The best place to begin this study about the power of self-discipline is to define it. The following is my definition:
Note the words take action above. Self-discipline is so easy in words, and yet, so hard to do in reality. Everybody pretty much knows what they need to do, or they can figure it out. What they don't do is proceed in their endeavor...by doing something about it. Think about somebody who wants to lose weight. In so many cases, they know what to do. They do. But they do not take nearly enough action. They aren't consistent. Self-discipline is what is necessary if you want consistency.
It is important to note that self-discipline is a skill. Which means, of course, like all skills, you need to practice it frequently so it becomes a habit. This is where people fail. They talk about wanting self-discipline. They talk about needing self-discipline. But when it comes to the actual work, should I say it, they don't practice the skill nearly enough.
Self-discipline doesn't just happen. At least not in my experience.
Think about athletes. How did they get so good? Hours and hours of practice. There is no other way. You can’t drift to a successful life. It doesn’t work that way. To think so is naive. You have to take initiative. Everything good and important is upstream from you. You have to paddle to get there. You have to pay the price of both time and effort. That's where self-discipline comes in.
Self-discipline is not a trait we are born with. All you have to do is watch a very young child during their day. What you see is the very definition of what it means to act on impulse. There is no discipline. None. The child has to learn it.
And it is not easy to learn. If it were, more people would achieve their goals.That leaves the field open to those who are willing to pay the price.
It is also easy to see how important self-control is in our daily life. Their are just too many examples to ignore it's importance. Usually, the more self-control you have, the better the day goes. The good news is you can practice it every day by simply taking chores in your life and doing them even when you don’t feel like it. And, who likes doing chores? For most of us, they are a hassle. I know I am talking mundane here, but you have to start somewhere. Chores is a good place to start.
And here is an even crazier idea: You can actually reach a point where you become one of the few who look forward to doing chores. Doing so becomes part of your personal development. Think of the movie The Karate Kid. If you have seen the movie, think of the scene "Wash on; wash off." A mundane action leads to a skill in Karate. Who knew?
The key to that is to think of what’s happening to you as you develop the skill. By becoming a person who is better able to control yourself, you develop a much better chance for success. Think of it as callusing your mind, or mental toughness.
Also, if it helps, think of yourself as handcuffed to a process. That means you give yourself no way out. You're going to get the job done.
The poster child for the power of self-discipline is David Goggins. David is a retired Navy Seal and a man considered by many to be the toughest man in the world. His story is truly incredible. David got to the point where he actually looked forward to suffering.
Imagine that. Who is that crazy. But if you knew his early life, you
would understand. David wrote an excellent book:
Thankfully, you don’t have to take self-discipline to the extent David Goggins did. He actually got to a point, and he is still there today, where he actually values suffering. Think about that. How can someone get to that point? David got to that point by thinking of what the process makes of him as he goes through it. His mental-toughness is totally amazing. I mean how many people do you know who value suffering? Suffering!
Yet, that's the power of self-discipline for someone taking it to the max.
So, again, you do not have to take your quest for self-discipline to the extreme, but daily practice will pay you large dividends for the rest of your life. Small steps lead to major accomplishments. Isn't that what you want in your life?
Let’s say you are shooting for a lofty goal. You have aimed high. High enough that it scares you. What's next?
The first thing you need to do is to make the road to success easier by breaking the journey into smaller and smaller steps. In fact, steps so small and easy, they do not scare you. Make them ridiculously small.
We do this for two reasons. One, as I just said, is to reduce the fear of taking on such a big goal to zero. And two, so you can enjoy the journey. That is so very important, it bears repeating. Part of the process to self-mastery is enjoying the journey while you are pursuing your lofty goal.
So let’s say you have made the steps smaller and smaller. What do you do next? You need to celebrate as you as you succeed with your small steps. When you hit a milestone on your journey to the top, celebrate. You did it! And you do celebration also for two reasons. One is to acknowledge your successes. And the other is to celebrate who you are becoming as you grow and accomplish your successes. The person you become is more important than the accomplishment.
Try to do this every day. That’s how small your steps should be. It feels so good having a process to use that leads to celebration and to accomplishments along the way. Knowing all along that the end result is the achievement of a big lofty goal.
Another technique you can use on your quest for more self-discipline, is The 5 Second Rule created by Mel Robbins. When you do not feel like doing something count down from five to zero and move. It sounds too simple, but it works. There is science behind it. You are not giving the primitive part of your brain, who is trying to talk you out of doing something it knows you don't want to do, enough time to kick in. Counting down from five involves your cerebral cortex which is the newest part of the brain. This one technique will lead you to the power of self-discipline faster and easier than any other technique. Give it a try.
Here’s a very important question: Are you a person who would prefer a small reward immediately or a far larger reward at a later time. There are so many people who take the immediate reward every day of their life. They are leaving so much on the table. This is a big mistake.
Years ago, there was an experiment that was done called “The Marshmallow Experiment.” In this experiment, children were given the chance to choose between one marshmallow immediately or to get two marshmallows when the person conducting the experiment returned from another room.
Some children ate the marshmallow immediately, while others figured ways to pass the time so they wouldn’t look at or think about the marshmallow in front of them. By doing that, those children ended up with the extra marshmallow.
Years later, these same children were checked on and it was found that the children who delayed gratification (went for the second marshmallow) were far more successful than the ones who had to have instant gratification.
Life leaves clues. The above experiment explains a lot about achievement. Delayed gratifications trumps immediate gratification if success is what you are after. That principle indicates one of the most important benefits of self-discipline. Getting and having self-control through self-discipline is the difference that propels achievement over time. Propels it! The power of self-discipline is an awesome force.
Here’s an example: Instead of getting together with people nightly for fun, Michael Jordan delayed gratification and practiced hard instead. He did this consistently. For years. Look at what he achieved. And he is not by himself. The lives of extraordinary athletes point to the same dedication of consistent self-discipline. The same is true in business. Delaying gratification for a winning end game works.
It's easy to see the power of self-discipline in successful people. How bad do you want to succeed? Develop the skill and change your life.
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