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  • Sarah Rossmiller LPC

Finding Balance in Adulthood: 5 Strategies for Establishing Realistic Limits and Self-Control

Updated: Oct 30, 2023

(Part 6 of a 6 part series on the 5 Core Emotional Needs)

Childhood is a critical stage for learning boundaries, discipline, and self-control. Unfortunately, not everyone is fortunate enough to develop these skills during their formative years. The good news is that it's never too late to work on meeting your need for realistic limits and appropriate self-discipline in adulthood. In this post, we'll explore five effective strategies to help you establish healthier boundaries and cultivate self-control, even if you didn't learn them as a child.


1. Self-Awareness and Reflection

The journey towards better self-control and setting realistic limits begins with self-awareness. Take time to reflect on your behaviors, triggers, and areas where you struggle with discipline. By understanding the root causes of your challenges, you can develop a more targeted approach to addressing them. Journaling, therapy, or even discussions with trusted friends can be valuable tools for gaining insight into your patterns and motivations.

2. Set Clear and Achievable Goals

Setting clear and achievable goals is a crucial step in developing self-control. Start with small, manageable objectives that are within your reach. Break down larger goals into smaller, actionable steps, and celebrate your achievements along the way. This incremental approach not only builds your self-discipline but also provides a sense of accomplishment that motivates you to continue. Think of rungs on a ladder (or better yet, go ahead and draw a ladder) and, starting from the bottom and from easiest to hardest, label each rung with an action you can take towards your ultimate goal. The "Eisenhower Matrix" (trust me, google it!) may be useful as well; it's a visual tool that helps organize and prioritize tasks based on urgency and importance.

3. Establish Healthy Routines

Creating structured daily routines can help you build self-discipline by providing a framework for your day-to-day activities. Make a schedule that includes time for work, leisure, exercise, and self-care. Consistency in your routines can gradually instill discipline and self-control into your life, making it easier to navigate challenges as they arise. Utilize the "Dopamine Menu" or "dopamenu" (trust me, google it!) to help with motivation by weaving external sources of reward and pleasure into the less stimulating tasks of your day.

4. Seek Accountability and Support

Don't hesitate to reach out for support and accountability from friends, family, or a therapist. Sharing your goals and progress with someone you trust can help keep you on track and provide encouragement when you face difficulties. Accountability partners can offer valuable insights and motivation to help you stay committed to your journey of self-improvement.

5. Practice Mindfulness and Emotional Regulation

Learning to manage your emotions and impulses is a fundamental aspect of self-control. Mindfulness techniques, such as meditation and deep breathing exercises, can help you become more aware of your thoughts and emotions. When you can identify triggers for impulsive behavior, you're better equipped to respond with deliberate, measured actions. Embracing mindfulness can be a powerful tool for developing realistic limits and self-control.


Although it may be challenging to cultivate self-discipline and establish realistic limits in adulthood when they were not achieved in childhood, it is entirely possible. By practicing self-awareness, setting achievable goals, establishing healthy routines, seeking support, and embracing mindfulness, you can work towards meeting these crucial needs in your life.

Remember that growth takes time and effort, so be patient with yourself along the way. Building self-control and setting boundaries is an ongoing journey, and each step you take brings you closer to a healthier and more balanced life. With determination and the right strategies, you can achieve the self-discipline and limits that you need to thrive in adulthood.


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