One of the biggest factors inhibiting many of us from achieving our goals is the lack of self-discipline in our lives. We may have planned to embrace a new diet or begin learning a new skill. But after a couple of days of practice (perhaps powered by sheer willpower), we end up slacking off or giving up. This tends to happen as willpower alone may not be able to see us through to the end. If you’re looking to develop your self-control and ultimately lead a more disciplined lifestyle, some of the pointers listed below may help you out.
1. Know That Discipline Cannot Be Cultivated Overnight
Most of us want to learn self-discipline for the purpose of accomplishing another secondary goal (perhaps a long-term one) like that of losing excess weight, spending less money, or breaking a bad habit. Accomplishing these long-term goals take time and may not show results immediately. As a result, people tend to give up before they see their efforts pay off.
This is where discipline becomes crucial. Being disciplined is largely about continuing to do (or not do) a task repeatedly without letting your thoughts get the better of you. For anyone who thinks that all it requires is the decision to do it – they are wrong. Although it begins with the decision, you need patience, practice, and self-control to learn this skill (much like learning any other skill).
2. Acknowledge Your Responsibility
As children, our parents or parental figures played the role of the much-needed disciplinarian. They set the rules and if we failed to abide by them, we were punished. But now that we’re adults, we have to be our own disciplinarian. And this may mean showing ourselves some tough love by not eating dessert if we missed the gym. In order to lead a life of discipline, it is essential to understand that we have to be responsible for our own progress.
3. Ask Yourself Why You Want To Do It
Sure, motivation alone may not see us through to the end but it does provide the push we need to get started. If you want to commit to exercising every day, ask yourself what it is that you are trying to achieve through your efforts. Some questions to ask yourself are why do you want to do this task? What do you hope to accomplish? What does your goal mean to you? These questions will help reiterate your sense of purpose and will keep you motivated through the process.
4. Envision Potential Setbacks And Plan Counteractive Strategies
When you’ve made the decision to take up a healthy or desirable practice, try to envision the potential setbacks. Once you have identified them, come up with solutions that work for you. For example, if you’re want to wake up early every day, a potential setback could be not getting enough sleep the previous night. Or your room may not be conducive to waking up if you have thick curtains that don’t allow light to pass through. Visualize these problems and think of creative solutions beforehand so that you are not discouraged when they come up.
5. Reward Yourself After The Completion Of A Task
Just as you would treat your dog after showing the desired behavior, reward yourself after you’ve accomplished something you set out to do. It’s very easy for us to gratify ourselves as and when we want. But being able to tell ourselves that we get to have dessert only if we’ve completed our workout is much harder. Apart from rewarding an accomplishment, we must also compensate for an uncompleted task.
6. Keep At It
Discipline is largely about taking on a task and making it a habit. The habit doesn’t set instantly though. Several researchers suggest that habit formation takes roughly 21 days. Some researchers have also found that it could take about 66 days for a new habit to be formed.1 Once the routine we have developed becomes habituated, we can set on to accomplish newer goals.
Living A Life Of Self-Discipline And Self-Control: Research-Based Benefits
So why go through the hassle of developing self-discipline in your life? If you’re still questioning its importance, the following research-based evidence reiterates the importance of this skill.
- Self-discipline can help you perform better in school. Studies have shown that the soft-skill of self-discipline outdoes even IQ in predicting academic performance in adolescent students.2
- Self-discipline and self-control enable individuals to not give into unhealthy practices like binge eating, alcohol abuse, and drug abuse. It also helps them to not make impulsive decisions as they are able to exercise more restraint.3 It has even helped people increase their overall level of commitment toward a task or even a relationship.
- Studies have also found that self-control may impact overall health, wealth, and public safety.4
|↑1||How long does it take to form a habit?.UCL NEWS.|
|↑2||Duckworth, Angela L., and Martin EP Seligman. “Self-discipline outdoes IQ in predicting academic performance of adolescents.” Psychological science 16, no. 12 (2005): 939-944.|
|↑3||Tangney, June P., Roy F. Baumeister, and Angie Luzio Boone. “High self‐control predicts good adjustment, less pathology, better grades, and interpersonal success.” Journal of personality 72, no. 2 (2004): 271-324.|
|↑4||Moffitt, Terrie E., Louise Arseneault, Daniel Belsky, Nigel Dickson, Robert J. Hancox, HonaLee Harrington, Renate Houts et al. “A gradient of childhood self-control predicts health, wealth, and public safety.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 108, no. 7 (2011): 2693-2698.|