When we think of disciplined people we usually think of someone who gets up at 5 a.m., runs for 6 miles, then eats a healthy breakfast before going to work at an awesome job that they love. They rarely waste time, and their accomplishments are extremely impressive.
Even though this is what self-discipline can look like, you don’t have to go this far to bring some structure into your life and make sure to rely only on motivation, which as you learned in the last lesson is not a good idea.
So what are some simple steps you can take to start building self-discipline?
Here are eight ways to help you get started:
1. Be In It For The Long Run
Building great discipline takes time and you don’t need to wake up tomorrow as a completely different person. Similar to building new habits it’s generally best to focus on only one thing you want to improve and start going from there.
Our tradition to make resolutions on New Year’s Day usually doesn’t work because people make too many resolutions and lose track of all the progress they want to make. For best results, pick just one thing and dedicate your energy towards it.
2. Ask Yourself: What Do I Want To Do Differently?
Do you want to lose weight? Yes, probably otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this. But also ask yourself which changes you are willing to make and which you aren’t. Losing weight will take effort but you don’t need to restructure your entire life around it.
If you don’t like most vegetables, focus on the ones you like and if you are a sweet tooth look for ways you can fit a small chocolate bar into your diet. Flexible diet is the magic word and will help you see progress even if you don’t adhere 100% to the standards of healthy eating.
When focusing on weight loss and fitness, choose something that is practical and that will make a significant difference in your life. That could be small things, like buying apples instead of chocolate or taking the stairs instead of the elevator.
Ask other people who have done it before you, which changes were the easiest but brought the largest results. Dieting and exercise is highly individual and we all like different things. For me for example, just reducing my candy intake already led to a huge reduction in calories and therefore in weight.
What you want to do is look at other people who have lost weight or built muscle in the past and find out what they do that you don’t. Then pick one habit that you believe would be easy to implement and build on that.
3. Act Your Age
We are all adults and being an adult means take responsibly for your actions and doing your best to become a better person. As an adult, you don’t sit around and wait until someone tells you what to do. You set your own goals and then pursue them.
There will be setbacks and obstacles of course and this is normal. It’s no sin to fall down, just to not get up again. But discipline means that you keep going even when you feel like giving up.
Don’t worry, you can start small. Make small and simple changes first like I did with my candy consumption. Instead of several snicker bars, I would just eat one a day. The habits and triggers we created in the last section can help remind you of this and will keep you on track.
The clearer you have defined your goals the easier it will be to purse and eventually reach them. The beginning is always the toughest part, but once you gained some momentum, things will fall into place and you will see results big time.
4. Write Down Daily Tasks
Part of self-discipline is figuring out what you have to do and then doing it. Oftentimes, when we are not used to behaving in a disciplined manner, we don’t know which activity to do next. To take out the guesswork, prepare a list of tasks that you want to accomplish every day.
You will see that checking off the items on the list will always be like a (small) reward and will definitely help develop more self-discipline.
5. Prepare, Prepare, Prepare
Maintaining discipline is all about the right preparation. If you know that you will have hunger cravings, put the chocolate and candy somewhere where you cant reach them before the cravings happen. Don’t even leave it up to chances, but simply eliminate this variable from the equation. You can’t eat something that isn’t there.
Similarly, you can simply prepare smaller meals so if you are still hungry afterwards, you would have to cook an entire new meal. These are small things that will have a great impact on your results.
6. Make Use Of Technology
Technology is a two-edged sword. It can help us be more productive and disciplined, but it can also distract us like in the case of social media.
So what you want to do is first eliminate all the distractions that keep you from following through with you habits. Make sure to turn off your phone when you are at the gym or when you want to cook something nice.
You can also limit your daily facebook time with certain apps and programs that will automatically block access to a website after a certain amount of time has passed. Tools that can help you also include fitness trackers that monitor your weight, exercise regimen and sleep each night.
7. Avoid Temptation By Eliminating It From Your Life
We all give in to temptations sometimes. What you want to do to limit this possibility, however, is to eliminate the possibility for temptations to occur in the first place.
Don’t go grocery shopping when you are hungry, for example. Find a way to make the things you often crave less available. This ties in with the preparation aspect I talked about before.
You have to recognize that temptation will happen and you won’t always be able to resist them. You also want to think about important decisions before you actually have to make them.
If you want to establish a new morning routine, go to bed earlier so that you have time to get up and do it without feeling pressed for time. The amazing thing is that the more often you avoid temptations, the easier it will get. You basically train your discipline muscle to say no.
8. Don’t Be Too Hard On Yourself!
Don’t beat yourself up if you make a mistake. You won’t wake up perfectly disciplined tomorrow, so expect motivation-lows along the way.
But, like I said before, these obstacles can be planed for. If you accept that you will fail from time to time, one mistake won’t kill your drive and you will want to keep going.
Also, make sure to celebrate all the successes you achieved big and small. For example, if you accomplished a certain goal for this week, reward yourself in a way that won’t undermine your success. (Eating healthily? No food rewards.)