Motivation keeps you going, but self-discipline keeps you growing.
There are several qualities that push people to success. Social skills, networking skills, amongst others. But the most prominent one of them all is self-discipline.
It’s the motivation that keeps you moving forward and also growing in that area. It’s that drive to improve and is connected to a core aspect of who you are.
It’s this underlying aspect that has led to many people succeeding in life and is a skill that we all strive to one day have and master.
But how does one even obtain this skill?
Well, here are some ways that I’ve discovered on my journey that help you become more disciplined in any field.
Build A System That Makes You Do It Anyway
How many times have you told yourself this:
“I’m not doing this because I don’t feel like it right now.”
Probably hundreds of times at this point right? Don’t worry we’ve all been there.
We are bombarded with questions, thoughts, and decisions that drain us over the course of every day. Since we don’t have all the time in the world, there are definitely some things that we neglect.
But some of those reasons stem from the sheer fact that we don’t feel like doing it. That we need to be in a certain mindset in order to do it.
While I agree some elements are definitely needed (for example, I find it difficult to write if someone nearby is chatting to someone else.), but in most situations, some of the arguments are flimsy at best.
I don’t want to do certain exercises because they hurt my body.
I don’t want to go for a bike ride because it’s raining a little bit outside.
I don’t want to do any work because I’m frustrated with one part that I’m stuck on.
Instead of buying into those ideas, one method to develop self-discipline is simply doing what’s needed of you regardless of the situation.
Building this is rather simple.
In Charles Duhigg’s book The Power of Habit, he talks about what’s needed in order to build a habit. One section though is devoted to explaining why starting a new habit or reinforcing it feels wrong initially.
Essentially, there are two parts of our brain that are conflicting with one another:
- There is the basal ganglia which is associated with emotions, patterns and memory.
- Then there is the prefrontal cortex which is associated with decision-making.
When building a habit we’re shifting a behaviour from something we decide to do into something we do without thinking at all.
This is why our brain signals to us that something new is dangerous as we are used to our familiar patterns.
But you can work around all this by making those active decisions. Lean into that decision-making over and over again until you just do it.
How you get to that varies from person to person but the elements of this system for me are things like:
- Making the decision to not care about my current emotions.
- Tapping into the reason I’m building that specific habit in the first place.
- Reassure myself that I’ll enjoy these things over time.
- Convince yourself to do the action for a few minutes every day. You’ll eventually find yourself doing the action for more time day by day.
Set Your Priorities Better
I get it, we all have a certain level of energy to dedicate to every single day. As a result, we’re not going to be able to do everything on our list.
But if our energy is so important to us, then we ought to be using it accordingly right?
Our own energy — and time — is invaluable and we all need to ensure that we’re investing it and getting solid returns from it.
This means if you spend most of your energy on things that aren’t that important to you or barely move you ahead, you need to look at yourself and change your ways.
Devote time every single day to determine what is the most important thing(s) that you must do every day.
For me, it’s working out and writing.
As time goes on, those priorities might change which is why it’s worth going over your priorities once in a while. Particularly during these times where you want to be more self-disciplined.
You can determine what’s the most important thing to you by asking yourself these questions:
- What about your current situation are you unhappy with?
- What action do you think will help you change that situation?
- How can that action change that situation in general?
Set Small Goals
An extreme example of this can be found in James Clear’s book Atomic Habits.
If you want to be going to the gym on a regular basis, show up to the gym for a 10-minute workout for a week. Next week, do a 20-minute workout. The week after, do a 30-minute workout.
Keep showing up week after week increasing the amount of time until you’re there for an hour every day.
This example reinforces the idea of setting insanely easy goals that you can hit that require barely any effort on your part at first.
This is good because we love achieving goals. We get a dopamine injection whenever we do something like this.
Paired with the fact dopamine is very addictive, it’s easy for us to rewire ourselves to performing a good habit and get addicted to it.
Setting small goals and gradually building them up is a solid start to establishing that and building your self-discipline.
Eat Better Foods
Studies show that if you sleep well, eat healthy foods and get exercise, you’ll find it easier to achieve your goals. The reason for that is because those things help us to manage our blood sugar levels.
When our blood sugar levels are high, we have weakened resolve to do anything. All sense of self-control is thrown out the window when we are in this state.
So fixing this comes down to a matter of doing those three things: exercising, sleeping enough, and sticking to healthy foods.
And while these are habits, you can treat these as the foundation for developing more self-discpline.
After all, if you’re well fueled and can make better decisions, it’ll be easier to stick to the actions that will make an impact on your life. You’ll have the capacity to make better decisions overall.
Developing self-discipline is like training muscles. It’s not going to happen immediately. First, you need to work on it to activate it. Then you need to keep working on it to ensure that it functions.
Keeping this in mind, you’ll be able to build this over time and achieve a lot so long as you are setting yourself goals that you care about and can work towards.