What’s the one thing you’ve been putting off that you really need to cross off your To Do list? Making a doctor appointment? Getting the oil changed? Registering for a class?
As you know, the more things that crowd your brain, the more “clutter” you have, and the less clearly you are able to see the things that are really important.
So my Just For Today challenge for you is to do one thing on your To Do list that you’ve been putting off too long. Just one thing! It doesn’t have to be anything major. It might be something you can do in a minute or in one phone call. Whatever it is, use today’s Just For Today challenge as your motivation to finally get it done!
Just last weekend I FINALLY put all my flowers in planters on my deck. It’s almost the end of June! And I bought those flowers Memorial Day weekend! I’d had a pretty busy couple of weeks, both at work and after hours, but every time I walked by those darn flowers, I kept thinking, “I have got to get those planted,” as they looked back at me all wilty and begging for new soil.
When I finally did plant the flowers, I’m not sure if I got more satisfaction out of knowing how pretty the deck was going to look, or just knowing I wouldn’t have to look at the flowers waiting to be planted anymore. Believe me, once those things were in their new pots, I definitely felt some emotional clutter clear out of my brain! For two weeks it felt like something was nagging me, and now I was free of the nag.
So think about something that you have been needing to get done, something that you keep ignoring in the hopes it will go away, and get it done today! You’ll be glad you did!
In the first article of this three-part series, we covered why self-discipline is important and what you can gain from building that skill in Self-Discipline: The Link Between Goals And Accomplishment. The second article, 6 Empowering Steps To Build Self-Discipline, Part 1, covered the first three steps: awareness, self-analysis, and progressive training, and now we’re ready to move on to the last three steps, which are (1) removing temptation, (2) finding inspiration, and (3) resisting the initial urge to overdo it.
Now that you have an idea how to identify the areas where you need more self-discipline, you have done some work to identify why you might sabotage yourself, and you have a grasp of how to build your self-discipline skills by progressively training yourself with increasingly tougher challenges, your next step in order to ensure success is removing temptation.
- If you tend to procrastinate when you should be taking on projects, try to eliminate the distractions. Unplug the TV for a set amount of time on the days you plan to work on more meaningful tasks. Stash your gaming system under the bed, hide your books or magazines out of sight – you get the idea. Regardless of how you usually occupy your time when you are procrastinating, take one or two extra steps to remove that temptation rather than just telling yourself again that you won’t watch television or flip through the new magazines.
- If you want to build self-discipline when it comes to your spending habits, start by limiting the amount of cash in your wallet. Don’t go window shopping or surf shopping sites online – even just for entertainment. You might also try some of my new ideas for resisting the urge to spend that you’ll find in 4 New Tips For Spending Less Money. If you’re one of those people who will spend money if you have it (regardless of whether you need to save or invest), you need to think about all the different things that tempt you to spend money and then design ways to remove that temptation.
- If you want to get better at self-discipline so you can turn away junk food and eat more nutritionally, clean out your cupboards and fridge, and get rid of anything that doesn’t fit the bill. It’s easy to say with your new devotion to self-discipline, you just won’t succumb, but the best plan is to set yourself up to succeed, and you do that by removing any temptation that might cause you to fail.
- Now you get the idea, right? This is an important step, regardless of which area in your life you need to be more self-disciplined. Whatever it is, remove any temptation that could hinder your progress.
Remember those “What Would Jesus Do?” bracelets? If you think about it, that saying could be a great self-discipline builder. When you want to get better in an area where someone else has already succeeded, you think about what that person would do, and you act accordingly.
Find an inspirational figure in the area that you are working on, and think of that person when you are tempted to let your self-discipline slide. Some examples might be:
- If you’re trying to get better about exercising, but you’re on the verge of slacking off one day, think about what Olympian Michael Phelps or NFL star Tom Brady would do.
- If you want to get out of debt and learn to live frugally, think about how Warren Buffett handles his finances, or read some advice from financial journalist Jean Chatzky.
When you feel like your self-discipline is wavering, think about what your idols would do, and count on their judgment to steer you in the right direction. And you don’t even have to depend on celebrities or people in the news to give you a lift. If you have friends who have accomplished goals that are similar to yours, count on them to inspire you and ask for their help along the way if needed.
