Book Summary: Self Discipline in 10 Days

Book: Self-Discipline in 10 days: How To Go From Thinking to Doing
Author: Theodore Bryant

I have the impulse to rewrite every informative piece I read or watch, otherwise I feel the knowledge just gets lost.

This book which I just read is a light and easy read. One can do it in 2 hours, or 3 hours if taking notes. It explains self-discipline and presents a framework of achieving it. It’s a bit repetitive as most books of its kind, nevertheless it contains at least a handful of interesting ideas.

Basic idea

Self-discipline is not a personality trait, but a skill that anyone can learn to use. It is the psychological self-management of directing all the various parts of our personality — desires, emotions, needs, fears, thoughts, intellect, memories, imagination and others — so that rather than being immobilised by inner conflict, all of our psychological elements are pulling together toward your consciously chosen goals.

Self-discipline is not exactly about doing what you don’t want to do, but how to deal with the part of you that doesn’t want to do it.

This part of us who doesn’t want self-discipline is personified by the author in Hyde: the creative, but pleasure-seeking and afraid of commitment side of us. Although this guy is the main reason of our failures, it’s best to approach him as a friend. Personalise Hyde. Make the relationship a supportive one. Give your Hyde a friendly, personal name. Maybe a nickname you had as a child.

Hyde subconsciously says: “Nobody can tell me what to do, not even me.”

Hyde has five ways of sabotaging self-discipline:

  1. Cynism: The cynic can always find a flaw in absolutely anything. Once found, the flaw is then magnified until it overshadows everything else.
    Antidote: Understand nothing is perfect and be accomplishment-oriented.
  2. Negativism: As you begin to devise goals and plans, Hyde directs your attention toward everything unpleasant about the persons, places and things that make up your environment. You end up asking: “Why bother?”
    Antidote: Whatever you tell yourself, negative or positive, your subconscious believes .That’s the way the brain works.
  3. Defeatism: Hyde will try to convince you that the fault lies within you personally; that you somehow are different and lack the ability to turn this system into a reality. “I’m too young/old/not smart enough.”
    Antidote: Tell yourself “Nothing is going to stop me.” Don’t lament over your shortcomings, redouble your efforts.
  4. Escapism: Pursuing self-discipline requires self-knowledge, which evokes anxiety. Hyde will coax you toward another activity that will instead provide some sort of escape.
    Antidote: Understand that discomfort will quickly transform into a wonderful feeling of accomplishment as you experience the successes from self-discipline.
  5. Delayism: “I can’t begin a weight-loss program until I buy a decent outfit to work out in.”
    Antidote: Tell yourself that the program can succeed only if the exercises are actually completed. Evaluate any delay and recognise whether a given delay is legitimate.

Dealing with Hyde: Action-oriented self talk

You have a conversation with yourself every second of your day, even when you don’t consciously hear it: what to eat, what to wear. It’s part of the process of every choice you make. Hyde works subconsciously giving you negative messages. Self-talk is the technique of replacing self-defeating subconscious messages with positive ones.

Self-talk must be positive, specific and present tense:

  1. If you just say “I should work on my report”, Hyde says “I am now watching television.” Instead, say: “I am working on my report” then your subconscious mind will focus your attention, physical and mental, on doing it. Your subconscious mind believes what you tell it.
  2. When you say, “I can’t…” rather than, “I choose not to…” you convey to your subconscious mind that you have no choice in the situation.
  3. Beware of using “I should…”. It implies to your subconscious mind that your choice of behaviour is being made from a position of guilt.

The five fears & roadblocks to self-discipline

  1. Fear of failure: Study after study has shown that the greatest obstacle to personal success is fear of failure. Subconsciously, we all link failure to humiliation. Fear of humiliation hampers our ability to make a strong commitment to our chosen endeavours.
  2. Fear of success: Some thoughts that generate this: “I don’t deserve success”, “People will judge me”, “It’s lonely at the top”, “I’ll be overcome by responsibility and pressure.”
  3. Fear of rejection: Frequently, a person who subconsciously fears rejection doesn’t consciously perceive it as a fear. Rather, this type of fear is perceived as a desire to be a “nice person”, who spends an enormous amount of time and energy satisfying others and neglecting his own desires.
  4. Fear of mediocrity: Perfectionism is the socially acceptable term for a subconscious feeling called fear of mediocrity. It creates a pattern of self-imposed pressure that we tend to avoid, which leads to procrastination and self-defeat.
  5. Fear of risks: The unknown has come to be something we equate with danger. When you stop taking risks your self-confidence muscle won’t be usable when you reach for it. And self-confidence and self-discipline feed off each other.

The author suggests writing down three past experiences related to each of these fears and taking notes on how you react as you write them, as a means of knowing yourself better.

