Regardless of what your goals are in this life; self-discipline is the one key trait that will help you to achieve them. In a 2013 study, Wilhelm Hofmann discovered that people with a higher degree of self-control are happier and more content with their lives as a whole. The subjects in Hofmann’s study were also better able to deal with goal conflicts and less likely to experience emotional distress. Sounds like a pretty good headspace to be in, right?
So, how do you master the art of self-discipline? Well, the good news is that it isn’t some kind of ninja superpower that’s far beyond your reach (although, it might feel that way when you get the urge to splurge on payday!). Self-discipline (or self-control) is actually a learned behavior. This isn’t something that you either have or don’t have — it’s something that you can develop and master over time once you put the work in.
Ultimately, it all boils down to habit forming, establishing a routine that complements your life goals, and putting systems in place on a daily basis that will help you to take control of your life.
Here’s how you can start mastering the art of self-discipline right now:
What are the weaknesses that continually get in the way of your success? Many people are reluctant to recognize these weaknesses, because — well — that makes them real. But if you don’t acknowledge these obstacles, you can’t conquer them. Once you stop downplaying these issues, you can begin to work on them and become more disciplined in the long run.
If you’ve ever tried to start something without a plan in place, you already know that it’s not a good call. When you’re trying to build a habit — like going to the gym, for example — having a plan in place will make you a million times more motivated and less likely to quit at the first hurdle.
Think about it; you can wake up at 6 am when it’s cold and wet outside and think ‘ugh, I’ve to go to the gym and I don’t know what I’m going to do there, so what’s the point? I should just go back to bed’. Which will inevitably lead to a day of feeling guilty and internally berating yourself for not having the willpower to drag yourself out of bed on time. Or, you can wake up at 6 am, jump out of bed, take a look at your fitness plan (here’s how you can set it up on your Buckets app), get your workout done in an hour, and arrive into work stress-free, refreshed, and ready to take on the day.
Having an action plan in place is one of the most important things you can do when trying to establish self-discipline. It’s so easy it is to slip into that mode of ‘I didn’t do that thing, so now there’s no point doing this other thing, so why do anything?’. And if that’s a position you find yourself in on a daily basis, then it needs to change — soon — or you’re never going to achieve your goals. If you’re serious about becoming more disciplined, then it’s time to set your plan up right now.
If your goals are phenomenally beyond your reach, you’ll never have the self-discipline to stick to them, unless you’re some kind of self-discipline Sensei. I’m not saying that you can’t have huge goals, but you do need to put a plan in place that allows you to take logical steps towards achieving those goals, i.e. if you want to climb Mount Everest, you’re not going to go from couch potato to reaching the highest peak in a week.
When you use Buckets to track these goals, you can easily add checklists to break them down even further into bite-sized tasks. And you can set reminders to help with keeping yourself disciplined throughout.
Anything that distracts you from achieving your goals is ultimately thwarting your attempts at maintaining your self-discipline. It’s time to declutter your life of any distractions that don’t make a positive contribution to your overall well-being, whether those distractions are animate or inanimate!
If Facebook is your downfall, it’s time to install the Self Control App. If you can’t resist the midnight munchies, it’s time to stop buying anything you’ll regret snacking on the next morning. And if your credit card is the culprit — chop it up. Sometimes you have to take drastic measures to kill distractions and stay disciplined. You’ll reap the benefits in the long-run.
Making mistakes is okay. Losing your willpower is okay. These are things that you can bounce back from and it’s never the end of the world. But, allowing yourself to dwell on those downfalls is a different story; this is something that will prevent you from moving forward and regaining your self-control.
For example, if you sleep in and end up late for work, you might start telling yourself that it’s okay to skip your evening run because you’re ‘too tired’, and thus the domino effect begins and one mistake takes over your entire day. But if you stop beating yourself up over your mistakes, and learn how to recover from them quickly, you’ll minimize the impact that they have on your life.
Mastering the art of self-discipline really is the key to improving your productivity and living a happier and more contented life — and the good news is that it’s not out of your reach. Start practicing today, and your self-discipline will improve in no time.
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