Your ability to discipline your actions and your mind is probably the most important skill you will ever need on your journey to success, without it the only thing you can hope for is luck.
Self-discipline is the difference between being in control of your future and letting your environment dictate your destiny. Whether in terms of your diet, fitness, work ethic, or relationships, it is the number one trait needed to accomplish everything you desire.
Considering what Marcus Aurelius (the last of the five good Emperors of Rome) wrote 2,000 years ago — his insights for building your Self Discipline are not only relevant to modern times but can be applied in very simple, yet strong ways.
Anyone can develop discipline. It’s a skill and it’s not complicated—you just have to train yourself for it. Here’s how:
- Self-Discipline starts with finding your purpose/goal
A purpose that will change your life for the better. It’s your purpose that will get you out of bed every day. If you have a clear understanding of your goals and how your tasks fit within them, you are much more likely to complete those goals. The biggest source of self-discipline is to have a reason to do the task. Self-discipline is about finding compelling reasons to do something, and then committing yourself to see that task/activity through the very end.
- Count on yourself
After you have a solid purpose, its time now to build a practical plan of action to help you accomplish your goal. Along with committing to your goals, you should also commit to all other little action/steps that comes along the way in pursuit of those goals. Be fully committed to doing whatever it takes to get to the goals, no matter what challenges come in the way. Self- Discipline is the ability to set yourself to take action and to do what you need to do whether you feel like it or not.
- Be consistent and show up every day
You must build your life action by action, and be content if each one achieves its goals as far as possible. 95% of people fail to achieve their goals even after having found a goal and a practical plan. We fail because we fail to be consistent. We need to show up every day and put in the work to reap any of the benefits. Self-discipline is nothing more, but a habit of consistency.
Failure does not define your character. Your ability to keep going is what molds you into a disciplined and strong person. A bad day does not have to be a bad week, a bad week does not have to be a bad year!
- Practice Voluntary Hardship
We should discipline ourselves in small things and from there progress to things of greater value. Voluntary hardship means constantly testing ourselves and by making life routinely uncomfortable in some way. Like – Not smoking, choosing to go without social media for a few days, or cutting down sugar for a week. Do it often enough and you will eventually be comfortable living without it.
- Practice Dichotomy of control
Marcus Aurelius says you have power over your mind and not outside events. Realize this and you will find strength. Being distressed, being bothered by small things instantly is terrible for discipline. Apply dichotomy of control and reinforce it to yourself. Once you embrace and accept what is outside your control you will experience tranquility.
- Never play the victim
Do your job without whining. Giving excuses to justify yourself instead of striving to become better is not the right way. Your life depends on you determining what’s within your control and taking those things into your own hands. Step up and take action. Without a sense of ownership, meaningful progress becomes an impossible task.
- Practice delayed gratification
Delayed gratification involves the ability to wait to get what you want. This ability to resist temptation and stick to our goals is often referred to as self-discipline and relating gratification is often seen as the central part of this behavior. We put off what we want now so that we can perhaps get something better later on. In other words, avoiding or delaying getting into pleasures for temporary satisfaction.
- Ignore Naysayers
Whenever you step out of the norm and declare (even if it’s to yourself) that you have a goal in your life, and you are going to do whatever it takes to achieve it. You will attract naysayers. Naysayers are the ones who criticize, object, or oppose you and always say ‘Nay/No’. When others blame you or hate you, realize that there is no need to be racked with anxiety that they should hold any particular opinion about you. Its a waste of energy.
- Find wise people to emulate
It is now to look outwards for answers to strengthen your discipline, specifically identifying role models. Find people in your circle who have achieved their goals and learn from their experiences, and use them to help yourself along your own personal journey.
- Honestly review your day
Self-awareness, self-examination, and self-determination are the characteristics of the rational soul. It reaps its own harvest, and it succeeds in its own purpose. One of the best ways to become more disciplined is to scrutinize yourself and find your weak spots by being brutally honest.
Have some self-compassion and appreciate yourself for doing good, and forgive yourself for your mistakes.
Research shows that it’s forgiving yourself and not beating yourself up which prevents you from continuing to put things off.
If you don’t know what to do, just start. Anything you want to do, you don’t need any more motivation, research, or advice. You just start practicing something you are interested in and tackle every day as it comes, because it’s your purpose that will give you an internal desire, drive, and motivation to propel you forward towards your goal.
What you are ultimately trying to avoid is succumbing to being overwhelmed. Overwhelming can quickly digress to procrastination, and procrastination can subsequently lead to stagnation, and of course, where there is stagnation, self-discipline cannot exist.