How To Develop Discipline?
If you’re like me, then self-discipline is something that continually seems just out of reach. You’re always right at the finish line but can never seem to cross it. It can be frustrating and make you feel like garbage about yourself. Especially when you always let your emotions take control of yourself.
The good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way. It takes a lot of practice and hard work, but eventually becoming self-disciplined gets easier. That means no more worries that you will never be good enough or that you won’t drop those last ten pounds.
This article is going to discuss some of the strategies myself, and others have used to build that self-discipline buffer. It may seem hopeless now, but by the end, you’ll feel like moving mountains. Or, at least a pebble.
1. Disregard your Strengths
I’m sure you could count on one hand (finger?) before today the number of people who have told you to forget your strengths. Typically, life coaches preach the opposite. This is an essential first step because self-discipline has nothing to do with what you’re good at.
Self-discipline is centered on recognizing the things you’re terrible at, and working to improve on that. For example, being able to eat three slices of cake in the breakroom is a strength (stealth mode activate). Learning to say no to at least one of those slices is your weakness, and that is where self-discipline lies.
There’s a saying, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” In terms of self-discipline, there is no fixing going on if we don’t know something is broke. The same is true if we aren’t acknowledging that something is broken.
This step is all about owning up to what you are perceiving as your weakness. This could be something big, like not standing up for yourself enough. It could also be something on a more simple note, like not always choosing the double bacon cheeseburger for lunch.
2. Action Plan
Write it down. I can’t say this enough when talking about self-discipline. How many times have you made a mental grocery list and then forgotten half of it by the time you got to the store?
Let’s take the cake-eating example again. If your goal is only to eat two slices, then write that down. This is a huge step to take and something that we will expand upon.
You see, writing down that you’re going to do something isn’t enough to build self-discipline. I write “fold laundry” on my to-do list most days, but I guarantee there’s a load at home on my couch still waiting for me. Self-discipline requires that you take it a step further.
Write down the dirty details about when you’re going to start this plan. Write down how you’re going to pull it off realistically. Make these details as specific as you can get them before continuing.
3. Make it Easier on Yourself
I won’t lie. I love it when I have a valid reason to make things easier for myself. As a mom of three kids “easy” is my second favorite word, topped only by “bedtime.”
In all seriousness, building self-discipline is a big step for anyone. It is also incredibly hard to practice. If there’s a way to make it easier and set yourself up for success, then I highly recommend doing so.
My favorite example of this is when it comes to shopping. I can justify almost any purchase if I want it bad enough, or if I’m just plain tired enough. If you’re reading this, then I suspect you know exactly what I’m talking about.
If I even suspect I’ll be tempted to overspend, I leave the cards at home. If I’m in a store carrying cash, you can bet I’ll be watching every price tag. I’ll also stick to the budget to save myself the embarrassment of not being able to pay at the register.
4. Embrace the Boredom
For me, this is probably the hardest action to follow through on. No one wakes up and says “I want to embrace my boredom and frustration today and experience feeling really uncomfortable.” (If you do, please seek support.)
Unfortunately, it’s a very crucial point on the road to becoming self-disciplined. You have to feel all those gross feelings, within reason. You are essentially forcing your body to learn to respond to them appropriately.
Let’s be honest. We’ve all gotten bored and purged the refrigerator. Or, we’ve made best friends with an entire pint of Ben & Jerry’s when that special someone turned out to be a jerk.
Have these actions really helped anyone though? It becomes a vicious cycle because there’s a brief moment of feeling good while we eat. This reinforces the behavior but leaves us feeling worse than before.
5. Keep Dreaming
I’m a Pisces, and therefore a natural-born dreamer. This step comes very easy for me. It’s actually even a part of a project I’m currently working on at home.
Dreaming and thinking about the big picture is also important. It helps serve as a large lighthouse guiding our ships. We can’t know where we are (or the progress we’re making!) if we don’t know where we are headed.
I highly recommend setting up some sort of dream board. Fill it up with all the things you want to accomplish within a given time frame. Place it somewhere you will see it every day and be reminded of those goals you have for yourself.
You can even take this step back to writing your action plans. Make a new plan for each dream. Then, write down all the specifics on how you will take those steps to get there.
