“It was character that got us out of bed, commitment that moved us into action, and discipline that enabled us to follow through.” — Zig Ziglar
We all know the importance of self-discipline. It’s the gateway to a life of abundance. It’s the pathway to living the life of our dreams. But how many times do we avoid doing what’s best and opting for what’s easy? Sure, we know that bad habits can hold us back. But does that really stop us from veering off track?
The truth is this. Just because we know something is good for us, we don’t always end up doing it. Don’t you agree? We’re also often warned of the dangers of something, yet we still do it. But why is that? If we know that a disciplined life will lead to the realization of our biggest goals, why can’t we stay on track? That’s the big question isn’t it? However, if you stick with me, I’ll reveal precisely how to avoid the common pitfalls and get on the road to leading a disciplined life.
Before I do that let me tell you a quick story. Years ago, my life came crashing down into a million little pieces. Everything fell apart. And I was left with nothing. Literally nothing. Okay. Maybe the clothes on my back. But that was about it. It was the most devastating experience of my life. Soul crushing. Cataclysmic. That’s how I’d define it. I not only lacked self-discipline. I was a complete wreck.
What Is Self-Discipline?
Do a simple search, and you can easily find the definition of self-discipline. So what does it really mean to be disciplined? Here’s how Oxford Dictionary describers the term:
“The ability to control one’s feelings and overcome one’s weaknesses; the ability to pursue what one thinks is right despite temptations to abandon it.” — Oxford Dictionary
Let’s look at that first part. “To control one’s feelings and overcome one’s weaknesses.” Meaning, to be self-disciplined, we have to overcome our tendencies. We all have tendencies towards things. We do what’s comfortable. What’s easy. And we opt for things that are habitual. But we also allow our emotions to dictate our lives.
Ever heard the saying that people buy based on emotion then they justify with logic? Sure you have. But that’s not all we do based on emotion. How many times have you had a near-instantaneous reaction to something that was said or that you heard about? Many times, I’m certain. In fact, certain things might just set you off. Am I right?
That’s doesn’t make you a bad human being. That just makes a human being. Because we are emotional animals. We process information and respond based on a set of emotions that sit atop a set of beliefs. Since we’ve had beliefs our entire lives, it’s hard NOT to get emotional to certain things. If you believe that if X happens, Y must be true. How do you avoid feeling Y when X happens?
Bad Habits That Lead To An Undisciplined Life
Years ago, when my life fell apart, I was overlooking a breathtaking landscape. But no amount of beauty in front of me could mask the pain inside of me. Largely, that pain came from bad habits. I simply had no control of my actions. Emotions dictated my actions. They weren’t logical. I was just doing what I wanted to do, satisfying my innermost desires.
Clearly, I wasn’t disciplined or focused. I was a disaster. When you go through situations like this in life, it’s a tough pill to swallow. And it’s also something that shatters the ego. Yet, that’s usually what it takes to end the downward spiral. Wouldn’t you agree? If you’ve ever been in a situation where it got so bad that eventually something snapped inside of you, that’s what you call rock-bottom.
Now, I’m not saying that you need to hit a proverbial rock-bottom in order to attain self-discipline. Rather, you have to be brutally honest with yourself before that ever happens. Because, let’s face it. When we’re flying by the so-called seat of our pants, and we’re riding life’s highs, how often do we stop to be introspective? Not often. That’s for sure. But if you want to be self-disciplined, this is exactly what you have to do.
Pursuing What’s Right Despite All The Temptations
How often are you controlled by temptations? Do you have sudden and instant urges to do certain things? Does that happen often? Look, you’re human. So am I. We all have temptations. But self-discipline is doing what’s right regardless of the temptation that presents itself. Deep down, you know what’s right and wrong. Am I right? But just because you know the difference between right and wrong, it doesn’t mean you always choose the correct path.
That’s what makes us human beings. Ultimately, we have the choice. We get to choose based on our own free will. The problem is that we often don’t choose it correctly. We don’t forgo temptation. Rather, we dive headfirst straight into it. It’s hard to live a disciplined life when you’re merely doing what you want rather than what you know you should be doing.
Okay. Okay. I’m guessing you understand what I’m saying. In fact, you’ve probably been there before. Am I right? So how do we fix the problem? How do we avoid all of this and instead lead a disciplined life? Is self-discipline really something so elusive or is it something that can be easily embraced with the right strategy?
1. Get Brutally Honest With Yourself
If you’re not disciplined, be honest about it. Don’t pretend that you’re something you’re not. That won’t help you gain self-discipline. It will just keep holding you back. By avoiding honesty, we mask our behavior. It’s kind of like failing to look at your bank account statement because you know you’re spending outside of your means.
Be brutally honest. When you’re honest, you admit your shortcomings. There’s nothing wrong with that. We’re all fallible. But what you’ll realize is that those who are succeeding at the highest level are brutally honest with themselves and their behavior. Because, without that, it’s impossible to see how they can change.
I know this is hard. Especially because the ego is so powerful. The ego doesn’t want to admit that it’s wrong. I mean, think about it. Do you like to be wrong? Do you like admitting when you make a mistake? Of course you don’t, right? That’s because of the ego is so powerful. It’s hard to get over yourself, so to speak. But it’s not your fault. We all struggle with this. But the only way to overcome it is to be brutally honest.