The five subconscious belief systems

  1. “All or nothing” attitude: Ideas such as “There are only winners and losers” or “There is only one right way to do it”. If all you can see is the whole overwhelming project, you will never get yourself to begin because you can’t feel comfortable taking small steps; you must do it All. And finally, you subconsciously tell yourself that if your plan doesn’t work, you will be Nothing, a loser.
  2. “I Must Be Perfect”: The reality of getting it done is more satisfying than the dream of getting it perfect. Perfectionism weakens perseverance. And perseverance produces more achievements than talent, smarts, or luck.
  3. “No pain, no gain”: In order to achieve anything special, a person would do well to accept the reality that one must accept a certain amount of trade-offs. Learn to expect, accept, and tolerate periods of discomfort.
  4. “I’m just like my mom (or dad)”: We as individuals can reinvent ourselves by realising that I don’t have to be who I was yesterday. Furthermore, I do not have to do what I did yesterday.
  5. “Something Terrible Will Happen”: Any psychology book has at least one chapter that deals with the human animal’s exaggerated fear of falling victim to a catastrophic event.

Five “power tools”

  1. Visualisation: You already do it when you remember something from the past, contemplate the present or fantasise about the future. Subconsciously you use it thousands of times a day. Consciously at least a hundred times a day. Visualisation is simply self-talk that uses mental pictures rather than words, consciously transforming subconscious negative images in positive ones. Consciously create vivid mental movies that involve your senses. Instead of jumping to actions, spend a week every day visualising yourself at it, in detail.
  2. Reward: Tons of research underscores the benefits of using rewards. A systematic reward is the key that opens the door painless self-discipline. Every time you perform even the smallest step toward a large goal, praise yourself: “Congratulations! You did it!”. Also, self-contracts are powerful psychological devices that you can use to reward yourself for every step you make toward a goal: “Every time I work for thirty minutes at a task on my to-do list, I will reward myself with thirty minutes of guilt-free, junk television, because I will truly deserve it”
  3. Affirmations: The books calls them “Vitaminds”, visual written affirmations. Transform your goal or task into a short, single sentence, an affirmation. Write it in present tense, in three different ways — using first, second, and third person:
    “I, Ted Brown, practice piano one hour a day.”
    “You, Ted Brown, practice piano one hour a day.”
    “Ted Brown practices piano one hour a day.”
    Write 3 sets of them and put each piece of paper on places you see many times, such as bathroom mirror or wallet. Read it as many times as you think of it.
  4. Relaxation: Whenever you feel Hyde deviating you from your task, take two or three minutes to go through the following steps:
    a) Take a few deep breaths, slow your breathing, and say to yourself, “I am completely relaxed.”
    b) Say (while doing it): “I am tightening my forehead, then relaxing it. I am tightening all my facial muscles, then relaxing them” and so on, for all major muscle groups.
    c) User self-talk and visualisation to support the relaxation.
    d) Ask Hyde “Why?”, hear what he says and tell yourself the other side of the story.
    e) Gradually return to the task at hand, breathing and relaxing.
  5. Goal sheet
    a) Write a specific, detailed statement of your goal, like “I want to be earning $100,000 per year in two years”.
    b) Then state why you want to reach this goal. Clarity of purpose determines the power of your commitment.
    c) List the steps that it requires, as many as you can.
    d) Ask yourself if this goal is worth your time an effort, if it’s a good time for it, what is the downside and so on.

The Four Stages of Self Discipline

  1. Decision: Self-discipline is easier when you know exactly what you are up against. You need to realize that every coin has two sides. In order to get what you want, you have to give up something else. Know what you’re giving up. Write down benefits and drawbacks of your goal.
  2. Preparation: On your daily “to do” list be sure to break down each task into a series of small steps. This simple act will instantly transform intimidating tasks into friendly steps.
    A Six Step Daily Plan:
    a) Look at your Goal Sheets and pick a goal.
    b) Choose a launch date when you want to begin action.
    c) Make a “to do” list for the day you plan to begin. Be sure to date your list.
    d) Next to each action step, whenever possible write an estimate for the time it will take to complete it. Then in abbreviated form, a reward from your reward sheet. Make the size of the reward equivalent to the size of the step.
    e) Upon completion of each step, cross the item off your list.
    f) At the end of the day, review your progress.
  3. Action:
    a) Make a simple daily “to do” list. Next to each step write a guess at how many minutes you plan to work on the step.
    b) Do one minute of relaxation before doing each step.
    c) Put a line through the step when completed.
    d) At the end of the day take a look at your list. Reward yourself, no matter how few steps toward your goal were completed.
  4. Completion/maintenance: Regardless of whether you need to maintain your goal or complete your goal, the requirements of this stage are
    Awareness: Don’t let Hyde subconsciously use rationalization and justification to make you slack off on your self-discipline.
    Attitude: If you feel you can reach your goal, then you are already halfway there.
    Action: Monitor your progress daily, especially as you get closer to completion.
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