What does self discipline mean? Learning self discipline is easier than it seems. Focusing on small steps will help you develop more discipline. So how to develop self discipline and how to exercise your brain?
I’m lazy and I have discipline
I always considered myself as somebody with low discipline. But a few friends reminded me that I am one of the most disciplined people they know. This sounds crazy for me, but I learned a lot about myself.
Because that’s the thing – I think I am very lazy. And I really am lazy, too. But between my moments of laziness, I do the things I need to do to achieve my goals.
I always think it can be better. But it is true: I often do things that need to be done while I would rather play video games or take naps.
And that’s discipline. Do things because they need to be done, even if you do not feel like it. Even if you prefer hanging on the couch watching Netflix with a glass of wine.
Discipline brings you freedom
Being disciplined sounds very limiting. As if your life turns into a punishment camp where you can never do anything nice.
But I experience it the other way around. My discipline gives me freedom.
Why? Because I can trust that I do what I have to do. And because I do those things, I can build the life I want to experience. And I can really be relaxed when I give myself a day off.
Discipline gives you control over yourself. And that brings freedom. In fact, you can self control your life in a direction you choose, instead of “creating” based on what you want or do not like that day.
The more discipline you have, the more free you are.
In fact, they are the most disciplined people who can have the discipline to relax well when needed. To take a day off and not work. To lounge so creativity gets the space.
Because it’s easy for many people to be lazy; it’s easy for a lot of people to just keep working and never relax.
Do you want to be more disciplined? Then you are at the right place. Let’s see which steps you can take.
# 1. Start with small tasks
Starting small is my advice. Discipline is like a muscle: you train it by exercising. The more you train, the stronger it gets and the bigger tasks you can pick up.
So if you want to discipline yourself, it’s best to start small.
- Do not start an extensive workout routine. Start with a small workout and build it slowly.
- Do you want to get up early? Then take time to get used to your new sleep routine. Set the alarm only one minute earlier every day.
- Do you want to eat healthier? Always focus on one meal or snack at a time. For example, improve your breakfast or a snack. And as soon as you’re used to it, you continue to lunch and dinner, etc.
- Do you want to work more productively? Plan your work in small sprints of about half an hour, after which you give yourself a break. The bow can not always be tense.
- Do not you want to get started but feel a lot of resistance? Then do something very small. Perhaps you wanted to clean the whole house, but you cannot really get motivated. Start small and clean the toilet only. Doing something is always better than doing nothing when it comes to self-discipline
Start small and build discipline slowly. If you have never done any strength training, do not start by throwing tree trunks. Logical.
# 2. Listen to the resistance
Resistance is interesting. It’s that voice in your mind that keeps you from getting started. It starts to whine as soon as work gets difficult, and it gets stronger if you admit it more often.
Take resistance seriously and listen to it. The better you understand where it comes from, the easier you can push through the resistance.
- Realize that this voice in your mind would prefer to be lazy. If you want to do something difficult you will always feel that resistance.
- You feel low resistance when you are in the flow. So it’s nice if you manage to get into that phase more often. Work with more focus and less distraction to get this done.
- Visualize how busy you are when you are super productive with the task you postpone. By making your brain ‘get used to’ the task, you will reduce the resistance.
- Negotiate with the voice in your mind. “Okay, we do not play sports for an hour. Let’s start with fifteen minutes see if we continue. “There is a chance that the resistance will be lost and you will want to continue once you are busy.
- Research what you are afraid of. Often we feel resistance because we struggle with perfectionism and failure. We are afraid we will be imperfect or fail, and therefore we will not start. But by never beginning, there will never be a change.
Discipline is learning to work through the resistance. And you bypass the resistance largely by taking small steps.
# 3. Anticipate pitfalls
Leave your failure. You’re going to fail. You will fall back in your old patterns. You do not have to be afraid because you can anticipate that.
If you already know that you are wrong, you only have to figure out how you will probably fail. If you know, you can take away this pitfall in advance.
Imagine: You want to run everyday – a habit for which you need a lot of discipline. But you already know that you will find it hard to keep it up on days you have slept shorter because you will feel more resistant.
What can you do?
- Invest in a running outfit in which you can run comfortably in the rain.
- Or choose an alternative workout you only do when it rains (like yoga in the living room).
- Consider a solution for times you go to bed late. Maybe you can run later in the day. Or you can do a short but intense strength training session, so it takes less time in the morning.
The more pitfalls you identify, the better you can walk around. You will stumble from time to time – but not more than necessary.
# 4. Develop rules
Rules sound cheerless, but they can help you a lot. Why? Because a rule is deliciously binary. You stick to it, or you don’t do it. You do not have to think about what you need to do. It has already been established, and you only need to stick to it.
We do not debate whether we stop or drive on a red traffic light. We stop because that’s the rule.
For example, I have a rule that I publish one article every week. There is no discussion about that, it just has to happen – so I do that every week.
I also have a rule that I do not kill a spider with my slipper.
Rules are clear. And they can help you take away resistance because there is no further discussion.
Some suggestions for rules:
- I make a weekly schedule before the week starts.
- I get up at 8:00 every day.
- I do not eat refined sugar.
- I clean my living room before I go to bed.
- From 09:00 till 11:00 I work without distraction on my most important task of that day.
You can think of all kinds of rules to make your life easier. But keep it simple, do not make a law book. Choose a few strategic rules and do not make it too strict for yourself.
And what do you do if you break the rule? Simple: Then you’ll keep your rule from that moment on.
If you drive through a red traffic light once, this does not give you a license to drive through all red traffic lights. No. You say ‘oops!’ And you stop at the next traffic light.
If you sleep till 10:00, you say ‘oops’ and tomorrow you get up at 08:00 – because that’s the rule. And if it doesn’t work, you’ll change the rule. Simple.
# 5. Focus on the performance, not on the result
Being self-disciplined is easier if you are not looking only to the end result. Simply set your goal, determine what you need to do to accomplish this, and perform these tasks as your goal.
So how to discipline the thoughts?
For example, you work in ICT and you want to work in education. To do this you will do a home study that will take a couple of years. If you focus on the ultimate goal (stand for the class) then you get frustrated because the road is still so long.
Instead, you focus on the daily habits you need to realize. For example, you free up two hours for home study every day. Those two hours – that’s your goal. Every day.
You know that this habit will eventually bring you where you want to be. So all you have to do is study, then it will be fine.
This will make you feel happier and more productive. You will enjoy the journey much more.