Marietta gets up early every morning to exercise. She is a very efficient worker at the office, ignoring distractions and focusing solely on high-value assignments. She takes an online class in the evenings and will receive her MBA in a few months.
How do people like Marietta manage to accomplish so much on a regular basis? And how can we achieve the same level of success in our personal and professional lives? Self-discipline is a part of the solution.
This is what motivates us to follow through on our greatest intentions and objectives, even when we don’t feel like it. We can put off short-term pleasure (or bear short-term annoyance or discomfort) in the pursuit of long-term benefit if we have self-discipline.
This is why self-control is so crucial. In this post, we’ll look at what self-discipline is, why it’s important, and how to improve it.
What Is Self-Discipline?
Self-discipline is the ability to drive oneself forward, stay motivated, and act regardless of how you are physically or emotionally feeling.
When you make the conscious decision to pursue something better for yourself despite obstacles like distractions, hard work, or unfavorable odds, you are demonstrating it.
Self-control is not the same as self-motivation or willpower. Persistence, the capacity to follow through on your plans, and hard effort are all factors that contribute to it.
Why Work on Your Self-Discipline?
Self-control is beneficial in many aspects of our lives.
It is, for example, what motivates you to do high-quality work even when you don’t feel like it. It provides you the courage to maintain a professional demeanor with your clientele, even when you’re ready to give up. It assists you in sticking to and achieving difficult goals you set for yourself.
Self-discipline also allows you to persevere in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds, allowing you to achieve great accomplishments.
It can also help with learning and performance. According to studies, students who have a high level of self-discipline retain more knowledge than those who do not.
Furthermore, researchers discovered that pupils with high self-discipline were more meticulous in their work, resulting in better results.
Measurement of a person’s level of self-discipline is also a more accurate predictor of success than evaluating their IQ, according to research.
How to Develop Self-Discipline
Self-discipline is similar to a muscle in that the more you exercise it and use it, the stronger it becomes.
However, it’s just as crucial not to set unrealistic expectations at the outset. Set minor goals instead, and gradually increase the amount of difficulty. You’ll get better at it if you practice a lot. To begin developing your self-discipline, follow these five steps:
1. Choose a Goal
Begin by concentrating on just one goal in order to improve your self-discipline. For example, you might wish to begin exercising every evening or reading one leadership book every week to improve your talents.
You can even develop self-discipline by setting little objectives like concentrating on a task for an hour without checking your messages or avoiding bad foods for one day.
Remember that the greatest method to acquire self-discipline is to start small. As your discipline improves, you’ll be able to apply it to additional aspects of your life.
Make sure your goal is SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound – and, if possible, break it down into smaller sub-goals.
2. Find Your Motivation
After you’ve decided on a goal, make a list of the reasons you want to attain it. Make an effort to state these reasons in a good light.
Instead of saying, “I want to exercise three times a week to lose weight,” instead, “I want to exercise so that I can play with my kids and work productively.”
Alternatively, instead of saying “I want to complete this task so that I can meet my objectives, receive praise from my boss, and feel satisfied with my day’s work,” say “I want to complete this task so that I can meet my objectives, receive praise from my boss, and feel satisfied with my day’s work.”
You’ll find it much easier to complete a task if you write down the reasons why you want to do anything.
3. Identify Obstacles
Now you must identify the barriers you will most likely encounter while pursuing your objective and design a strategy to overcome each one.
Consider setting a goal to read one leadership book per week to improve your skills. You’ve encountered a number of roadblocks on your way to this goal in the past. When you find a book you enjoy, it can be difficult to find time to read every night.
Your time is taken up until late in the evening between work, dinner, and the kids. You’re also distracted by texts that arrive while you’re reading.
Create a strategy to overcome each obstacle once you’ve identified them. You could, for example, do the following:
- Rather than going to the bookshop, spend an hour online looking at leadership books. Find a few that pique your attention and have decent reviews. Order them all at once and download them to an e-reader or tablet so you can read them whenever you choose.
- Make additional time in your day to devote to reading. You may read during your lunch break or while waiting for your children to come home from school.
- When you want to concentrate on reading, turn off your phone.
Our self-discipline often collapses because we haven’t identified and established solutions to overcome the barriers we’ll confront in accomplishing our objectives.
When these challenges appear, we are unprepared to deal with them, which causes our commitment to be shaken. This is an important step that you should not skip!