Don’t Overdo It
Sometimes people get so motivated about overhauling their lives that they try to change everything at once. Before long, it just feels like too much change, and then everything’s a struggle. Don’t make that mistake.
When I suggested training progressively, keep in mind that you should start small and probably only try to change one area of your life at a time. Regardless of how motivated you are, it would be really difficult to give up junk food, start exercising regularly, stop smoking, and start getting enough sleep every night all at once. So do one thing at a time.
And don’t worry that you have to change everything NOW because now is when you are motivated. You will find that as you change one area and get better at self-discipline, your motivation will grow, and you will get better at making lasting changes. The motivation will stick with you!
Think of your lifestyle changes and the gradual building of your self-discipline skill as a marathon, and not a sprint. If you try to change too much at once, you will have a hard time sustaining your momentum for the long term, and you will burn out much quicker.
I hope you are inspired to identify areas in your life where you could use more self-discipline, and then use this six-step plan to help you work on that skill. Once you have mastered self-discipline, you will be well-equipped to make long-lasting changes in any area of your life that needs work. I’d love to hear from you as you follow the plan to get better at self-discipline. Let me know how it goes for you!
In my previous article, Self-Discipline: The Link Between Goals And Accomplishment, I talked about the importance of self-discipline and all the things you will be able to do when you build that skill. Most importantly, you will get better at breaking unhealthy habits, overcoming procrastination, and accomplishing goals.
Now I want to give you some steps you can follow that will help you get better at self-discipline, which is such an important component to realizing your dreams and building the life you truly want. Today I’ll start with the first three steps, and in my next article, we’ll go through the final three.
(1) Start With Awareness
You’ve heard the old saying, “the first step to getting help is admitting you have a problem.” That applies here. Take some time to think about your lifestyle, goals, and projects. Now think about what your behaviors are that are helping you to move toward the life you want to have, and also think about your typical behaviors and actions that hinder your progress.
For instance, if you are in debt and you regularly think that you would really like to be debt-free, what are you doing about it? Are you saving money, cutting down on unnecessary purchases, and tracking your spending?
Or are your behaviors are contrary to your goal? Are you buying things whenever you want them? Labeling things as “needs” when really they are “wants”? Spending money you have, without thinking about saving or paying down debt?
Try this exercise: Write down some of your goals (both big and small), and then write down your current behaviors that are affecting your progress toward those goals, both positive and negative. Think about whether one of the negatives is simply “nothing,” in other words you have something you want to accomplish, and although you are doing nothing to hinder yourself, you are also doing nothing to move in the right direction.
(2) Do A Little Self-Analysis
Now that you have an awareness of the behaviors that are hindering your progress, see if you can uncover some of the underlying reasons that you are sabotaging yourself.
- If you’ve been putting off a project, do you lack the confidence that you will know how to get it done?
- If you are engaging in an unhealthy habit, are you using that habit to placate an emotional pain?
- If you haven’t made any progress on a big dream, does it seem so big that you are immobilized to even get started?
- If you are a procrastinator, why aren’t you making your goals a priority? Why is immediate gratification more important than clearing your To Do list of the things that are weighing you down? If you think really hard about the answers to these questions, you might be able to figure out how to work around them.
Sometimes the thing that keep us from making the right decision is knowledge. What do you need to know in order to finish that project, break that habit, or stop procrastinating? If you feel like there is something that you are lacking, read up on your project or talk to others who have accomplished your goals.
The added bonus of knowing more about the topic is that it naturally will motivate you to take steps in the right direction. Added knowledge will give you power! Try to gain an understanding of why you’re doing these things, then build your knowledge to move around those obstacles.
(3) Train Progressively
If you’re starting to get a better idea of why you aren’t disciplining yourself to do the things you need to do, it’s time to start to change that. And you’re most likely to see progress and stick with it if you start small. Training progressively just means you start with something a bit easy and each time you conquer one step, you raise the bar a bit. Try these steps:
- Think about an area of your life where you’d like to build self-discipline, and then try to think of one small step that would move you in the right direction. For instance, if you’d like to eat healthier, maybe you should start with skipping your routine afternoon visit to the office vending machine. It’s a small thing, but you are pushing yourself just a bit out of your comfort zone.
