How often have you waited until the first of the week, month, or even year to declare you’re making sweeping life changes, only to fall back into old, familiar patterns just a short while later? If the answer is “plenty,” you’re not alone. New year’s resolutions wouldn’t be such a big deal, otherwise.
The good news is that you can get off this pesky rollercoaster of ups and downs, and get your feet on the solid ground of steady progress. All you need is self-discipline. In this article, you’ll learn precisely how.
1- Start With Why
You may think self-discipline starts with to-do lists, apps, calendars and planners, but that’s not the first thing you need. The first thing you need to master self-discipline is to know why you’ve chosen your goals. The thing is, superficial reasons often aren’t strong enough to make this stick. You need to identify the deep, emotional causes that resonate in meaningful ways.
For example, losing weight just for the sake of being slimmer likely isn’t strong enough to keep you on your diet or in the gym every day. However, when you think about the more significant outcome of losing weight, the pull gets stronger. Is the goal of weight loss to have more self-confidence? To have more energy to spend with your children? Do you want to live longer and eliminate or avoid illness?
2- Delay Gratification (But Lock It In)
Second, one of the more significant concepts behind self-discipline is that you increase your ability to delay gratification. When weighing opposing options, you sacrifice short-term benefits for long-term gains.
The best way to build self-discipline is to delay gratification, but make sure you plan something enjoyable in the short-term too.
For example, if you’re trying to lose weight and you must choose what to eat, you may compromise by following your diet plan correctly all week and allowing a break or cheat meal on the weekend. Or you allow yourself some of the foods you enjoy, stipulating that you prepare them yourself with lighter, healthier ingredients.
The key is to make choices that lead to long-term benefit without completely sacrificing your quality of life in the short-term. That way, you make sustainable changes that you can stick to.
3- Reduce Your Options
The third method of mastering self-discipline is to simplify your life by reducing your options. Many successful people in the media, such as Barack Obama and Mark Zuckerburg, are known for doing so with their wardrobes – they wear the same types of clothes every day, thereby eliminating confusion on what to wear.
You can do the same thing with your diet by stocking your fridge and cabinets with only healthy foods. Remove the temptation to go off plan.
When you sit down to work, clean your workspace of anything you don’t need to finish your job. Only make necessities available to you.
4- Visualize The Process
Another method that works for building self-discipline is visualizing the steps you’ll take to achieve your goals.
If you tend to struggle with waking up early to go to the gym, for example, before you fall asleep at night, envision how you’ll approach the morning.
Picture yourself waking up right when your alarm goes off, getting dressed, and heading straight to the gym. Imagine the exact workout you’ll do from start to finish and visualize yourself feeling accomplished, knowing you’ve made the best decision and gotten a great start to your day.
5- Meet Your Baseline Needs
It’s much easier to build new habits and exert self-control when you are well-fed, well-rested, hydrated, relaxed, and comfortable in your physical surroundings. As such, make sure you meet your basic needs of healthy food, shelter, drinking enough water, and getting enough rest before you tackle big goals.
6- Change Your Language
Next, the way you speak about your goals and priorities can make a huge difference in your approach.
If you’re starting a new business, for example, not every aspect will be exciting and motivating. Some things will feel tedious, dull and even downright frustrating. Exercising self-discipline and self-control means pushing through the unpleasant parts to reach your end goal. A trick you can use here is to change the way you discuss these aspects.
For example, if you’re dreading a presentation or project at work or school, you have two choices. You can complain about how awful the job is and procrastinate. Or, you can describe how lucky you are to be in your position.
If it’s for school, you can think about how fortunate you are to get the chance to advance your education. If it’s for work, you can think of how you get to showcase your knowledge or skills and how great it is that you have a steady paycheck coming in that allows you to pay your bills and enjoy an amount of security in your life.
7- Shift Your Identity
Finally, your self-discipline will be much improved if you think of the end goal and align your identity with the type of person who has achieved what you seek.
For example, if you want to improve your physical fitness, consider the actions of the physically fit. Reframe your identity and describe yourself as the type of person who cooks healthy food and enjoys physical activity.
If you want to have a successful business, examine the traits of successful businesspeople. Adopt some of those traits as you describe your identity. Perhaps you’ve read that the most successful people are early risers. You, too, can shift your self-perception by becoming an early riser. Identify as the type of person who wakes early to work on their business every day.
Self-discipline is a combination of identifying your goals and shifting your mindset to prioritize the choices that inch you further toward attaining them, despite your feelings. However, self-control isn’t something you can master overnight. Just like any muscle in your body, self-discipline takes time to build. With practice and effort, you can improve, grow, and become the best version of yourself possible.
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