Have you ever gone to eat with a friend and when they ordered a salad and you thought, “I wish I had the willpower and self-discipline that they do?” Or you are at the gym and you see fit patrons and you think, “If only I had their self-discipline, I could look like that too?” There seems to be this belief that self-discipline and willpower are a gift people are born with. This is far from the truth. Being disciplined is a skill that is learned. It takes time, and effort, but you can be just as disciplined as anyone else.
Self-discipline is important because it allows us to make the right decisions when we experience temptation. It allows us to keep chasing our goals and dreams when we feel unmotivated or discouraged. So it is VERY important to our happiness and success that we develop self-discipline.
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Here are 5 steps you can start today, that will help you develop self-discipline
Step 1 – Acknowledge Your Weaknesses
The first step in becoming more self-disciplined is to acknowledge that you have weaknesses and that they affect your life. Many people tend to downplay the negative impact their weaknesses have. If you are on social media way too much, acknowledge that and realize it may cause your normal social interactions to suffer. If you have no self-control when someone brings donuts to the office, acknowledge that and how it affects your diet. I would even go a step further and write these things down. What do you have a problem with? What impact do they have on your life? Writing things down seems to make things seep in a little bit more.
Step 2 – Prepare for and Embrace the Negative Emotions
Almost everything we do is out of comfort. That is why it is so hard to break bad habits. We feel comfortable going out for a cigarette, or we feel comfortable indulging in junk food after a stressful day. We want to stay in our comfort zone. Attaining self-discipline, especially at first, is going to take us out of our comfort zone. We are going to feel negative emotions when we avoid Facebook when we normally check it first thing in the morning. We are going to feel like something is missing when we avoid that cookie. Instead of fearing these feelings, learn to embrace them. Have a goal and mission to be able to build up a negative feeling tolerance. Over time, these feelings will fade away and allow you to be more self-disciplined.
Step 3 – Make a Plan
Self-discipline takes time and a strategy. Like I mentioned before, discipline is something you need to learn. Think about things that you can do to build up discipline. Decide that you are going to reward yourself if you make it through the week without eating junk food. Maybe you can buy yourself those shoes you’ve been wanting. You should also make a plan to mitigate temptation. Say for instance your co-workers tend to bring in cookies or donuts to the office. This happens to me all the time. Sounds great unless I’m trying to lose weight! On top of that, they usually set the goodies near me. Trying to avoid donuts when you are tired and it’s a Monday morning is a challenge! Because of this, I try to keep healthier treats in my desk. Not completely healthy but at least not as bad as the donuts. When you feel tempted, eat a treat from your desk drawer instead. This is just an example, but try to think of all the things that can go wrong, and plan for it.
Step 4 – Remove Temptation
Having self-discipline doesn’t mean you are immune to temptation. We are human, so there is always a chance that you will give in, no matter how disciplined you are. Because of this, you should avoid temptation when you can. Go on a break alone if you know that you are more likely to smoke during your break with fellow co-workers who smoke as well. If you know at 3 pm you tend to go down to the cafeteria and grab a cookie, avoid the cafeteria and go for a walk instead. If you pass Wendy’s on the way home and that Baconator is always calling you, go a different route on your way home. Do your best to remove temptation if possible.
Step 5 – Forgive Yourself
No matter how much self-discipline you have, there will be a time when you have a setback. When it happens, forgive and forget. Try to learn from it as best you can, then move on. You learn self-discipline through trial and error and by getting back up consistently, every time you fail.
Self-discipline in 5 steps; acknowledge your weaknesses, prepare for and embrace negative emotions, make a plan, remove temptation if you can, and forgive yourself.
I think we all know that the difference between accomplishing a goal and not accomplishing a goal, is self-discipline. It is the key. We need it to keep going when our motivation is lacking and when we feel discouraged. The good news is that you can learn self-discipline. It’s not something we just have or don’t have. Practice these 5 steps and stick with them. In time, you will have enough self-discipline to accomplish any goal you put your mind to.