self discipline

TIPS to Learn How To Be Self Disciplined

Many people lack self discipline. They wander around without any routine or habits, which leads to problems when trying to reach personal goals. Luckily we have some tips to learn how to be self disciplined and work on your personal goals.

Personal goals are what make our lifes meaningful and exciting. When it comes to this, you should consider to improve self discipline and willpower. Two aspects that will make the process much easier, and will make you grow as a person tremendously.

In this post we'll see the importance of self discipline on achieving goals and getting where you want. Later, we'll go through some tips to learn how to be self disciplined

INTRODUCTION

There's a high controversy in the definition of self-discipline. While some state that self discipline is "the ability to control one's feelings and overcome one's weaknesses", others go more for the "ability to push yourself forward, stay motivated, and take action".

But here we are to improve things, and so will do. Self discipline, defined as a whole, is the ability to control your impulses and feelings and stay on track towards to your goals.

Mostly unknown a few decades ago, this term (self discipline) has gained a lot of importance on goals-seeking and everyday goals (source). However, to date we know quite a bit more about how self discipline can helps us and the mechanisms underlying this.

Among the different theories postulated to explain how disciplne and willpower work, the Energy Model of Self-Control seems to be (at least to date) the most precise and accurate theory. And we'll have a look at it here.

Energy Model of Self-Control

The Energy Model of Self-Control was created by  Baumeister, 1994. He is a social psychologist who dedicated his main work around control and discipline behaviour.

The Energy Model takes the brain as another muscle. As we train any other muscle in our body, brain can also be trained and strengthened. And a lot of research has backed up this principle (study)(study). The brain is a dynamic body undergoing several changes throughout lifespan.

Trained brains, therefore, show a higher capability to overcome difficulties and react against them. The brain has a limited supply of energy, and as it is trained, this supply and strenght increases. This means, a trained brain will be better at staying on track because of the larger amounts of energy and strength and the delayed fatigue (study).

This model has been tested with all kinds of experiments and fields. From eating (or resisting) chocolate to athletes performance. To date, athletes implenting this knowledge show incredibily better results (study)

Self-Discipline on the Long-term

BE SELF DISCIPLINED ON THE LONG TERM

The biggest benefit of being self disciplined comes in the long term. It's an everyday job, and you won't see significant results overnight. In fact, it's the "doing it everyday" what puts you where you want in a few months or years.

When we talk about long term and big goals, self discipline is a 'must-do'. We can't concieve an ambitious goal without having to work everyday and putting a lot of effort on it. And that's how it is. If you know how to be self disciplined, you'll to get where you want by progressively grow towards your goal.

What self-discipline tries to achieve is a linear progression on your long term run, although not always is how we want it. We'll have breakdowns, weeks of frustration and many more difficulties coming. But, as we said before, self-discipline can help us overcoming those.

The best example I can put for this is myself: I force myself to write 1h on a post for the website every morning before going to university. Some mornings I don't want to get up that early, and I don't even see results in the short-term. But I know this everyday work will get me where I want sooner or later, and I still do it. 

SELF DISCIPLINE AND MOTIVATION

These two concepts are highly correlated. As we saw HERE, motivation is the driving force for our actions in the direction of our goals. However, motivation lacks an aspect of perseverence and continuity. And that's where self-discipline comes into play.

Stay motivated and be self disciplined is the best synergy relation ever to achieve your goals. Motivation is not always there, and is in those moments where self discipline can help us staying on track.

In this study made to 83 athletes students, they found that those who said to be more motivated and showed higher discipline and commitment, not only performed better during the season, but also achievied significantly greater results (study).

To illustrate this synergy, this quote is the best I could find:

"Motivation gets you going, but self discipline keeps you growing"

HOW TO BE MORE SELF DISCIPLINED

Now that you know a bit more about self discipline and the importance in our life, it's time to get into matter. How can I do to be more self disciplined ?

Before we continue, note that there's not scientific evidence for all of the tips coming. In fact, they are based on popular (and my) experience, but they will for sure help you.

TIPS TO BE SELF-DISCIPLINED

  1. Organize your agenda
  2. Write your goals in a visible place
  3. Make a priority list
  4. Create small habits
  5. Make a 'cross-table'
  6. Make the bed right after waking up
  7. Go for a daily walk
  8. Learn to say 'no'
  9. Avoid distractions
  10. Evaluate the progress
  11. Be consistent and persistent

Organize your agenda

Organization is key when it comes to self discipline. Get an agenda and write everything you need to do before the day ends. This way you'll be more conscious of all you need to do.

This is also about time. We all have 24h a day, but the difference is on how each of us manage those hours. With an agenda and a plan drawn, you can easily manage your time to be self disciplined and get the most out of it.

Write your goals in a visible place

Again, this is about being conscious of your goals. Self-discipline is about staying on track, but you slowly forget where the track was taking you. To remind yourself, simply put a sticker on your desk or in the fridge, and write your goal, required activities to achieve it and date of submission. It would look something like this:

Self-discipline and goals

Make a Priority List

As we said before, everyone has the same 24h. The question now is; how do you manage that time?