- Once you have reached the point where you don’t even think about getting an afternoon snack, increase the challenge. Your next goal might be to eat a healthy lunch every day. If you’re used to going out and grabbing fast food every day, this will be a tougher challenge than skipping the vending machine. But that’s the point – when the challenge is harder, more self-discipline is required. And that’s how you keep building on your ability to discipline yourself.
- Keep taking it up a notch. Once you master one level of self-discipline, think about what you can do to make the challenge even tougher and move up to the next level. Skip dessert? Get up earlier to make sure you have time for a healthy breakfast? Keep training progressively until you have reached your goal of eating healthier.
- Make sure each time you set a new challenge for yourself, it isn’t just a new challenge, but also a tougher one. That’s how you train yourself to get stronger in self-discipline.
- Once you reach a goal in one area, like eating healthy, think about the next area where you’d like to be more disciplined, like exercising regularly. Then start at the beginning again and train yourself in the same progressive way.
Those are the first three steps to help you build self-discipline. Not too painful, right? In my next article, I’ll talk about the final three steps, removing temptation, finding inspiration, and resisting the initial urge to overdo it. For now, though, start thinking about the areas of your life where you could use a little more self-discipline, and also think about your current behaviors that are both helping and hindering those goals. You’ll be on your way to building a more fulfilling life soon!
I was thinking about the above quote today and realized how important that one piece – discipline – is, if you want to reach your goals. You may remember how much of an advocate I am of bucket lists, and I’m a huge believer in setting goals and creating a process to achieve those goals. But the link between all those things you want to do and actually getting them done is self-discipline (and maybe a little motivation).
Self-discipline helps you to do the things you think you should do, and it helps you overcome any feelings to the contrary you might be having in the moment. For instance, if you know you should pay your bills, but you feel like watching television instead, it is self-discipline that spurs you to get moving on those bills.
Sometimes that means sacrificing the immediate pleasure of what you’d rather do, but it’s for the greater cause of accomplishing larger goals.
Self discipline also gives you the power to follow through on plans or decisions you have made, without changing your mind and taking the easier route. When you have self-discipline, you decide (and act) on your actions that are most likely to lead to your own self-improvement and success. You also have the inner strength to overcome procrastination, laziness, and the temptation of instant gratification when you choose to take a stand against those things and follow through on the things you decided are important to you.
If you think about it, it’s very easy to say you will tackle a home-improvement project or that you want to write a novel or that you will get your finances in order. But what good are goals and plans and ideas if you won’t discipline yourself to accomplish those things? Without the self-discipline to work on the goals that matter to you, all you end up with is emotional clutter that feels like extra weight when you constantly have those projects in the back of your mind, always undone.
What Will Self-Discipline Help You Do?
When you develop the skill of self-discipline, it helps you to:
- Overcome habits that aren’t beneficial to you, like overeating, smoking, not getting enough sleep, etc.
- Resist temptations like gossiping, drinking more than you should, or spending too much money.
- Tackle big projects by disciplining yourself to regularly take on the small steps needed to accomplish the goal.
- Overcome procrastination.
- Continue working toward a goal long after the initial rush of enthusiasm has gone.
- Say “no” when you need to and follow through on the things to which you have said “yes.”
- Be punctual, dependable, honest, patient, and diligent.
- Realize dreams!
I know that sounds like an awful lot of benefits from learning one skill, and you might think I’m over-promising, but I’m not! Self-discipline will take you far, and it really is the key to achieving all your personal and professional goals.
So now that you recognize how important self-discipline is, I hope that means you are ready to build yours! Tomorrow’s blog post will feature all sorts of ideas to grow your self-discipline skill. Don’t worry – you can start small and then keep building as you get better. Before you know it, you’ll be making decisions every day that move you toward all the things that you value the most! And, for the record, I can really use some bolstering in this department too, so I’ll be growing with you. It’ll be fun (and rewarding) – I promise! 🙂