4. Replace Old Habits
We’re typically trying to break a bad habit and replace it with something more useful when we’re working on self-discipline.
Breaking a habit that is related to a specific time of day or routine, on the other hand, can leave a gap. If we don’t replace that habit with something else, its absence will stand out much more.
If you’re attempting to avoid purchasing online during your lunch break at work, this is a wonderful example. Because you’re likely to be online for 20-30 minutes at a time, this terrible habit undermines your focus and attention.
Once you’ve made the decision to stop, think of a new activity you can do when you need a break. Instead of shopping online, try stretching at your office, getting a cup of coffee, or going for a little walk outside.
Instead of leaving you with nothing to do on your break, these behaviors will help you support your objective and develop your self-discipline.
5. Monitor Your Progress
Pay attention to how you’re feeling as your self-discipline improves and strengthens as you work on it. You may feel liberated, joyful, proud, and energized.
Consider keeping a journal to track your progress and write down your self-discipline goals. This helps to reinforce the positive changes you’re making in your life and provides you with a record to look back on to see how far you’ve come.
Your self-discipline will improve over time, and you’ll be able to apply it to a variety of situations.
6. Remove temptations.
Self-control is typically easiest when the ancient adage “out of sight, out of mind” is followed. When attempting to increase your self-discipline, removing all temptations and distractions from your environment is a critical first step.
Toss the junk food if you want to be more in control of your diet. Request that your office intern removes your name from the daily lunch order email. Turn off your phone and clear your desk of clutter if you want to boost your focus while working.
If you’re having problems, install the SelfControl program on your computer to block distracting websites like Facebook, YouTube, and even e-mail for a specified amount of time. By doing so, you’ll be putting yourself in a better position to succeed.
7. Eat regularly and healthily.
Low blood sugar has been found in studies to decrease a person’s resolve. When you’re hungry, your ability to concentrate declines because your brain isn’t working at full capacity. Hunger makes it difficult to concentrate on your activities, not to mention cranky and pessimistic.
In all areas of our lives – food, exercise, work, relationships, you name it – you’re much more likely to have a reduced sense of self-control.
Make sure you’re well-fueled throughout the day with healthy snacks and meals every few hours to keep on track. I make it a point to keep almonds or Muscle Milk available at all times.
These snacks allow me to get a dose of nutritious protein and fats whenever I need them throughout the day. Eating regularly helps you control your blood sugar levels while also improving your decision-making abilities and attention.
Allow your brain to concentrate on your objectives and priorities rather than your rumbling stomach.
8. Don’t wait for it to “feel right.”
Developing self-discipline necessitates a departure from your usual pattern, which can be unsettling and odd. The author of The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg, notes that habit behaviors are linked to the basal ganglia, a section of the brain concerned with emotions, patterns, and memory.
Decisions, on the other hand, are made in the prefrontal cortex, which is a separate part of the brain. We stop employing our decision-making skills and instead operate on auto-pilot when behavior becomes habitual.
As a result, breaking a bad habit and forming a new one not only necessitates active decision-making but also feels uncomfortable.
Your brain will fight the change, preferring to do what it was programmed to do. What is the solution? Accept the unfavorable. Recognize that your new routine will take some time to feel correct, good, or natural. Carry on chugging.
9. Schedule breaks, treats, and rewards for yourself.
Self-discipline does not imply that your new routine must be completely cold turkey, hardcore, or drill sergeant-like. Giving oneself no leeway typically leads to failures, disappointments, and reverting to your old habits.
Schedule specific breaks, snacks, and prizes for yourself while practicing self-control. Dieting? Saturday should be designated as ice cream sundae day. Are you attempting to lose weight? After a month of gym visits, reward yourself with a luxurious massage.
Are you attempting to rein down your spending? On Sunday, treat yourself to a $25 shopping spree at the mall. (Bring only cash and leave your credit cards at home.) Self-discipline can be difficult. Reward yourself for your efforts.
10. Forgive yourself and move forward.
It is not always possible to implement a new way of thinking. You’ll have highs and lows, spectacular accomplishments, and outright failures. The important thing is to keep going forward.
When you suffer a setback, accept responsibility for it and move on. It’s easy to get caught up in feelings of guilt, rage, or irritation, but these feelings will not help you develop better self-control. Instead, embrace the setbacks in your strategy as opportunities to learn for the future.
Forgive yourself and get back on the horse as soon as possible. The longer you’re off your game, the more difficult it is to get back on track.