We try to do many things and be as productive as possible, and there's nothing wrong with that. But we need to know what's more important for us and put it first on our 'to-do' list. In fact, science shows that being able to differentiate into what's important and not is one of the best apptitudes for any worker and manager (study).

Set your priority list and make sure you put those first on the day or whenever you are more productive. By doing this, you'll for sure get done what you wanted to, and you'll be backed up if any other plan suddenly comes later on the day.

Create Small Habits

As it is logic, habits and self discipline come in a pack. We cannot talk about self discipline without habits. So, if you want to be self disciplined, you SHOULD create habits.

Start from the bottom and go for small habits. Read 15min before bed, take a shower in the morning, write your next book for 30min a day.... whatever. Everything works, as far as you do it everyday and train your self-discipline.

A highly recommended book to train the 'habits building' is Atomic Habits - J. Clear. Give it a read and work on your habits and self-discipline.

Make a Cross Table

I haven't seen this anywhere else than in my room, but it certainly works. This is how I set it up:

Make a weekly calendar with all the activities you need to do in order to achieve your goals. In the x-column put the days, and in the y-column the different activities. When you complete each activity on the day, go to the table and cross it. Do that with all the activities done during the day.

This is one of the best ways to be conscious about the progress and short-terms achievements. It also converts the process and your life into a game, in where you need to finish everything that's on your table before going to bed to get to the 'next level'.

As Jordi Serra i Fabra said in this interview:

"I try each day to live a small life of 24h" - Jordi Serra i Fabra

Put it in practice and fill up your cross-table before you go to bed. The best way to stay on track, enjoy the process, and productively use your time.

Cross Table

Make the Bed after you Wake Up

It sounds stupid, but this is the best thing you can do to train your self discipline.

Waking up is one of the hardest things we do all day (study). If not only we are able to get up, but we also make the bed right after that, we are training our brain to create habits. Psychologically, this is telling your brain that it's time to get 'on hands' and get started with the day.

As we saw earlier, habits building is crucial to be self disciplined. And making the bed every day is for sure a good start point to create habits.

Go for a Daily Walk

Again, this is another effective way of getting started with creating small habits and training your self discipline. Book a time slot for a quick walk and make it part of your day.

During this daily walk we recommend you not to be on anything (e.g: electronic devices, music, podcast,...). Use this time to think on yourself and everything you have done during the day.

Going for a quick walk helps you clear your mind and releaving all stress and concerns built during the day. Start with 15min and start building from there.

Learn to say 'No'

Peer pressure is sometime too strong for us to resist, and we may end up falling into bad decisons that simply take us out of track.

Saying 'yes' when your inner you was saying 'no' can be frustrating and overwhelming. Not only that, but it also messes your schedule and put things out of control.

However, you can train this to learn how to say 'no' more convincely. In this post you'll see different situations in where 'no' is as valid as saying 'yes', and the world is not gonna end because of your answer.

To improve this and train your self-discipline, start by saying 'no' to yourself. Food cravings, sleep-in, drink alcohol, have a smoke,... say 'no' to those and resist. Once you are able to do it to yourself, saying it to the others will be a piece of cake.

Avoid Distractions

Modern society is full of distractions. This over-stimulates our brain, which makes it way easier to get distracted. This fact and the easy access to phones, computers, internet, books, or simply laying on bed make it so hard to focus and be disciplined on your daily activities.

One of the best practices to fix this is to book short time slots to do the activity you were meant to do and have planned short breaks in between. This is called the 'Pomodoro technique', and it has been proved to work (study)(study).

Another way to consistenly avoid distraction and enhance your focus and self-discipline is by listening to music on your headphones. It decreases the consciousness over the background and environment and puts your attention solely on the activity of interest (study)

Evaluate the progress

Certainly, "you can't improve what you don't measure". You may be doing things perfectly, but how do you know if there's no means of evaluating and measuring the progress?

To evaluate your self-discipline over a short period of time, simply make a balance of all "important" and "trash" activites you've done during the day. If the latter overcome the first ones, then you should change that. If, on the other case, your day is mainly ruled by productive actions that takes you closer to your goal, you are right on track.

Be Consistent and Persistent

Self-discipline is long term. It's about training your abilities to be more productive, use the time efficiently and ultimately don't lose control over your life.

Don't try to be that person overnight. That's simply not gonna happen. In fact, the success here comes after overcoming all the barriers along the journey. It may seem like you are not improving anything, and those efforts are useless. But those moments are when your self-discipline improves and passes to the 'next level'.

If we give up along the journey, we'll lose all the achievements. This is like closing a game without saving. You give up, but the knowledge and habits were still being built. If you don't train them anymore, they'll fall into nothing.

So be consistent and persistent. Don't try to be discipline overnight and wait for results. Meanwhile, enjoy the process and take the best learning out of it.

Self-discipline

CONCLUSION

Self discipline is the ability to control your impulses and feelings and stay on track towards your goals. However, people doesn't give the importance self-discipline deserves in our lifes.

In long term goals, self discipline is crucial. For those that are not self disciplined there are many ways to improve in this aspect. In this post we saw 11 easy tips to learn how to be self disciplined, but anything related with training your brain and be consistent with your habits will help you getting there.

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