I’m talking about self-discipline. The most important principle of a person’s accomplishment. As stated by Elbert Hubbard: “Self-discipline is the ability to do what you should do, when you should do it, whether you feel like it or not.”
Therefore, self-discipline is the main factor to accomplish not only your health or career goals, but also all other life goals. It’s that one determinant that opens all doors and makes what you thought were impossible possible.
This enables the average you to rise as far and fast as your intelligence and talent can take you. But without self-discipline, no matter how blessed you are with knowledge, opportunities, and genetics, you will hardly ever rise above mediocrity. For self-discipline comes with self-control — to stay on track and do what is right.
“By constant self-discipline and self-control, you can develop greatness of character.” — Grenville Kleiser
Unfortunately, bad habits are easy to form, and good habits are not. Fortunately, even though, bad habits are easy to form, they are hard to live with; good habits are hard to form but they are easy to live with.
It’s hard to form the habit of self-discipline, and therefore self-control as well, but once developed, they become easier to practise. When the habit of self-discipline is rooted firmly in your behaviour, you’ll start to feel uncomfortable when you behave in an opposite manner.
“Everything is hard before it is easy.” — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
In order to become the kind of person that you want to become, learning the habit of self-discipline is a requirement. Every practice of self-discipline strengthens every other discipline, such as waking up early to make sure deadlines are met to have time for your family. However, every weakness in self-discipline weakens your other disciplines as well, such as pushing the snooze button and postponing the deadline towards the evening and making no time for your family.
To develop the habit of self-discipline, you need to make a solid decision on how you will behave in a certain part of an activity. For example, you decided to live a healthier lifestyle by going to the gym to work out every day for at least one hour. You then refuse to allow exceptions until the habit of self-discipline in that area is solidly established.
Each time you turn away, as you will, because life is full of temptations and distractions, you need to be determined once again to practise self-discipline until it becomes easier. This will require you to deny pleasure and delay gratification in the short-term to enjoy greater rewards in the long-term. You must be willing to sacrifice your wants in order to stay on track to accomplish the goals you’ve set for yourself, but you should never sacrifice your loved ones and your dignity.
“Great achievement is usually born of great sacrifice, and is never the result of selfishness.” —Napoleon Hill
Here are three methods that work for me to improve my self-discipline.
1. Remove Temptations and Distractions
Removing all temptation and distractions is a crucial step when working to improve your self-discipline. For example, you want to get healthier, then you need to control your eating. Throwing away all junk-food will be your first step towards getting healthier. If you’re all over the place at work and you want to deliver a better result, then you need to have a better focus. You need to remove your smartphone and delete the applications that keep you distracted.
“Out of sight, out of mind.” — Proverb
2. Embrace The Uncomfortableness And Awkwardness
Improving your self-discipline can be uncomfortable and awkward, because it means to break out of your normal habit and indulge in a better, healthier, and happier habit.
In the book “Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg, he explained that habitual behaviours are traced to a part of the brain associated with emotions, memories and patterns. This part of the brain is called the basal ganglia. Decisions on the other hand, are made in the prefrontal cortex, which is a completely different area. When a behaviour becomes a habit, decision making will stop, and the autopilot will take over.
Therefore, active decision making is required to break down a bad habit, and to build up a new habit. This will feel wrong, because your brain resists the change to maintain what it has been programmed to do. So, the solution is to embrace the uncomfortableness and awkwardness. Acknowledge that a change in habit will take some time to be in your system for the better.
“Change might not be fast and it isn’t always easy. But with time and effort, almost any habit can be reshaped.” — Charles Duhigg
3. Forgive Yourself
Changing habits won’t always go as planned. You will experience ups and downs and you will notice that it’s easy to get wrapped up in guilt, anger and frustration. These emotions will not help you in your progress to self-discipline. You need to forgive yourself and keep moving forward. Acknowledge what caused the negative emotion and move on. The longer you stray away from change, the harder it will get to keep going in a positive direction.
“Forgive yourself for your faults and your mistakes and move on.” — Les Brown
In the end, your accomplishment in any goal depends more on the person you become than what you do and acquire. By practising self-discipline, you will develop a greater self-esteem and self-respect. As Aristotle wrote:
“The ultimate end of life is the development of character.” — Aristotle
Originally published at ye-chen.com on February 28, 2018.