Self-discipline is the ability to make yourself finish what you need to do, regardless of if you feel like it or not. It’s a common denominator of all successful people and an enormously admirable character trait.
Throughout time it’s been a common denominator of all successful people and an enormously admirable character trait.
Without it, you’ll have mountains of dreams that become painful regrets.
It’s a good thing that self-discipline isn’t some esoteric trait that you’re either born with or not! In fact, you can build this ability with practice.
Nothing good comes from not having the self-discipline to accomplish things. Your self-esteem deteriorates when you say you’re going to do something, but you don’t. You lose faith in yourself.
So, how do we build this incredible super-power?
Here are some strategies to build self-discipline:
1. Make a plan and schedule it
“Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.”
— Robert Collier
First, you need to make a plan that will get you to your vision. Some people say, ” I want to make an app!” but they never researched how to make one. Yet, all of this information is online, laid out step-by-step, including how to program. There are no excuses.
You’ll need to make a plan, get out a notebook and pen, and go through the following steps.
- What task are you avoiding that could change your life for the better?
- Write how you’ll make it happen and when you’ll do each step on your calendar app and set it to remind you when to start each one.
- Break down enormous goals into small blocks.
- Plan to do your most valuable task first thing, every day.
- Give yourself some “buffer” time in between to wrap things up and move to the next item. Also, include breaks!
Put your self-discipline plan into action!
Even though you have a plan, you might feel like there’s an invisible wall blocking you from getting started. For example, if you want to learn to sculpt, you might be worried about not creating a masterpiece, and chances are, you won’t. But, that’s how art is made! It starts with a glob of clay (or blank canvas or document), then it morphs and shifts until it’s transformed into something breathtaking. Build a basic foundation that you can refine and polish; this applies to any medium (systems, words, numbers, programs, ideas).
Force yourself to start working, and for now, ignore the quality of it. Later you can fine-tune it.
2. Set yourself up to win
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
Self-discipline is also necessary for quitting bad habits or starting new ones. In the beginning, when your self-control is low, bypass using your willpower by setting yourself up to succeed, also by blocking any chance for failure.
Your subconscious hates change, so it’ll trick you into falling back to your old ways. If you wanted to lose weight, but your kitchen has tons of fatty snacks everywhere, don’t think you can resist them, especially at first. Google some healthy snacks that taste good and stock up on those.
When you see a sugary treat, it’ll make you reach out and take a bite—almost without you consciously thinking about it.
So, why would you buy fatty food? Essentially, you’re plotting against yourself by adding extra temptations and making a difficult process nearly impossible.
Don’t have anything that reminds you of your bad habit in your living space. That includes people and things. Don’t watch things that make you crave your vice, either.
Or if you wanted to quit drinking, do you think it’d be a good idea to hang out in a bar? The amount of time you don’t drink with your friends will be short-lived and slightly tortuous.
Don’t do this to yourself.
Set yourself up to succeed! Make sure there’s no way you can mess up your goal because each failure depletes your willpower to keep trying. Furthermore, what do you think setting goals and then failing to make progress on them does to your self-esteem?
Eventually, you won’t believe in yourself, or your ability to resist what you know isn’t good for you. You’ll think, “Oh, screw it!” and toss all willpower out the window!
Therefore, make sure you set yourself up to succeed, instead of vice versa.
If you need to do a complicated assignment, place the supplies you’ll need in view. For example, if you need to write something, then don’t hide your research; put it on your desk. That way, you’re always reminded of it. Also, don’t have a myriad of apps and files open on your computer. Close everything except a blank document.
If what you need to do is in plain sight, it’ll inspire you to get to work. Otherwise, out of sight, out of mind!
Also, clear out all the clutter from your workspace. Research shows that clutter will restrain your productivity.
When you complete each task, tell yourself, “Good job! That’s awesome!” It’ll give you a boost in motivation and feel-good chemicals. That’ll make you want to do it again.
3. Help out your future self
“A year from now, you may wish you had started today.”
— Karen Lamb
What goal would vastly improve your life, yet you always put it off for another day?
