“Vision will get you inspired. Discipline will take you there.” ~Christine Caine.
I am sure that many of us know what we need to do to get what we want. We have set a goal, clear and smart goals, we have soul searched and got clarity on where we want to be, we have written the most elaborate plans but we can’t seem to get to work on our goals.
Many of us lack self-discipline. We lack the daily motivation it takes to wake up and consistently work on our dreams. Some of us are yet to start on projects and others are halfway through projects.
Whether it’s writing a book, a publication, a dissertation, finishing a course in a university or an online course, we lack the discipline it takes to get us what we want.
Would you like to improve your self-discipline? You are not alone. Many scholars and writers have researched different ways to help us improve on our self-discipline.
They have come up with theories and practical solutions to help individuals develop habits that will take them closer to their goal. For the past year, most of what I have been reading has greatly touched on this topic.
Charles Duhigg in The Power of Habits suggests different ways we can adopt good habits. Angela Duckworth in Grit; The power of passion and perseverance discusses how we can persist in our goals to get the results we want. Cal Newport in Deep Work has even come up with strategies to improve our focus and help us complete our most meaningful projects. To mention but a few.
To be very honest, we all struggle with discipline from time to time. As much as I have improved on my productivity, I am still not at my desired productivity level.
I would like to improve my self-discipline some more so that I can complete some of the projects I have lying around. All the same, I have a few tips that I believe can help you improve on your self-discipline.
Take baby steps
“Change might not be fast and it isn’t always easy. But with time and effort, almost any habit can be reshaped.” – Charles Duhigg
To develop positive habits, don’t make radical changes in your life. Instead, focus on small changes and build onto them. As Duhigg mentions, change doesn’t have to be fast, and since it takes a lot of time and effort, it’s effective when you change in small steps.
If you need the self-discipline to exercise, for example, running a 10km on your first day will be too much for your body, and you may hurt for days. As a result, you are likely not to run again for the next two weeks.
On the other hand, if you start with a 2km jog, you can manage to do this thrice a week and challenge yourself to 3km a day for 3 days a week in the following week. This way, your growth is exponential and you allow yourself to recover.
Do it often, until its part of your routine
“Champions don’t do extraordinary things. They do ordinary things, but they do them without thinking, too fast for the other team to react. They follow the habits they’ve learned.” Charles Duhigg
Activities you’re not used to will feel difficult since it takes effort to train your mind to take them on. However, when you do it often, you become so good at it that it becomes part of your routine.
Back to the running example, the first time you run your 2km will be tough, the second still tough, the third not so tough. In the next week, depending on your fitness level, you’ll find that you’re running a 2km with much ease.
It may take you even a month to find it easy. Once you make it a routine, that every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 6 you run a 2km, you’ll find your body cooperating easily when you get up to put on your workout clothes.
When you make it a habit, you will be doing it without even thinking about it, and this is where excellence falls in. developing self-discipline in certain areas, therefore, will require you to make the activities needed to complete the task a habit, and you might find that getting up early is not so difficult after all.
Don’t let things pile up
Someone once defined hard work as the accumulation of the easy things you didn’t do when you should have. — John Maxwell
When we hear the word procrastination, many of us clam up with guilt. This is because we often find ourselves in this wagon. Procrastination is as a result of poor self-discipline.
When we put off tasks, they pile and the more they pile, the more difficult and scary they seem and the higher will be our resistance for taking up on them.
The more we think the task will be difficult, the more we resist and find ourselves doing something else instead of confronting what we must do. To avoid this, we should develop some self-discipline and take on tasks before they become big and scary.
Motivate yourself daily
“People often say motivation doesn’t last, well, neither does bathing- that’s why we recommend it daily” – Zig Ziglar.
To become self-disciplined and work on our goals, we shouldn’t wait for inspiration to strike. Instead, we should motivate ourself daily to do what needs to be done even when we don’t feel like it.
Motivation comes in a different form to each one of us. Some need that daily workout to get their blood pumping, others need some form of inspiration that can be got from reading, listening or watching some inspirational content.
Whatever, works for you, consume it and feed yourself with your preferred motivators. Start on that task even when you feel you don’t want to. For writers for examples, sometimes we feel a writer’s block and the thought of sitting at our computers and typing seems too much.
When you fell this way, challenge yourself to open your laptop and type 500-1000 words. When I make myself do this, I often find that I have written more than I expected I would?
Be effective rather than efficient
Let’s stop the glorification of busy. We don’t need to use our busyness as a measure of worthiness – Jennifer Pastiloff.
Tim Ferris emphasizes this in his book The 4-hour workweek. He says that if you spend 4 hours filing documents and answering emails, you shouldn’t consider your day as productive yet.
This is because you haven’t worked on something that’s on your important list. First, it’s important that you learn to differentiate between what’s urgent and what’s important.
Sometimes we are busy all day and we have nothing to show for it at the end of the day. Like Pastiloff says in the quote above, we don’t need our busyness to feel worthy.
You could just work for an hour in a day, but you did something that’s important and directly contributes to your income or goal and therefore you were effective.
Self-discipline to work on what’s important is interfered with when we are distracted by what’s urgent rather than focusing on the important. Develop the discipline of working on what’s important by restructuring your priorities.
You may have a million reasons not to get started now. But deep down, none of them can be as compelling as your desire to change, grow, and succeed. In a month or a year or five years from now, you may have only one regret — that you didn’t start now. Today matters. The way you spend today really can change your life. — John Maxwell