needs to be done.
Self-regulation is the more technically accurate concept for managing emotion and behavior and for doing your best in disengaging temptations and engaging your goals. Overall the technicality of this term is more self-convincing and thus helps with implementing regulated action.