Doing Despite Disliking: 19 Strategies

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"Doing Despite Disliking: Self-Regulatory Strategies in Everyday Aversive Activities" (article) lists 19 "self-regulatory strategies people spontaneously use in their everyday lives to regulate their persistence during aversive activities."  

  • "During [aversive] such activities, people frequently have to somehow self-regulate their behaviour in a way that allows them to persist."
  • This article investigates "this ‘somehow’ with a focus on self-control as a trait and a wide range of self-regulatory strategies."
  • The list below, adapted from a chart in the article, provides a range of useful "persistence-aiding strategies" for students (or for instructors themselves) struggling with procrastination, resistance to required learning (or teaching) activities, etc.

"Strategy Descriptions and Strategy Use Items" (Table 1)

A. Situation Modification Strategies

1. "Changing the activity itself"

  • "Changing the nature of the activity itself or of how it is performed (without adding an incentive from the outside)"
  • "I change the activity itself (e.g. run more slowly on the treadmill, take notes during studying)."

2. "Changing the environment"

  • "Changing the environment in which the activity is performed (unspecified whether this results in a fresh start, task enrichment, distraction of attention, or removal of distractions)"
  • "I change the environment where I perform the activity (e.g. work from a coffee shop, take a new route when running)."

3. "Reducing distractions"

  • Reducing or removing distractors or temptations from one’s environment
  • "I reduce or remove distractions and temptations."

4. "Seeking social support"

  • "Using the support of others"
  • "I draw on the social support of others."

5. "Taking a substance"

  • Taking substances, drugs, medication
  • "I take a substance or drug (e.g. coffee or energy drinks)."

6. "Task enrichment"

  • "Adding some kind of (positive) stimulus input outside of the activity (e.g. music, TV, phone talk, food, and drink) without changing the activity itself"
  • "I add something positive to the activity to make it more pleasant (e.g. listen to music, watch TV while doing it)."

B. "Attention Deployment Strategies"

7. "Adopting a process focus"

  • "Focusing one’s attention on how the activity is performed"
  • "I focus my attention on the activity itself and on the way I am performing it."

8. "Adopting a process focus"

  • "Focusing one’s attention on how the activity is performed"
  • "I focus my attention on the activity itself and on the way I am performing it."

C. "Cognitive Change Strategies"

9. "Anticipating self-reward"

  • "Adding a reward that is external to the activity or its goal"
  • "I later reward myself for performing the activity."

10. "Focusing on negative consequences"

  • "Thinking of negative consequences from non-pursuit of the activity, the prevention/avoidance goals that motivated the activity: responses usually include negation (not being healthy), reference to negative outcome or reference to avoidance or prevention"
  • "I think of the negative consequences that occur if I do not perform the activity."

11. "Focusing on positive consequences"

  • "Thinking of positive consequences from pursuit of the activity, the promotion/approach goals that motivated the activity: responses usually include reference to a desirable outcome"
  • "I remind myself why I perform the activity and think of its positive consequences."

12. "Goal setting" 

  • "Committing to (sub)goals"
  • "I define a specific goal or set subgoals for myself."

13. "Monitoring one’s goal progress"

  • "Checking one’s progress"
  • "I check my goal progress."

14. "Planning/scheduling"

  • "Making a schedule or plan (may include the setting of subgoals, but only when timing is also set)"
  • "I make a plan or set a specific time for engaging in the activity."

15. "Reappraisal" 

  • "Thinking differently of the activity or changing its meaning (without changing the activity itself)"
  • "I think differently about the activity or change its meaning (e.g. imagine running in a race)."

16. "Self-talk"

  • "Motivating self-talk"
  • "I talk to myself to motivate me."

17. "Thinking of the near finish"

  • "Thinking about (nearby) task completion (not about the long-term goals)"
  • "I remind myself that soon I will be done with the activity."

D. "Response Modulation Strategy"

18. "Suppressing the impulse to quit" 

  • "Inhibiting the impulse to quit"
  • "I suppress the impulse to quit."

E. "Not Further Specified Strategy"

19. "Emotion regulation (not further specified) "

  • "Regulating one’s feelings (unspecified how this is done)"
  • "I change how I feel (e.g. try to stay in a good mood)."

Hennecke, Marie, Thomas Czikmantori, and Veronica Brandstater. "Doing Despite Disliking: Self-Regulatory Strategies in Everyday Aversive Activities." European Journal of Personality 2018. DOI: 10.1002/per.2182.

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