Self-discipline is a dirty word to many people. It means saying no to extra sleep, that fudge sundae or not being able to say no when we are overloaded. The truth is, self-disciplined individuals have shown to be happier. Why you ask? They feel more in control of their life which leads in an increased send of life satisfaction.
The first step is to take a bit of an inventory and find your strengths and weaknesses. Knowing where you are weak, whether it is gambling, food, or overcompensating, is the only way to begin to overcome it. If it is something with a visual cue then the rule of out of sight, out of mind is a useful tool. We don’t keep junk food in the house because if we begin to crave it, it is often not worth getting in the car and driving to get some.
Don’t hide your weaknesses. Many people will try to cover up their weaknesses or even lie about them. You don’t need to broadcast them, but when you cover them up and try to hide them people will see you as not authentic.
I talk about goals a lot, but they are critical to success. There are even people that after retirement turn around and die. Goals are necessary to humans to have a reason to keep moving. It doesn’t matter if they are big or a multitude of small ones. Goals create clarity for a sense of direction. This clear path then lends itself towards self-discipline. It is easier to say no, or I need to do that if we know if the activity will contribute to our goals or detract them.
Self-discipline develops through practice. Start with a small activity and make it routine. Keep adding activities that you can practice and eventually your discipline will be strong when the unexpected temptation turns up. I know that it may seem like others are born with this trait. The truth is that self-discipline is a learned behavior.
Another topic I tend to touch on is eating well and getting sleep. When you are tired and hungry it becomes easier to give in to temptation or get lazy. This is due to the physical response of the brain which reduces are ability to concentrate.
If you know that you are headed into a situation where you feel your ability to stay on track is in jeopardy, make a plan before you go. If you know that a relative always asks you to do things and you can’t put anything else on your plate, rehearse what you will say. In other words, practice saying no.
If you slip, analyze what went wrong? Did you go into the situation hungry? Did you not use your plan for difficult situation? Was there something you didn’t anticipate? Use that situation as a learning tool rather than sitting in guilt and anger. Learn and move on. Very little that is worthwhile in life is mastered without a few slip ups and mistakes.
Lastly, by breaking your goals down to bite sized steps you can instill a reward system for achievements. Gaining discipline in the face of weaknesses is difficult, but knowing you have something to look forward to helps motivation. It doesn’t have to be big. Things like movies, eating out, going on a fun activity or anything else that will help you look forward to completing the next step will work.
The bottom line is there is know way to just ‘gain’ self-discipline. You are going to have to work for it. Set a single goal today such as getting up 15 minutes earlier or working out for ten minutes and keep at it till you have it mastered. Just keep adding baby steps till you get to where you want.