I often write about habits and how they are one of the few things that unite successful people. That’s because in most of the biographies of successful people, you can read about their routines and how they helped them to achieve their dreams and exceptional results.
What I’ve realized, though, is that there is another similarity between high-performing and wealthy people — and it’s the most important one. Perhaps, it’s so apparent that we don’t even talk about that characteristic a lot. It’s discipline.
No matter what field or industry you are looking at, the most successful people are, almost indefinitely, the most disciplined ones.
Just look at the most successful writers here on Medium. These are the people who are writing and publishing regularly. In most cases, daily.
Too often, success seems like an overnight event or as if it was luck. However, if you look behind the scenes and dig deep, you will always find a disciplined person who kept up with something for a very long time and didn’t give up.
Discipline is a Skill That Must be Trained
To be disciplined is often viewed as a given attribute, yet, actually, it is a skill that can be practiced and strengthened. Self-discipline is like a muscle. The more you exercise it, the stronger it gets.
Your self-discipline and the level of responsibility you take for your life determine whether you will accomplish your goals or fail.
Above all, you need to accept that you are the only person responsible for creating change in your life. If you don’t manage to take responsibility and lead, you will be led by external circumstances and won’t be able to live up to your full potential.
Additionally, you will quickly experience resistance and won’t have the stamina to stay resistant. In the long run, being disciplined is the only option that you have if you wish to achieve big goals and dreams.
One-time actions will not produce remarkable results, no matter in which area of your life you are seeking improvement.
Regardless of whether you want to grow your business, get fitter, improve your relationships, or grow personally — you need to stick to it for a while. You won’t experience change through irregular actions.
Being disciplined, showing up every single day to do what needs to be done, however, will help you to get to the finish line.
It’s Time to Take Control
Being disciplined means having control over your life.
Most people associate discipline with negative terms like restraints or restrictions. But the truth is that real discipline will help you to achieve freedom, both physically and mentally.
Psychological studies have even proven that disciplined people are notably happier than those with less self-control. In the long run, people with discipline can create the life they want, while those with less self-control need to live according to the terms of others.
But what exactly is self-control? Self-control means giving up short-term satisfaction to achieve long-term greatness.
Self-mastery is difficult and a long-term process, but it can be learned and strengthened. No one achieves greatness without hard work and a significant amount of discipline.
The Tip of the Iceberg
Often, we only see the tip of the iceberg when looking at success stories. We see only the end result and neglect to appreciate the big picture. The more significant part of the iceberg (in this case: the necessary discipline), however, lies beneath the surface.
During studies, US psychologists Angela Duckworth and Martin Seligman found that people with high levels of discipline are often, surprisingly, much more successful than those with a higher IQ.
Moreover, former Harvard professor Daniel Goleman identified that our discipline is of much more significance than our IQ when it comes to succeeding in life.
In the long run, discipline and diligence always beat any form of given talent.
‘Talent without discipline is like an octopus on roller skates. There’s plenty of movement, but you never know if it’s going to be forward, backwards, or sideways.’ — H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
The Biggest Challenge of Self-Discipline
The biggest challenge when it comes to building discipline is to convince yourself to stick to the long term satisfaction instead of going for the short term joy.
Sure, it is more fun to sit on the couch and watch Netflix rather than hitting the gym. However, that’s just a short-term amusement.
In the long run, you will be thankful for a fit, healthy body; thus, it makes sense to get up and hit the gym or go for a run or whatever works for you.
Your discipline is a muscle. The more you train, the stronger your discipline becomes. Training in that sense means being disciplined, and being disciplined once encourages further disciplinary acts in future. This might sound stupid, but that’s just how it is.
Now you might also understand why it is so hard to stick to new projects or habits at the beginning — because your discipline muscle isn’t trained yet.
However, over time, it gets easier to stick to your own rules.
It’s On You
Successful people are those who accept that they are the driver of their lives. It’s up to you to take the wheel and start controlling your life.
If you want to create a particular outcome, you have to take responsibility and show discipline and effort.
You are the only person responsible for where you are in life right now. That’s why you also have the control and power necessary to shape your future as you please. Your life, your rules.
No one can take that authority away from you — at least, as long as you take responsibility for your actions. If you don’t want to take responsibility, you will find plenty of reasons not to do so and not to be disciplined.
By doing so and not strengthening your discipline, however, you’ll never come closer to your goals and reaching your full potential
How to Develop Discipline
Your self-control is based on your willpower and can be trained and strengthened.
First, you must realize that you have the power to change things and shape your life just the way you want. Without the necessary self-control, you will probably start many new projects, continue to set new goals, but rarely reach any.
Often, it’s easier to start new things than to pull things through to the end and produce an actual result.
‘Self-discipline is the magic power that makes you virtually unstoppable.’— Dan Kennedy
How to Build Lasting Discipline
Being disciplined once is one thing, but remaining committed enough to actually complete your goals is easier said than done. How, then, can we learn to build long-lasting discipline?
To develop self-discipline, you must have clear priorities. You need to know your personal why, your reason for being, and work towards your grand vision.
It is hardly possible to have too many important goals and to work on all of them with great discipline. If you want to be more disciplined and reach your goals faster, first, ask yourself what your biggest goal is.
Once you’re clear about your big vision and what you strive for every day, you will also be able to master the unpleasant tasks and build lasting discipline.
You should have a clear vision and all your efforts and energy should be directed towards this goal. If you know what you are striving for, it will be easier to be disciplined.
Often, we are not aware of our abilities, underestimate our talents, and doubt ourselves. If you want to be successful and reach your full potential, you need to realize that you are capable of creating unbelievable things.
At the same time, you must set realistic goals. You must be able to visualize your goals and be firmly convinced that they are achievable. Unattainable goals will only demotivate and damage your discipline.
To be continuously disciplined, you should divide your big goals into smaller subgoals. What can you do every month, week, and day to get closer to your big vision?
By knowing the answer, you can control your progress and stay motivated as well as disciplined. Having sub-goals also allows you to track your progress precisely.
Another key to building discipline is deadlines.
Without specific deadlines, we waste time and need way too long to complete small tasks. You might already have heard of Parkinson’s Law, which states the following:
“Work expands to the extent that time is available for its completion.”
Having more time for the completion of a task often results in less efficiency and productivity.
Thus, it is crucial to set deadlines if you want to increase your productivity.
Additionally, deadlines help you to stay structured and disciplined.
For each task you need (or want) to complete, set a realistic yet challenging time frame, and use your time as productively as possible.
Building social pressure is another way to strengthen your discipline and work harder on your goals. Social pressure is formed when you share your goals and intentions with other people.
They will probably address you next time you meet and ask you about your progress.
It’s easy to lie to yourself and make excuses, but if other people ask you about your development, you want to report successes, not excuses.
Find some motivated colleagues to share your plans and goals with. Ask them about their own goals and when they would like to achieve those.
By keeping each other up to date, everyone will have a positive pressure to give their best. What you can also do is sharing your goals on social media channels. This way, you will probably be addressed by even more people.
The more you talk about your goals to others, the more disciplined you’ll be to actually reach them.
Building self-discipline isn’t an impossible task, but it can certainly be difficult to begin with. It is, however, the most essential endeavour when it comes success, productivity and long-term happiness.
No matter how testing a task it may seem, it is undoubtedly worth it. Do today what your future self will thank you for, and you’ll be sure to meet the goals you long to achieve.
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