Building Self-discipline

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Why does it seem like every time you commit to changing a bad habit, something happens that tests just how committed you are?  You start a diet, and then you get a call from a friend who wants to go to your favorite restaurant.  Or sometimes you promise yourself you are going to immediately start on an assignment that has to get done but you end up procrastinating until the very last minute?  These types of things are common and one of the major reasons why they occur to all of us is due to the lack of self-discipline.

Many people confuse building discipline with increasing willpower.  Willpower is the ability exert one’s will over actions and thoughts.  Discipline is training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character.  Willpower is more about inner strength and discipline focuses on external control. Self-discipline is the training and control of oneself and one’s conduct, usually for personal improvement. 

Self-discipline is one of the most powerful tools of your personal development.  We most commonly associate self-discipline with our eating and health habits.  But training yourself to be in control of your actions can dramatically change your life in so many ways.  Here are some ways improving your self-discipline can improve your life:

Improve your study habits

Wake up earlier to get to work one time

Finish tasks without procrastination

Maintain a strict diet

Stick to an exercise program

Better manage your finances

Limit or stop alcohol consumption

Personal Discipline

I was slumped back on my sofa with both hands resting on my stomach.  Although the basketball game on TV was exciting, my eyes were on the last quesadilla slice that sat in the Styrofoam container in front of me on my coffee table.

 In the last few years, a chain of Mexican restaurants called Tijuana Flats have been popping up all over Florida and other southern states.  They quickly gained popularity for having art painted on their walls and ceilings and also for having many unique hot sauces.  The restaurant has great food; but the problem was that I intended on starting a new health regime so I could have more energy during my week and quesadillas were defiantly not a healthy energy source.

I really don’t need to finish that last one”, I thought to myself.

Nobody likes a quitter, Ralph”

You’re right.” I responded to the voice in my head.

As I finished the last slice, I immediately began to wonder how I ended up betraying the promise I made to myself.  For the most part I am a very discipline person who has built a reputation among some of my friends as having a large dose of willpower and focus.  So how did I fall of the wagon?  I wasn’t sure at the time but I intended to find out.

It took some trial and error but I eventually began to understand why I would stray from my disciplined routine.  I began to identify my weaknesses and took action to prevent myself from sabotaging my own goals.  One of the major steps I took was the elimination excuses.

We as a society have gotten very good at accepting excuses as truth.  I read an article in Psychology Today which stated that one of the main reasons procrastination is on the rise is due to individuals not being held accountable for their excuses.  

For example, if you called out from work and you gave the excuse that your hamster was sick, it is very unlikely that your employer would follow up to see if you were telling the truth.  Instead, you would get charged a sick day and when you went back to work someone would ask, “Is your hamster feeling better?”  We are just as ready to believe the excuses we tell ourselves.  Even if we know that they are not completely true, we accept them as truth.

Small lapses in our ability to control that voice in our heads that convinces us to do that thing that we don’t really want to do, result in a lack of control over our cravings, actions, and life.  Once you’ve eliminated some of the excuses that have been holding you down, you are now ready to tackle your personal problem head-on.

Small lapses in our ability to control that voice in our heads that convinces us to do that thing that we don’t really want to do, result in a lack of control over our cravings, actions, and life.  Once you’ve eliminated some of the excuses that have been holding you down, you are now ready to tackle your personal problem head-on.

Identify the problem-What is it that you really want to be disciplined in?  Do you have a weakness of eating unhealthy foods?  Do you watch TV instead of working out?  Do you avoid doing errands in your day until it’s too late?  Whatever the problem is, narrow it down so that you are clear of where your lack of discipline seems to appear the most in your life.

Removing Distractions-It is Important that you remove those things that inhibit your ability to develop good habits.  For example, if you can’t seem to eat unhealthy food when you are at home then remove all unhealthy food from your refrigerator. 

Small Steps-Discipline is increased over time.  If you begin to make small changes in your routine daily, you will begin to build the discipline muscle over a longer period of time.

Eye on the Prize-Even though you are making small strides towards being more disciplined, it is important that you keep your focus on where you ultimately want to be.  Use affirmations to remind yourself of what you would like to accomplish and stay reminded of the negative outcomes that will occur if you do not complete your goal.

Stay Motivated-In Everlasting Motivation, I wrote about the ways to stay encouraged and motivated while trying to complete any goal.  On the way to becoming self-discipline, being motivated will give you the extra push you need when you are tempted to fall into your old undisciplined patterns.  Building discipline is hard work and that’s why most people don’t have it.  But if you can stay motivated enough to make it through the difficult times, you will be one of the few people that have the ability to conquer themselves.

Review -Take the time after each day or week to review what you have done to build your ability to be self-discipline and note the results of those actions.  Do not expect your life to be completely transformed after one day of self-discipline.  However, there should be at least a small change that you can note and use as a small encouragement.

I count him braver who overcomes his desires than him who conquers his enemies; for the hardest victory is over self.”-Aristotle

Professional Discipline

If left unchecked, the inability to practice discipline in your personal life will find its way to your professional life.  In every line of business the most disciplined employee, manager, or entrepreneur is the most likely to succeed in their profession.  One would think that the incentive of making money would be enough to increase the amount of discipline applied to their work.

However, this is not always the case.  I recently met a bank manager at a local networking event.  He had been in the industry for a short time but I could understand how he had climbed the ranks so quickly.  He was knowledgeable, intelligent, and hardworking.  I asked him about his work background and he told me that he got into banking after his home business failed.

It’s hard working from home because there are so many distractions.  I didn’t have the discipline to work on my own” he said.

This is a growing problem as more and more people in IT and sales are beginning to work remotely.  Whether you are working from home or from your office, not having discipline will inhibit your success.

Organize-One of the disciplines that I lacked during my discipline downfall, was the ability to successfully execute the tasks that I needed to accomplish during the week.  I tried every planning technique imaginable before I found the best way to get organized.  For many people, writing down your goals isn’t enough.  If you are one of those people, the Blackberry Curve has a great organizer function that can help.  Also Franklin Covey makes some of the best and most amazing organizers in the world so I recommend one of them.

Develop a routine-Routine in our daily lives can be a bore but when comes to getting a job done, nothing beats a solid routine.  Developing a good routine at work is the equivalent of setting up good life habits.  To develop an effective routine you must set up a specific start time and end time for your daily tasks.

Setup Challenges-Since discipline is like a muscle, the only way to grow that muscle is to train it.  If you want to have a six pack, you would do more and more crunches every day.  You may be able to do 50 crunches one day so in order to increase your results, you should try to do more than 50 the next day.

With professional discipline the same equation works.  Set up a few challenges for yourself, your co-workers, or staff to help build that muscle.  While you are stretching your ability to accomplish a challenge, you are also training yourself to be disciplined in the aspects required to meet those challenges.   

Ask for help-This step can be applied to personal self-discipline building also but it’s very effective in the workplace.  Asking someone to remind you of a goal or to do something that you may not be doing are indicators of your dedication to your professional growth. 

Get feedback-Begin to get feedback on how you have been performing during your discipline development.  To use the muscle analogy again, one of the most encouraging things that can happen is other people noticing a physical change.  Someone telling you that you look stronger or have lost weight is a good feeling because it reminds you that the work you have been putting into your workout is paying off.  The same can happen when you get feedback from co-workers, managers, or employees.  If you are self-employed, monitor the changes in profit, time, or efficiency that occur while you are building discipline.

Discipline is not easy to gain but the advantage of having it is remarkable.  Begin to use some of these techniques and you will begin to reap the benefits.


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