When you think about people with exceptional self-discipline, you probably picture martial artists and professional athletes; people who have practised the same thing for years until they have completely mastered it. But self-discipline is about more than just training and competition. In fact, many of the most disciplined individuals are just regular people who have gradually developed enough self-control to accomplish their goals.
Whether you want to start your own company, lose weight, or just stop watching so much tv; self-discipline is an incredibly useful skill that keeps you motivated, clear-headed and focused on your objective.
But what exactly is the secret to building self-discipline? Despite what you might have seen in movies, you don’t have to meditate on a mountain top or wax an old man’s car a dozen times. These kinds of extremes while entertaining don’t actually work because time and consistency are essential for anyone hoping to live a more disciplined life.
So, the real key to developing self-discipline is moderation. Doing something in moderation means having the power to stop yourself when you have had enough. If you want to have a more controlled diet or reduce the time you spend playing video games; you shouldn’t try to suddenly make extreme changes to your lifestyle instead focus on moderating your behaviour; reducing your bad habits little by little to develop the kind of self-discipline that will last a lifetime. So, how do you put all these into practice? Here are 7 strategies you can use to master self-discipline.
No matter what kind of bad habits you have, the first and most important step toward becoming a more disciplined person is identifying and accepting your weaknesses. The simple truth is that everyone in the world has a weakness for something whether it’s eating junk food, drinking too much coffee or spending money you don’t have.
While some weaknesses are more distractive than others, building self-discipline isn’t about getting rid of those weaknesses but learning how to control them. Many people never even get to this stage because they can’t accept how little control they have over their own actions.
This kind of denial can lead to addiction, so it’s important that you address these issues before they take over your life. For many people, the idea of moderation is much less intimidating than cutting yourself off completely. So instead of focusing on which bad habits you need to remove, think about which ones you would like to lessen.
On your road to becoming a more disciplined person, you are going to develop a set of new and improved habits but it isn’t going to happen overnight. Imagine you are trying to lose 20 pounds, you can’t just wake up one morning and decide that it is time for a thirty-minutes run when you haven’t worked out in years. You are going to end up exhausted, sour, and unmotivated.
So you should start slow and work up towards your goal over time; plan out more manageable, easier workouts that leave you feeling optimistic and proud of yourself. Remember that the goal isn’t to lose all the weight in one day but to create healthier habits that you genuinely enjoy doing even after you have reached your ultimate goal.
Positive reinforcement is a great way to make sure that your new habits stick around. So don’t be afraid to reward yourself for improving. In the same way that you give a dog a treat when they sit, people are more likely to behave a certain way when they know that there is a reward on the line.
Rewards will also motivate them to work harder by giving them something positive to look forward to. This is especially useful for people who are having a hard time getting their new habits started because they haven’t developed enough self-discipline to push through the beginning stages.
Say you want to cut out sugary foods from your diet but are struggling to keep it up. By using a reward system you can focus all of your attention on the cookie or brownie that’s waiting for you at the end of the day making it easier to avoid breaking your diet otherwise. This way you are always in control of your habits and impulses instead of letting them control you.
Disciplined people often motivate themselves to keep pushing by strictly adhering to a set of standards for their own life. Standards are basically personal limits which lay out the absolute minimum that you are willing to accept for yourself.
But these kinds of boundaries only work if you are willing to hold yourself accountable when you break them. This is where most people struggle because they end up setting really high standards that are impossible to meet consistently.
It is important to remember that standards and goals are not the same thing. While goals are things you work and reach for overtime you should realistically be able to meet your standards every single day. Writers, for example, might aim to write 3,000 words a day but have a standard of only 2,000 words.
Most people tend to have an all or nothing approach to their goals; either they can get it done immediately or just give up. So by setting standards, you give yourself a reason to keep working even when you aren’t able to achieve your goal.
After you have identified what your weaknesses are it’s important to realize when you are putting yourself in dangerous situations. Imagine you are trying to limit how much fast food you eat. You used to eat a burger and fries for lunch every day but have decided to switch over to salads. So, would it be a good idea to eat your salad inside a McDonald’s? My point is that you should recognize situations where your weaknesses might get the best of you and avoid them.
If you would like to stop getting distracted by your phone at work, for example, turn it on to aeroplane mode at the beginning of the day or leave your phone in your bag to make sure you couldn’t get distracted even if you wanted to.
Of course, there are certain times when it’s impossible to avoid your weaknesses so make it easier on yourself by planning ahead. Figure out what you are going to do to avoid falling back into old habits and find a way to reward yourself for resisting the temptation. This kind of planning not only helps you stay on track but also gives you a sense of control over your life.
Time is a slippery slope when it comes to bad habits. If you tend to watch too much tv, play too many video games or waste hours on social media, you know how easy it is to justify spending a few more minutes to complete a mission or watch the rest of an episode. But a few minutes can easily turn into a few hours and before you know it you have used up the whole night.
So how can you use moderation to make sure that this doesn’t keep happening? Most people tend to focus on removing the tv and video games, getting rid of them even though they weren’t the problem in the first place. The real problem is how much time you spend on them. In other words, you can keep playing the games you love as long as you stay within a set time limit.
Next time you start up any game, set an alarm for one hour and make sure you turn the volume all the way up. The goal here is to force yourself to physically acknowledge when you have hit your limit and stop there.
If you want to take it one step further, put your alarm across the room so that you have to put the controller down and stand up to turn it off. That short walk across the room gives you the chance to reset and consider your priorities instead of mindlessly playing for another hour.
Every person’s path towards developing self-discipline is unique. Sure, there are a lot of very specific plans out there that have worked wonders for other people, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they will do the same thing for you. Ellon Musk might have developed self-discipline and boosted his productivity by planning every moment of every day, but other just as successful people might find this approach suffocating and unproductive.
So instead of just copying what your favorite celebrity is doing, you should build a routine that is designed for your individual goals, strengths, and weaknesses.
If you know that you are significantly more energetic at night, don’t force yourself to work-out first thing in the morning just because other disciplined people prefer it that way. As long as you are consistently setting and achieving goals you’ll develop the kind of unbreakable self-discipline that you’re looking for.