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Cultivating Self-Discipline

Self-discipline is important because it makes us do the things we know we should do, but it can be difficult to get started doing the right things.  To have self-discipline you need the mental strength to deliberately do things you know you must, especially when you don’t want to. We have all been there.  A month into the new year, struggling to make it to the gym.  We know which choices are best for us, but have trouble with the execution.  Many of us have the desire to eat right or exercise regularly, but lack the will to do it. Fortunately, self-discipline is like a muscle, it can be developed with practice.  By starting small, rewarding yourself and reducing the risk of failure, building self-discipline can be easy.

Find Your Inspiration

It may be a person, an event, or even fitting into a cute summer dress that motivates you to change; it is not important what that is as long as something that motivates you.  Be honest with yourself in figuring out what that is, and run with it.  To increase self-discipline, you need to remind yourself of that motivation constantly.  This will limit your excuses for why you can’t do something, and remind you of should do.

Start Small and Be Specific

As with any strength training, when building your discipline muscle, you should start small and work towards a larger goal, rather than go all in and risk injury.  Try to break down your larger goal into smaller components.  If you break down the broader goal into its smaller parts and attack them one at a time, the whole task won’t seem quite so daunting.  For example, don’t make a goal like “I want to lose weight”, it is too broad and vague.  Change one small and specific thing about your daily routine that will lead to a healthier lifestyle, like taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or bringing a healthy snack to work.  By making one alteration, you can incorporate a new activity into your life without much disruption.

Set Yourself Up for Success

Developing self-discipline can be easy when you set yourself up to succeed and start small.  It is common sense, it feels good to accomplish something, it feels bad to fail.  By creating situations where success is nearly guaranteed and the consequences of failure are minimal, you can encourage yourself to keep going when things get tough.  Also, make things easy on yourself by making your goal physically easy to access.  Say you would like to drink more water, but often forget. Carrying a water bottle with you might be a good solution, because you can’t drink more water if it isn’t readily available.

 Reward Your Successes

Find out what motivates you and use that to reward yourself as you develop self-discipline.  Are you drawn to sweets?  Do you like playing video games?  Make whatever you desire most your reward for meeting your goals, no matter how small.  Practice self-denial for if you can, and reward that accomplishment with a special treat.  Soon you’ll find yourself succeeding without even trying!

Gain Control 

When we set out to do something and fail, we tend to feel out of control.  However, each success makes up feel as though anything is possible.  When cultivating self-discipline, it is important to remember that with every goal met, we gain mastery over our own lives.  Feeling in control is very important.  That is why making small, achievable goals is essential.  Goals that are too broad or vague are almost certainly doomed to failure, and in turn we feel out of control.  We feel in control when we see results, our motivation levels go up, and we are more likely to continue practicing self-discipline.

Keep at It

If you stop working your self-discipline muscle, it will slowly atrophy.  It is important to reevaluate your motivation and inspiration periodically so your goals stay fresh in your thoughts.  Don’t just stop trying to improve yourself simply because you have accomplished one goal.  Self-discipline is a process of continuous improvement that can reach into every facet of your life, it requires effort.  Focus on the long-term benefits rather than the short-term discomfort.  It won’t always be easy and you might backslide, but you can forgive yourself and start again.

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