Permaculture Principle #4 - Apply Self-Regulation & Accept Feedback

Image courtesy of Jon Tyson

Taking Responsibility

We must strive to take 100% responsibility for our lives and our actions to achieve self-reliance. To thrive we need to condition ourselves to get good at detecting feedback, and self-regulating. Better to smell the smoke before you feel the fire. We must limit the behaviors that have damaging consequences to ourselves, others, and the planet.  

 It’s really a matter of what goes around comes around, if you act thoughtlessly and ignore the consequences you most likely will have a difficult life. Instead, turn the idea of “self-regulation” from one of restrictiveness to one that challenges you to give birth to innovative solutions. 

Asking creative, probing questions and testing assumptions you can discover you are powerful beyond your own comprehension to contribute to the solving of any number of the challenges facing the planet today. 

Create More Than You Consume  

It’s about finding flow through creating more than you consume. Take intentional steps each day by living in the moment and being hyper-aware of the impact of your actions. 

Image courtesy of Devon Breen

What I mean by “create more than you consume” is to be aware of your consumption and the quality of your output.  It’s easy to focus on “cutting back” in areas you know are bad like driving or eating too much but what do you create daily? 

  • Are your actions primarily consumption-based?
  • If you’re a creator/maker is your product, packaging, and delivery environmentally sustainable?
  • If you’re a creator/maker is your product, packaging, and delivery environmentally sustainable?
  • How can you make a more positive and uplifting impact on your life?

The Compound Effect

In his book, The Compound Effect author Darren Hardy makes the argument that every day your actions get compounded in either a positive or negative direction, there is no such thing as staying the same. If you know that your actions are compounding in a positive or negative direction then paying close attention to your actions and adjusting them to maximize the best outcome is common sense.


In the present context, self-regulation refers to a standard for how practitioners of Permaculture should behave. Sustainable living requires setting limits on consumption. It is important to distinguish between needs and wants and become a good or even a non-consumer. 

Living responsibly entails supporting your own life at as little cost to the Earth so that the next generation will be able to do the same.  In line with this principle, a well-functioning system will be self-maintaining - one which does not waste natural or human resources.

Garden Example(s)

For me, this is where the real fun is, I love experimenting in my gardens. When we first moved to our current home we didn’t dive right in and start making radical changes but instead just maintained the existing landscape while observing how the land interacted with the seasons. 

Image courtesy of Jill Wellington

What areas received the most sun, high areas that had runoff, or low areas that pooled rainwater?  How does the house’s orientation affect the gardens, where was the wind the worst, what natural traffic patterns developed, and areas that had restricted flow or unused/hard-to-access areas?

Once we started to make changes, we;

  • Planted in semi-circles (Keys to trap and maximize sun exposure)
  • Planted on Hugelkultur beds (German technique of growing on mounds of buried wood)
  • Planted crops in small patches throughout our site to allow the plantings to inform us what conditions work best for them.  If the crop refused to flourish that informed us of the need to accept it and move on.
  • We use perennial (recurrent) and self-seeding plants instead of annuals (1-year life cycle).
  • We have experimented with ground covers to reduce weeds also reduce workload.
  • We introduced plants that naturally enhance the soil and reduce the need for fertilizers.

To conserve energy, in any situation, there are limits to what you can both give and take.   Seeking that balance which can be tricky, and the key is looking for ways to systematically receive feedback so you can tune your systems to stay in balance. 

Money Example

As people become financially stable in life often, they start to consider more sophisticated wealth-building vehicles beyond a savings account or 401k, such as investing in the stock market.


A common approach is to invest in a low-cost index fund that mimics an index such as the S&P 500. The S&P 500 is comprised of a list of the top companies selected by Standard & Poor’s by market capitalization. Indexing allows an individual to diversify and own a piece of all the top companies contained within an index by simply investing in a low-cost index fund that mimics the index.

Image courtesy of Lorenzo Cafaro

You don’t have to attempt to select the stocks that you think will perform well or pay a “money professional” to assist you.  It’s already been done because the index has already selected the top companies and you are just mimicking the index. 

Applying self-regulation in relation to investing involves;

  • Disciplining yourself to be consistent as to when and how much you invest.
  • To use restraint so that you don’t over-invest in just one opportunity, diversify.
  • Resisting impulses to intervene in the short term when a market downturn occurs.
  • Calmly and consistently follow a sound investment plan to ensure your wealth compounds.

Accepting feedback involves being engaged and educated enough about what your returns are;

  • Are they consistently (over time) increasing? 
  • Are there patterns in your investing you see that you could improve?
  • Are some of your investments doing better than others?

As I have already stated several times that applying permaculture principles doesn’t need to be complicated. Although this may be an easy example to convey and understand, it is nonetheless crucial to your financial success.

Health Example

Self-regulation is essential to a sustainable system.  The human body sustains life thanks to Homeostasis - a regulatory system that allows it to maintain stability during times of change. 

Image courtesy of Ryan McGuire

When you exercise, for example, your heart beats faster to respond to the need for increased blood flow, your body temperature is regulated to prevent over-heating, and the concentrations of ions and the pH of extracellular fluids are adjusted all to keep you moving.  It’s incredible the amount of feedback that your body accepts and self-regulates without you being consciously aware of it.

Don't Die

However, if you start a rigorous workout and your heart fails to pump blood sufficiently or your thyroid gland fails to regulate your temperature your body will send you signals of these failures and if you ignore or misinterpret this feedback it can kill you. 

Be in Touch

The more in touch you can be with your body the better you will be at detecting illness or injury.  To help you achieve connection with your body consider incorporating these simple practices into your daily routine;

Deep Breathing Exercises

  • Meditation
  • Visualization
  • Yoga or deep stretching
  • Eating simple clean meals
  • Drinking sufficient water

As you develop a better connection with your body you will no doubt become much more attuned to the feedback your body is providing allowing you to adjust your workout accordingly. Being able to tell the difference between a muscle strain and a developing injury can save you from months of setbacks and recovery. 


Recognition of a developing injury is only half the idea, then you must have the wisdom and strength to apply self-regulation.  Don’t try to power through, recognize the fact by taking a rest day or creating workarounds will make you stronger faster not set you back. We all have heard the advice that trainers and coaches give athletes, “listen to your body!”

Start Small and Adjust Accordingly

It is important to start small.  Adjusting to whatever a system is telling you is less expensive and less time-consuming on a small scale.  Find ways to build a feedback mechanism into your systems and then of course adjust accordingly.


Join us

Join us in our quest at to save the planet one kilowatt, one therm, one permaculture principle (aka a 'Better Choice') at a time. You will be joining a group of like-minded individuals with a common goal and a common purpose.

Please consider taking action on any of the tips or recommendations found on our site to create a more sustainable, healthy, and abundant life