Self regulation?


Yesterday a client came to see me and had her two teenage sons with her. Their family home schools, read tons of books, play loads of games and choose not to have a television, though they do watch movies. It was actually really lovely to see her two boys playing a card game rather than looking down at phones or screens for the time they were there.

After a couple of hours one of them asked me if he could turn the TV on. Of course I said, assuming it was OK with his mum. He said to me “we don’t have TV at home”, without any hint of regret, resentment or anything remotely other than matter of fact, and clearly based on the things they do in their life, no sense of missing out on anything either.

My instant reply was “oh I wish I didn’t have a TV either”. I imagined all of the things I could get done; books from my massive reading list that could be finished, projects completed and writing and study accomplished. It’s not that I watch TV all day, but as we have a smart TV and I work from home regularly, I will often turn it on to Netflix or YouTube for company and background noise, but find myself distracted and abandon whatever it is I’m working on at the time and get sucked into the shiny sparkling vortex, a lot like the black hole of Facebook.

I left my husband in Ghana about four weeks ago and in my mind I was filled with all of the wondrous things I would achieve without his presence to distract me.  I was wrong. I downloaded a few of my favourite TV series and rather than read, I started watching them for company in bed each night.

Anyway back to my “oh I wish I didn’t have TV” comment. I realised as the words came out of my mouth that it was an absolutely ridiculous statement. It’s not as if the TV turns itself on and forces me to sit there glued to it. It’s not as if it calls me, entices me or reminds me of its presence, as chocolate and biscuits do regularly. I can hear them calling from the pantry – is it just me or do other people find that too?

So I got to thinking. Why I don’t I act like I don’t have a TV for a bit? When I am in Bali I never watch it, I never turned it on in Ghana and I never watch it when with friends, unless I am there on holidays. Clearly I like it for company and it makes for a great procrastination tool, you can read more on some of my hot tips for avoidance here. I also like music, but there is something about the instant gratification of mindless TV that seems to hit the spot.

Self-regulation is not one of my greatest strengths, and it was interesting when I completed the unit on strengths when studying positive psychology to have this confirmed by one of the instruments we used. I completed the VIA strengths inventory and was not at all surprised to find humour to be my most often used strength and self-regulation sitting right at the bottom as my least used at number 24. This applies to all areas of my life and something I am well aware of.


So, I’m going to give it a try. I’m going to go back to turning on music and not getting sucked into mindlessly watching TV. I’m going to pretend, at least during the day that I don’t have one and see how I go. I am sure I will be much more productive and enjoy the things I am doing as I will be completely present to them all, so I’ll let you know. You never know I might just start using my office that I completely overhauled recently.

However, my biggest distraction returns home tomorrow –  let’s see if I can regulate myself when he is back too.

Wish me luck!

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