Mastering self-discipline makes the difference between struggling on your way to a successful life or getting there easy, painless, and fast.
This article aims to give you some of the tools you need to become more disciplined in a world that never stops and lures you in too many distractions.
Many people say: “I’m afraid of failure” when, in fact, they are annoyed by it.
When things don’t go as we expect, we must do it again.
Or, even worse, there are those situations when we think we’ve finished a project, only to discover that we must go back and make some modifications. Annoying! Right?
Becoming more disciplined reduces, considerable, how many time you have to try again or go back and rectify mistakes.
You grow self-discipline over time through practice and persistence; doing the same thing over and over until it becomes automatic; until your unconscious mind is doing it for you: no struggle, no debate.
Self-discipline is based on your aspirations and desires. It gives structure to your life, which makes you more relaxed and happy.
Now, secret #1 of self-discipline: Have a good night sleep.
Funny, we start being more disciplined by sleeping, but it’s true, your discipline starts in the evening; the morning routine, it’s just a continuation.
I guess you noticed how your mind works when you’re tired – it has only one thing on its agenda: self-preservation; it doesn’t care about success or productivity, not even about feeling happy…so, sleep well.
#2. Set positive precedents.
With every success you have, you gain the evidence that being disciplined pays off.
Disciplining yourself about one small thing gives you the blueprint of how to do it about bigger things; not to mention that your confidence grows so much, that you can not wait to challenge yourself with new projects.
#3. Change your mind about yourself
If you want to be more disciplined stop:
- or bullying yourself.
Why? Because it’s not your fault that you can’t become instantly disciplined. The fault lies in these facts:
The early humans didn’t need to be disciplined; on the contrary, they had to be on a “see food” diet about almost everything. What is that?
You see, you must want, you must grab because no one knows when you’ll “see” it again.
Therefore, being self-disciplined goes against the nature you have inherited from your ancestors.
Your unconscious knows that life plays peek a boo with you: now you see it, soon it disappeared.
Our brain is wired to seek pleasure, comfort, and instant rewards (not out of greed, but out of self-preservation).
So, things like patience, self-discipline, and perseverance are things that you must learn because don’t come with the pre-installed program.
You can’t be disciplined all the time and about everything. Focus on the things that matter the most to you and allow yourself a bit of indulgence in the areas that are less important.
#4. Take pride in yourself
Is pride a deadly sin?
But, as with everything else on this earth, pride has a positive side too and don’t be ashamed of it!
Now allow me to give you two examples of when pride is a positive thing that helps you improve your self-discipline.
First, what I call:
This kind of pride motivates you to strive to have character traits like honesty, empathy, loyalty, be considerate, loving, and respectful. The list of things you do because you take pride in yourself as a human being, it’s long, very long. So, if pride makes you do and be all these things, isn’t it that a positive thing?
When you’re proud of what you do and your profession, everything that comes out of your hands must fit your criteria for excellence. You don’t allow yourself to get lazy or complacent.
The lack of personal and professional pride results in poor performance.
Imagine this scenario: you go to a restaurant for a nice meal.
If you get a nice meal, it means that the chef has pride and honors his profession. On the opposite side, if you’re served with some disgusting UFO’s (unidentified fried objects), you know, the person who dares to call that food and charge you for it, has no pride, nor personal, nor professional.
In a nutshell, being proud is a good thing when is not equal to being vain.
Taking pride in yourself helps you be disciplined about many things that reward you with that sense of pride.
- Are you proud to live in a close-knit community? You discipline yourself about helping that community to stay close.
- Are you proud of your family? You discipline yourself to have the behaviors that make your family harmonious.
- Are you proud of your Lamborghini? (a metaphor, of course) You don’t put a sticker on it – unless you are more proud of what that sticker says about you?
Whatever makes you proud, makes you, also be more disciplined.
#5. Don’t debate with yourself.
The instinct of grabbing instant rewards has a unique dissertation to convince you to take it. This dissertation is sneaky; most often you don’t even notice when it starts. By the time you realize you’ve been fooled, it’s too late; you already cleared out the cookie jar, and you wonder in amazement: “who eat all the cookies? When did I come to the kitchen? Am I sleeping? What just happened?”
The debate with yourself can make you feel as if a devilish being has entered into your brain; you’re not alone anymore, you have company… someone is talking…
Relax, there is no one else in your mind, just you.