6. Role Modeling
Role modeling is a great concept, and it’s definitely one that belongs in a post about self-discipline. This applies if you are the one acting like the role model or if you are seeking one out. Both aspects play an important part.
Let’s talk about finding a role model first. Look for people that you view as successful, then pay attention to their habits (not in a creepy way!). Doing this is going to help you learn how to handle certain situations.
On the other hand, your behaviors and habits will likely change if you start to see yourself as a role model for someone else. This could include people like family members. You want them to see positive behaviors and are more likely to display those in front of them.
This step, like the embracing the boredom step, makes me slightly uncomfortable. Accountability is at its core a very good concept. Putting it into practice is much easier said than done.
For the most part, it’s easy enough to acknowledge that you did something great. Perhaps you kept to your action plan and didn’t eat three slices of cake for John’s birthday at the office. However, acknowledgment is much different from accountability.
Accountability is holding yourself to a standard and being honest with yourself. It’s admitting that you used a sick day to skip John’s birthday. That’s how you really avoided eating the cake.
Being accountable should include any and all supportive people in your life. Talk about your goals until you feel like you’re recruiting people for a VIP goal seekers club. This is what’s going to help you be accountable.
Accountability will turn you into an honest person. Other people will know what you’re working on or what you’ve promised them. If you don’t work hard enough and make it to that finish line, guess who’s going to ask about it?
8. Pass the Protein Shake
Don’t worry, the protein shake can be chocolate. It also doesn’t have to be a protein shake necessarily. What we’re looking at here are your eating habits.
I’m not going to sit here and preach about healthy food non-stop and chugging water. Of course, those things are essential. However, they’re not quite the vibe I’m going for.
Have you ever gone grocery shopping when you’re hungry? If you somehow haven’t, please do not try this at home. It’s a mess.
You tired and you’re ready to be anywhere but with people and a squeaky shopping cart. You also end up buying way too many snacks and treats. The justification for each and every one of them sounds invincible, at least until after your nap.
This same thing applies outside of the local grocery store. It actually happens more often than you think. It can lead to poor decisions, irritability, and a lack of self-discipline.
Adopting at least semi-healthy food habits can help prevent this. It will also make it easier to follow your action plan. You should consider re-working your food habits, sleeping habits, or a little of both if you want to be more successful at learning self-discipline.
9. Analyze and Move Forward
Mistakes are going to happen. There are going to be days where you are doing everything you can just to function and make it through the day. Your action plan is going to be forgotten for those hours.
This will inevitably happen, no matter how much you practice. The correct response is not to purge your kitchen and forget everything you’ve learned. There’s no need to buy a tub of Ben & Jerry’s in every flavor just because you had one bad day.
Stop and think for a minute, or ten, about what happened. Where are you on your action plan that you made so specific? Did the mistake happen because of something you forgot to do?
You can see how accountability really plays a role in this step. You have to pick yourself up and make a decision right then and there. Are you going to let this one thing defeat you or are you going to learn from it moving forward?
10. Treat Yourself
This is, of course, my absolute favorite step. You should be warned that this isn’t permission to eat that third slice of cake. That option is still most definitely off the table.
Treating yourself is acknowledging and celebrating the work that you’re putting in to better yourself. It’s a controlled way of reinforcing the habits that you’ve been working to change. It’s also something that should be planned out and included in your action plan.
A great example of this is when people set a goal to lose weight. After every 20 pounds (or whatever number) they allow themselves some sort of treat day. This could be a one hour massage or a new outfit.
The reward is something that should mean something to you. It could also be something that you don’t get to do very often. One of my favorite treats is turning off the alarm clock and refusing to get out of bed until absolutely necessary.
Rewards like this can work as an external motivational force. They are great at helping you stay on track with your goals. They can also be a part of your dream board that we discussed earlier and help remind you of why you are making these changes.
There you have it. A nice comprehensive list of some of the steps you can take to build your self-discipline. Try adding at least one in now, and more gradually as you become more skilled on this topic.
Learning and practicing self-discipline is such a significant step because it can lead to so many other positive changes in your life. You will learn how to be a goal setter (and smasher) along the way. You will also start to see your self-esteem rise with each success.
One final thought is to remember that mistakes happen. You won’t get anywhere by blaming yourself or wallowing in a self-pity party. The very best step you can take is to honestly analyze what went wrong and how you can rise above it.