Many important qualities can contribute to our achievements and happiness, but self-discipline – whether in terms of our work, relationships, or health – is the number one trait needed to accomplish goals, lead a healthy lifestyle, and be happy.
Self-discipline – the ability to make yourself do things you know you should do even when you do not want to.
According to a 2013 study by Wilhelm Hoffman, people with a higher degree of self-control are happier than those without. The study found that self-disciplined subjects were more capable of dealing with goal conflicts, and are able to make positive decisions more easily. They didn’t allow impulses or feelings dictate their choices. Instead, they made informed, rational decisions daily, and as a result, they were happier and more satisfied with their lives.
In my opinion, self-discipline is also one of the strongest driving forces on Earth. It can move mountains, create something out of nothing, and change countless people’s lives. But to do any of that you need to have a powerful reason why, because when things get tough, and they certainly will, motivation quotes, wishes, and labile reasons won’t help.
Many of us suffer from problems caused by a lack of self-discipline.
We are not born with self-discipline – it’s learned behavior. And just like any other skill, it requires daily practice and repetition. To improve self-discipline, try these 5 proven steps to gain better control, establish good habits, break bad ones, and make simple changes to everyday routine.
Your Why is a lighthouse, the guiding principle why you want to do what you want to do. Do you want to improve your life? To have better health, relationships, or to finally pursue your dreams? Or you just want to finish the task at hand. The desire to accomplish something must be stronger than the temptation to give up, therefore your why must be powerful.
Your Why changes, as the tasks change, and you can have thousands of whys.
Once you understand your Why, how-and-what becomes easier. Your Why becomes your most powerful motivator, fuels the fire and helps you focus on what matters.
No matter how strong your Why is, sometimes we all need a little push. Reminders can help immensely.
Put a note on the bathroom mirror or somewhere else. Set a reminder or two on your phone or computer. Ask someone in your life to support and help you. It can be a spouse, best friend, parent, roommate, or even a kid. Ask them to remind you, to ask you about it regularly, and to encourage you when you feel like quitting.
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
Start small. Otherwise, the chances of failure and quitting are high. It doesn’t matter how small the action is as long as you go in the right direction. Action inspires action and momentum creates more momentum.
Break bigger tasks, goals, and projects into small actionable 5-15 minutes tasks/actions. Make it so easy you can’t say no. If you feel like continuing after this time, go for it.
Want to run a marathon? Start walking every day for 5 to 15 minutes.
Want to start eating healthier? Identify one little change you can make in your diet.
Want to write a book? Just write a few sentences.
Have a work or school presentation? Create the first slide.
Having your own business is long wanted dream? Google ‘how to start a business’, and start reading.
Never underestimate the power of small acts. Small acts, when multiplied, can change your life and the world.
Once you start doing something good for your life, make it a habit. Soon you will stop using decision-making skills and willpower and instead function on auto-pilot. Then your only task must be not to break a streak of good habits. Show up every day and do what you need to do. With time, you will master the formation of new habits, and self-discipline will become a normal part of your life.
Repeat all the steps above again and again. Repetition is a mother of skill, and father of action. Self-discipline shouldn’t require a Herculean effort either (and if it does, it’s not sustainable). It simply requires a normal amount of effort, managed effectively.
Is it going to be painful to follow those 5 steps to master self-discipline? Yes, it will. I’m not going to lie to you. But the pain won’t have its meaning anymore. It will have a purpose. And that makes all the difference. You choose to pursue it rather than run from it. And with every pursuit, your self-discipline muscle gets stronger and stronger.
You’re ambitious, driven, and ready to reach your goals. There will always be a reason you can’t do something. And there’s always a reason you can. You get to choose.
Henry Ford said:
Improved self-discipline will allow you to live a freer and happier life by helping you make rational, rather than emotional choices.
By building self-discipline you’re building a good relationship with yourself. You’re building trust. Each time you want to procrastinate, say to yourself: “I keep promises to myself. I am worthy of my trust.” By building self-discipline you’re changing your life.
P.S.: Even with all the best intentions and well-laid plans, sometimes you will fail. It’s inevitable. But don’t be hard on yourself when it happens. It’s nothing more than a bump on the road. Reorganize, remember your why, and do whatever it takes to get back on track.
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