Write Down What You’re Struggling With And Be Honest About It
So here’s how you overcome this. Don’t just tell yourself, okay, I have a problem with so-and-so. No. That won’t work. You’re leaving it in the abstract. You have to actually write down the issue. If you lack self-discipline because every single time you go to lose weight, you cave because of you crave chocolate, write that down. Don’t lie about it. Don’t say you try so hard. Talk about how vulnerable you are when you’re around chocolate.
It might seem silly to you. But that’s only because you’re shining a light on the ego. And the ego hates that. It’s trying to protect that fragile inner-self. You know, the one that takes things so personally, right? The truth is that the bigger the ego, the more fragile the inner-self. But don’t sweat it. Just write it down and go into detail explaining the issue. I promise you that this will be better than mentally covering it.
The act of actually writing this down is super important. Something happens when you write things down. It’s the same thing as setting goals on paper rather than in your head. It’s enormously different. When you write things down, you get specific. It becomes real. It’s on paper (or on a screen) and you can see it there in front of you. When you just think of things they remain in the abstract, which doesn’t help at all.
2. Figure Out Your “Why”
Look, we can all say that we want something until we’re blue in the face. Does that mean we’ll follow through? Nope. You’ve probably experienced this before. You’ve probably set a goal and didn’t achieve it, right? Well, you’ve probably also set some goals that you crushed. Isn’t that correct? So what was the big difference? I’ll tell you.
When you have a deep enough reason for something, you do what it takes. No matter, you don’t let anything stand in your way. Think back to a time in your life that this happened. Think about something that you absolutely committed to achieving and you went out there and did whatever it took to make it a reality. That’s very powerful stuff.
My point in tell you this is that you need to figure out your “why”. And it needs to be powerful enough to help you gain the self-discipline that you’re after. Without that underlying desire, you’ll still fall to temptation. When you see that chocolate cake, or cigarette, drink, or whatever, you’ll cave into the desire. So find your why. And get very very clear about it.
Your “Why” Remains Many Layers Deep
The real reason you want something is often masked by what you initially think might be the reason. Remember that the human mind is incredibly complex. And even understanding your own intentions might seem difficult at the best of times. So you have to keep asking yourself “why” until the question is equal to the answer. Oftentimes, the answer is based in love.
For example, we don’t want money because we want pictures of deceased notables. We want money because of what money will bring us. Yet, the superficial reasons often relate to status. We want money for the car or the house or the vacation. That’s not really why we want it. When you drill down, we want money because of the feeling we associate with it.
Maybe you didn’t have money growing up. Maybe you don’t want your kids to struggle with money in the future. In your mind, money could just mean that you love your children so much you want to give them everything you didn’t have. Maybe you think that they won’t love you if you don’t provide a good life for them. Or maybe it’s something else based in love. My point is that it is hidden many layers deep. Figure out your “why” and you’ll lay the foundation for true success in any area of your life.
3. Eliminate Bad Habits Fast
Temptation is real. When you have bad habits, it’s incredibly hard to stay disciplined. But most people struggle with their habits. We all know how important it is to stay focused and employ good habits. But how many of us follow through on that understanding? Yet, the biggest thing standing in the way of you and self-discipline are your bad habits.
So how do you get rid of bad habits? What if they’re habits you’ve had for years, if not decades? Then what? Whether you gamble, overeat, overspend, drink excessively, or anything else, there is a way to break through. Of course, you need to stick to the first two items on this list first and foremost. But when it comes to breaking bad habits, here’s what you need to do.
First, understand that bad habits are hard to break. Yet, with a little bit of focus, you can do it. You just have to be acutely conscious of what’s happening. However, you also have to understand that habits run on a series of trigger-routine-reward sequences. Every habit has a trigger (or multiple triggers) that set off the routine-reward sequence.
What Triggers Your Bad Habits?
If you want to break your bad habits fast, figure out your triggers. What triggers you? Maybe it’s the stress after a long day of work? The demands of a boss that’s breathing down your neck? Maybe it’s the smell of something or a certain song, or possibly something else. Figure out what triggers you. Then, work to avoid those triggers.
Let’s just say that your trigger is hunger driving home from work and the routine is driving to the fast food joint just off the exit to your home. And of course the reward is eating the big juicy burger. How can you avoid being triggered? Go back to the origin. Have an apple or two on hand and eat it before getting in your car to drive home to work. This way, you’re not hungry.
Replace The Words “I Can’t” With “I Don’t”
Language is huge in shifting habits. Keep in mind that your habits are the result of years and years of conditioning. Tune into the language that you’re using when you try to break bad habits. Studies have actually confirmed that saying the words “I don’t [bad habit]” instead of “I can’t [bad habit]” help you avoid temptation much better. Only 10% of people in the study group who said “I can’t [bad habit]” were able to stick to breaking it.
On the other end, 61% of people who said “I don’t [bad habit]” were able to stick to breaking that bad habit after 10 days. Yes, the data here is limited, but it goes to show you that language is powerful. What you say to yourself repeatedly has a big impact on the direction you travel in. Be wary of the things that you repeatedly say to yourself and choose empowering words instead of disempowering words if you’re serious about breaking your bad habits.
Struggling To Discipline Yourself?
Feeling lost, overwhelmed or just don’t know where to turn next? When you change nothing, nothing changes. Remember, pain is your brain signaling that something needs to happen and it needs to happen fast. Stop delaying. Get started on the road to leading a disciplined life and watch as all your hopes and your dreams ultimately come to pass.