If that’s true, who’s telling you to give into temptation? It’s your desire. Say no to it. Say no, again and again, like a broken record, say no a thousand times if needed; say no and nothing, nothing, else. Say no, until your desire, literally falls asleep.
If you say more than “no” you enter into a debate that you’ll lose.
#6. Don’t justify yourself to others
Take ownership of your life: “This is how I decide to lead my life.”
People around are just spectators in your life. They expect you to put in a good show. Not for your benefit, but for their amusement. There is nothing malicious in it, we like to be entertained; and if someone else is paying for the show…even better.
The difficulty of self-discipline is that you want to follow your chosen path, but those around you don’t want the same from you. They want you to be flexible and ready to say “Yes” to every proposition; they want to say “jump” and your answer to be “how high?”
Most probably you are experiencing this difficulty daily.
Imagine you are on a diet. No matter your reasons for doing it, people put all sort of things under your nose and expect you to eat it regardless of the consequences for you: “you’ll start your diet tomorrow.”
The same goes for any other good habits and behaviors you want to be disciplined about:
- from limiting your alcohol intake, to keeping your exercise routine;
- from your sleep schedule, to your work dedication.
Every time you want to keep your discipline, someone will ask you to do the opposite.
People admire and envy your self-discipline. But, in the beginning, don’t like you for it. You’re ruining their planes; you’re not available. And we all want to be liked. Don’t we?
Plus, if you give in to their requests they judge you for the consequences: “You drink, eat, party too much, and you’re not successful enough. No one forced you to do it!” ya, right! They only blackmailed you emotionally.
It’s like playing fetch with my beagle (a non-retriever dog).
He doesn’t bring the toy back and looks at me like saying: “If you wanted that toy so badly, why did you throw it away?”
Don’t justify yourself because that could be the end of your self-discipline.
Some individuals around you resist it, but in the end, respect your choice and stop asking you why you do what you do; and more importantly, stop asking you to give up.
#7. Reformulate some of your values.
For example, let’s say you value being on time, but you don’t manage too well to honor that.
Changing how you formulate your value from “being on time” to “don’t be late” can be all you need to discipline yourself.
You see? Thinking that you want to be punctual is satisfying mostly your vanity; that’s about you and only you. It doesn’t feel like there is a negative consequence if you don’t keep your value. It doesn’t include the feeling of the other person. But saying “don’t be late” it’s about you and the person waiting for you. Being late is disrespectful.
Another example: people say they value their health, yet most of us don’t have the behaviors that honor that value. If you put it in reverse:”I value not being sick” even though it means the same thing, the word sick it’s frightening, and suddenly you find yourself changing your behavior.
And the last example:
In my younger days I used to say: “I value not offending others” (oh, ya, good person) and I realized that’s not offering something of value to those around. It was just the absence of bad behavior, no work, kind of lazy. So, I’ve changed my value to “I value being considerate to others” which implies to move a bit.
Changing how I formulate this value made me rarely miss the opportunity to be helpful. Now I chase people on the street to help them cross the road…just joking, it wasn’t me yesterday behind you. I don’t chase anybody, those who need my help jump at me because now I see them.
Find out what’s motivating you the most: going towards what you want, or staying away from what you don’t want, then reformulate the values you don’t manage to honor.
We continue with #8. Don’t stay in front of the cookie with your eyes glued to it.
Make it hard to cheat yourself. Make it hard to cheat yourself.
Don’t keep temptations in front of you and expect to resist to them; that’s a setup for failure.
Listen, willpower is just a mirage. There is little water in the desert.
When you want to achieve something, people say: “use your willpower.” But, relying on it to stay on your path to success, it’s a lost battle from the start.
Yes, willpower is a great tool to use, but only short-term and as rare as possible.
So, don’t keep under your nose things you know you can’t resist. That’s cruel. That’s cruel. Plus, your purpose is to achieve something, something more than testing your endurance.
Respecting your limitations is part of your self-discipline. It might be hard at the beginning to put temptations aside, but pretty fast becomes automatic. You know: out of sight, out of mind!
So, if you discipline yourself about putting temptations aside, as soon as you see them, that’s the cue that you should put them away.
#9. Exercise feeling the consequences of derailing from your plan.
As an example, an exercise that I do with my clients who want to lose weight. Instead of telling them how hard is to shake off your body a bar of chocolate, two biscuits and five packs of chips I show them how that feels.
We go to the supermarket. I instruct them to put in the trolley whatever and as much as they want. When they finish, they might be thinking that now we go home and eat, but no! They have to put back every item from the exact place they took it because that’s the struggle of their body, taking off what they’ve put in.
