How To Build Your Discipline Muscle
This is the final instalment of a three-part series on self-discipline. In part one, I shared why I believe self-discipline is the key to happiness and freedom. In part two, we explored ways to sustainably approach self-discipline — if you haven’t read those, I recommend doing so first. If you’ve already read those, keep reading to find out actions you can take to build your discipline muscle ...
When it comes to being disciplined, many think of difficult actions they’ll have to force themselves to do. And while this is an admirable way to approach self-discipline, it isn’t entirely effective. Because, the fact is, self-discipline isn’t about punishing yourself to improve. Instead, it’s about learning positive behaviours and making them habits in your life.
Like any habit, the specific actions one can implement will differ depending on your goals, the area of your life you’re focusing on, even how disciplined you currently are. Yet, regardless of where you’re at, there are foundational actions one can implement to grow their discipline muscle.
So, what are these actions? Let’s take a look …
Challenge Your Excuses — We’ve all made excuses, some justifiable, others not. Yet, in either case, our excuses gave us a seemingly good reason to avoid doing something. And although those excuses may have felt warranted in the moment, chances are they held you back from growing as a person.
Instead of letting your excuses hinder your development, challenge them and do what you know you should. While it may feel somewhat difficult at first, the more you do it, the easier it will become — where, with consistency you’ll reach a stage where you see that all an excuse is, is a form of self-sabotage used to justify inaction or a lack of discipline.
He that is good at making excuses is seldom good at anything else. — Benjamin Franklin
Do One Rep — Chances are you know what you need to do to improve, and those exact things are what you procrastinate. However, in procrastinating, you’re both sabotaging your results and making the tasks appear more daunting than they are.
To avoid both of those outcomes, break tasks into small actions that are easier to accomplish. Whether you do just one push up, or read a project outline — in either case, you want to simply get started. Don’t fret if the first task is embarrassingly simple, that’s the point. The key is to choose something so easy that you can’t say no, where in taking the first step you realise you can take a few more.
Delay Gratification — We live in a world where with the click of a button, we can satisfy our desires almost instantaneously. However, just because we can, doesn’t mean we should, especially not as frequently as most do. Alternatively, if you look to delay gratification, not only will you be building your self-discipline, you’ll also find your results are of higher quality and are longer-lasting.
With a higher degree of self-control, your impulses and feelings won’t dictate your choices. Instead, you’ll make level headed decisions where instead of opting for the easy decision. you’ll choose the one that provides the greatest long term results.
The ability to discipline yourself today to delay gratification in the short term in order to enjoy greater rewards in the long term is an indispensable prerequisite for success. —Brian Tracey
Tell Yourself The Truth — Telling yourself the truth can simultaneously be the hardest and most liberating thing you can do. And while it may initially feel somewhat uncomfortable to do so, it’s imperative for any real progress to occur. In telling yourself the truth, you allow yourself to objectively assess where you are and aren’t doing well so you can adjust and improve accordingly. Whether you’re being honest about your excuses, or taking responsibility for your actions, telling yourself the truth is imperative for lasting self-discipline.
When it comes to building your discipline muscle, many view it as something they have to will into existence. And although willpower may be needed to get started, the fact is, sustainable self-discipline requires a shifting of behaviour.
For long term results, it’s not necessarily about overhauling your life or forcing yourself to do something. Instead, it’s about learning new behaviours and making them habits in your life. Like any habit, discipline requires patience and practice. Yet, with a positive mindset and a focus on long-term results, it will quickly become second nature.
Now, I'd like to hear from you! What do you do to build your discipline muscle? Have you tried any of the tips I've shared here? If so, which ones? Let me know in the comments below.