Maybe you think, “Today just doesn’t feel right; tomorrow will be better” but, is that ever true? What magical event will occur tomorrow that will suddenly make you ultra motivated and inspired?
Essentially, you’re just pawning off these unpleasant assignments to your future self. It might feel like you outsourced it to someone else, but YOU are that person, and that inbox you’re overloading is yours!
You’re the one who’ll have to pick up the slack that you’re neglecting now. Furthermore, you’ll be stressed out, far behind, and overwhelmed. Instead, make yourself proud and thankful for what you did today!
Do yourself a favor and get things done, so you’re not swamped with an overdue mess.
So, what can you do today that’ll help yourself out in the long-term?
Examples of long-term thinking activities:
- Learning necessary skills, you’ll need to reach your turning point
- Taking care of yourself like eating right, exercising, and getting enough sleep.
- Gaining the expertise you’ll need by practicing.
- Hanging out with experienced, goal-focused people, rather than slackers
Every day focus more on the long-term and helping out your future self.
4. Practice discomfort training
“Following-through is the only thing that separates dreamers from people that accomplish great things.”
— Gene Hayden
Avoiding discomfort is what’s holding you back from gaining self-discipline. Some people shut down immediately at the first hint of boredom or frustration with a task. But, if we avoid difficult things, then our tolerance for discomfort plummets.
When we resist it, the more ingrained the resistance becomes. You’re training yourself to avoid hard work. That makes it much more arduous to force yourself to do what you need to do.
Who are you training yourself to become?
As with most habits, you can defeat or create them with repetition. So, whenever you follow-through, you get closer to it becoming a habitual behavior. After a while, you won’t procrastinate on your tasks. You’ll get to work and complete them almost without thinking! Furthermore, you’ll eliminate all the stress from worrying about it, or even getting in trouble for not doing it.
Don’t worry about completing everything in one sitting or doing it perfectly. Just vow to sit down and be diligent for several minutes.
Before you begin, tell yourself that you’re only going to work on it for 5 minutes. That will soothe any anxiety. Moreover, you can do almost anything for 5 minutes! Set a timer and see how much you can get done.
When the time is up, keep going if you feel like it!
Whenever you do this, you’re training yourself to be self-disciplined. Moreover, you’re strengthening this trait to use later, thus making your life easier and more productive!
5. Find a way to have fun doing what you need to do
Another way to build your self-discipline is to lure yourself into working on the task. You can do this by adding something enjoyable into the mix. For instance, you can play your favorite upbeat music. Make a strategic playlist with only the tunes you love from beginning to end; that way, you won’t get distracted by skipping songs. Plus, you can try to finish things before the playlist ends. Thus, gamifying your chore.
For added suspense, create a list of “punishments” for if you don’t finish in before the playlist ends. That’ll ramp up your sense of urgency if you’re motivated by potential consequences. Otherwise, you can motivate yourself with rewards for finishing early.
Adding pressure on yourself to get things done faster, you switch on the nitrous. You become a high-performance task killing machine. Then you’ll be in too much of a rush to worry or overanalyze; you just slaughter your to-do list!
Plus, you’ll feel phenomenal about yourself and your abilities!
Not only that but when you focus on a valuable pursuit continuously, you can enter into the highest state of human performance called “flow.” Also known as “being in the zone.”
In this state of mind, you leave all worries, time, and space behind you. You envelop yourself in what you’re doing. When you’re in the state of flow, whatever you were dreading before, you’ll do effortlessly and precisely. You’re joyful and energetic.
It makes sense that the most successful people in the world get into flow so often.
In short, you can build the self-discipline to complete any task. For instance, if you want to write a novel, don’t worry about writing the entire thing. Instead, focus on writing one paragraph at a time until you reach the end.
Work on your goal a little bit every day, no matter what. Don’t think about it; just do it first thing every morning.
When you complete what you set out to achieve, you can’t help but feel proud of yourself and motivated to do more.
Then nothing can hold you back from achieving whatever you want! You could build a house, make an app, or create some art to sell; your imagination and self-discipline are your only limits. Make a plan to develop this valuable trait, and nothing can stop you!
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