That’s the consequence.
Doing this exercise helps my clients visualize and feel the consequence, it’s not an abstract thing anymore. The consequence hurts instantly without doing any damage.
Imagine what you’ll feel, see and hear if you don’t follow through with your plan. The prospect of living negative emotions can be a powerful motivator; sometimes a greater motivator than your desire for your goal because we hate to lose.
#10. Anchor habits you want to develop, to pre-existing routines.
Let’s say you want to discipline yourself about saying five affirmations a day. Pick five things you’re doing every day and link them to your affirmations.
- You lock up the house when you live in the morning – one affirmation
- Park the car at work – second affirmation
- Lunch break, before start eating – third affirmation and so on.
After a few days of doing that, you’ll notice that every time you’re doing the pre-existing routines, the new habit follows automatically.
#11. Have a step by step plan of action.
Being accountable to your plan is a powerful motivator.
How can a step by step plan help you?
First: Kips you in the present moment – it matters what you’re doing right now, the step you’re working on
Second: Takes away the worries about the future – you have these things on your list today. It doesn’t matter what’s on tomorrow’s list. Tomorrow takes care of itself.
And third: at the end of each day, your plan is asking: “have you done what you promised this morning?” tick the boxes!
If you did: “congratulations”.
If you did not:
- How come you didn’t?
- What do you learn from it? and
- What do you have to do to improve tomorrow’s performance?”
These three simple things are important because the number one motivation killer is feeling overwhelmed. And when do you feel overwhelmed the most? When you don’t know what to do or when you jump ahead and worry about the multitude of things left to be done. Right?
Your step by step plan is like keeping your money in the bank. Every day you withdraw only as much as you need; the rest stays in the bank because it gives you peace of mind.
Your plan is like that; you take out and work on one step at the time, rest assured that all the steps you’ve planned, are there, on a paper and you don’t lose them, they are safely waiting for you.
#12. Motivate yourself with quotes that fit your personality
It’s fashionable these days to motivate yourself with quotes.
“Just believe in yourself.”
This saying, in my opinion, is a fallacy for two reasons:
First, you don’t believe in yourself before proving that you’re worthy of your trust
And Second, accomplishing great things is not conditioned by what you believe about yourself. It’s conditioned by What You Do. Are you taking action? Or should you wait until you can honestly say? “I’m marvelous; I can do this!”
So, don’t “just believe in yourself”, make a plan of action and start walking. Then, keep up the pace.
All the things you need to get to the finish line, things like motivation, confidence, self-belief, come from your successes along the way.
Those successes are the undeniable proof that you can, and that undeniable proof makes your desire to finish what you start so high that you can not stop until you’ve done.
Do you want to believe something about yourself that motivates you? Believe this: “you can face no matter what life puts in front of you,” and that is a proven fact- your life so far is the proof.
Quotes like “just believe in yourself; everything is possible; if you can imagine it, you can achieve it” can hinder your self-discipline because your unconscious gives them a meaning based on your personality tendencies.
For example, if you tend to be a pessimist and I tell you “everything is possible”, your unconscious might think most of the negative things that could happen. Why? Because, everything, means everything, the good, but the bad things as well.
#13. Match things you love doing with some that you don’t.
You don’t like doing chores? Like cleaning the house? But you love music. Match them together, and you’ll have the result you want.
Your desire for what you love is almost always higher than your dislike of what you ought to do.
#14. Relinquish your control in some areas
Feeling in control is addictive. Plus, trying to control life can make you feel stressed, frustrated, and overwhelmed. And these are things that kill your self-discipline.
Rearrange your priority list because your priorities are determining your behavior.
Do you want to be more disciplined? That takes time and energy, so control only the things that matter.
Plus, control-freaks are not disciplined people, but unhappy individuals.
#15. Don’t strive to be perfect, strive to be consistent
If you want to be perfect, most likely you feel stuck. The desire to achieve perfection makes you waste your talents, potential, and skills.
Stop expecting perfection and start moving.
Strive to be consistent. That makes you reliable, well organized, and keeps your mind on the positive side of things.
Your self-discipline is directly and significantly affected by being consistent. Perfection, on the other hand, it’s irrelevant.
You have now 15 powerful secrets of self-discipline. Used the ones that fit you and become even more successful in life.
Now, I’m curious to know which of the 15 secrets presented in this article has the potential to change your life forever?
Leave a comment below.
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