It’s all about developing and maintaining self-discipline.
Story: Dr. Rob Carter III and Dr. Kirti Salwe Carter
Americans are known to overeat, abuse credit cards, marinate for hours in social media and break New Year’s resolutions before the end of January. Self-discipline doesn’t seem to be a national strength.
And achieving self-discipline—and the success that can come with it—may never have been harder than it is in this instant-gratification age. Self-discipline is an undervalued trait in a modern society that wants everything now. Self-discipline is the ability to motivate and coordinate our efforts to improve our quality of life, but unfortunately, most people are not taught it.
Self-discipline is, however, a skill that everyone can learn. Self-discipline is the skill that will allow you to reach any goal you set.
Here are five ways to develop self-discipline:
Plan for every outcome. Plans go awry when people let excuses get in the way. An example is having a goal of running in the morning for 30 minutes, but you have bailouts such as it’s raining, cold or you don’t feel like it. Developing self-discipline is recognizing and planning for these self-created obstacles and actively choosing to work through them. So, when you set a goal to achieve, have a chart in place listing “Even ifs.” List the potential obstacles to achieving your goal and counter each one with a promise to yourself that you’ll achieve your goal “even if” these challenges arise.
Be aware of your resistance. Resistance is the biggest obstacle to developing self-discipline, and it often comes in the form of discouraging internal self-talk such as, “I can’t do it” or “Why should I have to change?” The next time you embark on a new project that causes resistance, fight it by asserting or writing down your intended goal and the benefits it will bring.
Prepare to give something up in order to gain. Compile a list of the pros and cons of sacrificing for a certain goal. To reach your goal, you will more than likely have to impose certain limitations on yourself in order to gain something. These limitations could be less free time, socializing, money or television. The upside is that seeing the rewards of the sacrifice on the pros list will keep you motivated and disciplined.
Break your goal down into manageable steps. If you break your goal down into bite-size steps, you’re much more likely to stay disciplined enough to complete every subgoal. Each step accomplished gives you an encouraging boost. Consider using “SMART” goals: specific, measurable, attractive, realistic, timed. This makes the goal more definitive and puts the steps in tangible action.
Reward yourself with self-compensation. Rewards are an incredibly powerful tool for motivating yourself to reach your goals. Consider them the carrot on the stick. Have a reward in place for when you achieve a goal or part of a goal, and make sure it’s appropriate.
Self-discipline includes structured planning, organization, delayed gratification and the willingness to step outside your comfort zone. These things can appear scary, but don’t worry, you’re not alone. And once you take the first step, you have ventured onto a beautiful path that offers many rewards.
About the writers → Dr. Rob Carter III and Dr. Kirti Salwe Carter are coauthors of “The Morning Mind: Use Your Brain to Master Your Day and Supercharge Your Life” (themorningmind.com). Rob is an expert in human performance and physiology, and holds a doctorate in biomedical sciences and medical physiology. Kirti has more than 18 years of experience in meditation and breathing techniques, and has facilitated wellness seminars for the past decade.