Here is some irony: You need self-discipline to build discipline.
It is like a muscle. If you were to have no muscle, there would be nothing to build upon. If you have bigger muscles, then you can build them faster. Similarly, if you already have discipline, you can become very self-disciplined.
“I have a book on motivation. I can’t be bothered to read it.”
If self-discipline were something you could pull out of a hat, then more people would have it. Self-discipline is about building on the discipline you already have to make it stronger and more consistent.
Discipline Does Not Mean Suffering
This is an unfortunate mistake. Just because the road toward a goal sometimes leads to suffering, it doesn’t mean that discipline automatically means suffering. People who punish themselves excessively in the name of acquiring discipline are not building self-discipline. They are acting disciplined as a way to justify the masochistic urges they feel. In other words, they are using their faux discipline as a way to justify the times when their discipline slips and they are allowed to be hard on themselves.
Discipline Can Be Born From Habit
Habits can be used to create a certain level of discipline without the hard work that usually comes with it. For example, if you are fairly undisciplined with your invoice files, then make a habit of arranging the new ones for five minutes just before your workday finishes.
After a while, you will start to arrange your files at the end of the day out of habit, and your filing system will undoubtedly look a little more professional and disciplined. You will not have to force yourself to become more disciplined with your files because you start arranging them habitually to the point where you hardly notice you are doing it.
Treat Yourself for Keeping to a Promise
Keeping to your work is a keystone of being disciplined. This doesn’t just mean keeping the promises you make to other people. It means following through on what you tell yourself you are going to do. If you manage to stick to your word, then why not find a way of treating yourself with a goal of positive reinforcement?
Do Not Punish Yourself For Setting Targets
If you are going to reward yourself for doing right, then why not punish yourself for doing wrong? Well, the problem with this is that you will purposefully avoid unpleasantness. This means you may frequently move the goalposts to justify not punishing yourself, and you will selectively push things out of your awareness, thus being more likely to fail in the first place.
For example, if you were trying to be self-disciplined about your weight but had a large lunch with a client, you may consciously forget the meal and focus on talking with the client. This is because your subconscious tries to repress any actions that may lead to ‘suffering.’
What is Self Discovery and Growth if There Are No Consequences?
If you fail, then you remain without self-discipline. It is one of the few unassailable truths about self-improvement. You can try to punish and push yourself towards your goal in numerous ways, but the biggest and most devastating consequence is that if you don’t change, then you stay the same. You will lack self-discipline if you do not learn how to build self-discipline by practicing it.
The Answer Is Not So Palatable
To echo a point previously made – you can not build self-discipline if you don’t practice it. It is not a very pleasing or palatable answer and seems like a cop-out, but it is the truth. The same is true if you want stronger muscles; you must use their current strength to build strength.
The most obvious and easy advice is to try a series of small tests on yourself to see how strong your will and discipline already are. A smaller series of tests will help you work towards more difficult tasks.
Before you start, remember that being disciplined at the moment is rarely difficult. It is keeping your self-discipline that is difficult. For example, many smokers can turn down a cigarette, but those same people will also say, “It is easy to quit smoking; I have done it hundreds of times.” The difficult self-discipline challenges will occur over a longer period.
Still, the more you practice then, the easier it is to get there.
How Do You Build Self Discipline?
If you have ideas about self-discipline that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!
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