- exercise more
- eat less
- read more
- watch tv less
- pay bills on time
- get to work on time
- meet deadlines
- learn a second language, play piano or golf
you won't get there without Discipline. Nothing is ever achieved without it. Discipline is the one unifying element that is necessary for any sustainable long term success. As the common element it therefore makes sense for us to learn to cultivate and develop ours. According to Brain Tracy, discipline is...
The ability to do what you know you should do, whether you feel like it or not.It's our discipline that pushes us to get out of bed when we'd rather hunker down under the covers. It's our discipline that keeps us on track, working toward our goals, even when we'd rather take a detour... through the cookie cupboard in the kitchen. It's our discipline that helps us to adopt a long-term perspective and to set aside any short-term gratification that may derail that longer term objective.
It is little wonder then that most high achievers have a tendency to think in a longer-term perspective. They are significantly more skilled in side-stepping any immediate gratification if it prevents them from obtaining their longer term goals. The good news is that your level of self-discipline is not pre-set. Like a muscle, it can grow stronger with practice. And, like a muscle, it can grow weaker with dis-use.
Although many of us would prefer to believe that the most successful athletes and singers and musicians are at the top of their game because of luck or good genetics, the fact is that whatever innate talent they have would be nothing without the discipline it required to cultivate and develop it. Those who are the 'best' at what they do have put in time, every day, to become the best. They have said 'no' to other activities that would have prevented them from doing what they knew they had to, if they wanted to be the best. It is not always the most talented person who succeeds, but the most disciplined. It is those that that have the discipline to invest the time and energy needed to grow their talent, develop their skills, to work upon their goals.
For those of you willing to do what you must, to obtain what you want, here are a few tips to help you develop the discipline needed to get you there.
- Know your Why. In order to push through the discomfort you will experience in pushing toward your goal it is critical that you know What you want, Why you want it and What you are willing to do to get it. If your why isn't strong enough you'll never get out of bed.
- Remove any temptations or distractions. There is no need to make things harder than they need to be. If your goal is to lose weight then ditch all of the cookies and chocolates hidden in the house!
- Don't wait for the 'right' time to start. There is no right time, there is only now. The longer it takes you to start, the more excuses you will create and barriers you will build. Stop talking about it and start taking action.
- Visualize the long term results. Keep a clear picture of what the long term results are that you are working for and keep it front and center. If you want to strengthen your ability to say no to any of the moments of instant gratification that may cause you to stumble, keeping a strong mental picture of what you want to achieve will help remind you of why 'no' is the right answer. (and to feel proud each time you use it!)
- Create routines. The sooner that you build habits that support the actions you want to take the easier it will be to do what you need. Setting up routines that have you engaging in the same behaviour patterns each day will help you create goal-sustaining habits.
- Avoid exceptions. Don't allow any exceptions to the behaviours you 'should' be engaging in until they have become habit. If you do slip, start over immediately. You want your brain to recognise the slip as the exception it is, not to accept it as a desire to revert. Your old behaviours and habit patterns will make attempts to reassert themselves. Not allowing exceptions in the beginning will help prevent this from happening.
- Define the behaviours. Once you have chosen the discipline that you want to develop, spend time defining how you would behave if that discipline were already a habit. What behaviours would you be engaging in? These then become your target behaviours, the behaviours of your success.
- Regular review. Review your progress regularly and celebrate your successes. Keep your momentum by recognising and rewarding the gains you have made. Just ensure that your rewards are supportive of your goal. It should go without saying that you don't reward yourself for refusing to eat ice-cream for dessert by having a bowl of ice-cream!
- Learn from your bad days. And you will have them. Rather than using the bad day as an excuse to toss in the towel, use it as an opportunity to understand what is likely to undermine your self-discipline and work to plug that leak! Bad days provide insight into areas of weakness that you can then focus on and strengthen. Welcome the insight and stay on track.
I often have people comment about how disciplined I am about my work, about getting my blog and books written, about my ability to actually get work done while working from a home office. They typically also comment that they could never do the same, that they aren't disciplined enough. However, the truth is that I actually am not disciplined, so I have to be disciplined.
I have created rules and routines to help me get the work I want done... done! The good news is that it gets easier over time. Where I once had to force myself to sit and write I now write to the routines I have put in place. What's even better is that the more you persist the more disciplined you will be. As you focus on being disciplined you become more disciplined. Although being disciplined in one area of your life does not necessarily mean you will be disciplined in all, it does mean that you now have a model of success that you can draw on to develop a more disciplined approach in other areas.