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What Is Self-Discipline?
Self-discipline is the ability to get yourself to take action regardless of your emotional state. Self-discipline is the companion of will power. It endows with the stamina to persevere in whatever one does. It bestows the ability to withstand hardships and difficulties, whether physical, emotional or mental. It grants the ability to reject immediate satisfaction, in order to gain something better, but which requires effort and time. Everyone has inner, unconscious, or partly conscious impulses; making them say or do things they later regret saying or doing. On many occasions people do not think before they talk or act. By developing this power, one becomes conscious of the inner, subconscious impulses, and gains the ability to reject them when they are not for his/her own good.
Self-discipline is one of many personal development tools available to you. Of course it is not a universal remedy. Nevertheless, the problems which self-discipline can solve are important, and while there are other ways to solve these problems, self-discipline absolutely shreds them. Selfdiscipline can empower you to overcome any addiction or lose any amount of weight. It can wipe out procrastination, disorder, and ignorance. Within the domain of problems it can solve, self-discipline is simply unmatched. Moreover, it becomes a powerful teammate when combined with other tools like passion, goal-setting, and planning.
Self-discipline is like a muscle. The more you train it, the stronger you become. The less you train it, the weaker you become. Just as everyone has different muscular strength, we all possess different levels of self-discipline. Everyone has some — if you can hold your breath a few seconds, you have some self-discipline. But not everyone has developed their discipline to the same degree.
Just as it takes muscle to build muscle, it takes self-discipline to build self-discipline.
The way to build self-discipline is analogous to using progressive weight training to build muscle. This means lifting weights that are close to your limit. Note that when you weight train, you lift weights that are within your ability to lift. You push your muscles until they fail, and then you rest. Similarly, the basic method to build self-discipline is to tackle challenges that you can successfully accomplish but which are near your limit. This doesn’t mean trying something and failing at it every day, nor does it mean staying within your comfort zone. You will gain no strength trying to lift a weight that you cannot budge, nor will you gain strength lifting weights that are too light for you. You must start with weights/challenges that are within your current ability to lift but which are near your limit. Progressive training means that once you succeed, you increase the challenge. If you keep working out with the same weights, you won’t get any stronger. Similarly, if you fail to challenge yourself in life, you won’t gain any more self-discipline. If you’re much undisciplined right now, you can still use what little discipline you have to build more. The more disciplined you become, the easier life gets. Challenges those were once impossible for you will eventually seem like child’s play. As you get stronger, the same weights will seem lighter and lighter. Don’t compare yourself to other people. It won’t help. You’ll only find what you expect to find. If you think you’re weak, everyone else will seem stronger. If you think you’re strong, everyone else will seem weaker. There’s no point in doing this. Simply look at where you are now, and aim to get better as you go forward.
The Five Pillars of Self-Discipline
The five pillars of self-discipline are:
• • • • •
Acceptance Willpower Hard Work Industry Persistence
If you take the first letter of each word, you get the acronym “A WHIP” — a convenient way to remember them, since many people associate self-discipline with whipping themselves into shape.
First pillar: Acceptance
The first of the five pillars of self-discipline is acceptance. Acceptance means that you perceive reality accurately and consciously acknowledge what you perceive. This may sound simple and obvious, but in practice it’s extremely difficult. If you experience chronic difficulties in a particular area of your life, there’s a strong chance that the root of the problem is a failure to accept reality as it is. Why is acceptance a pillar of self-discipline? If you’re going to succeed at weight training, the first step is to figure out what weights you can already lift. How strong are you right now? Until you figure out where you stand right now, you cannot adopt a sensible training program. If you haven’t consciously acknowledged where you stand right now in terms of your level of self-discipline, it’s highly unlikely that you’re going to improve at all in this area. Imagine a
would-be bodybuilder who has no idea how much weight she/he can lift and arbitrarily adopts a training routine. It’s virtually certain that the chosen weights will be either too heavy or too light. If the weights are too heavy, the trainee won’t be able to lift them at all and thus will experience no muscle growth. And if the weights are too light, the trainee will lift them easily but won’t build any muscle in doing so. Similarly, if you want to increase your self-discipline, you must know where you stand right now. How strong is your discipline at this moment? Which challenges are easy for you, and which are virtually impossible for you?
Second pillar: Willpower
Willpower is your ability to set a course of action and say, “Engage!” Willpower provides an intensely powerful yet temporary boost. Think of it as a one-shot thruster. It burns out quickly, but if directed intelligently, it can provide the burst you need to overcome inertia and create momentum. Willpower is a concentration of force. You gather up all your energy and make a massive thrust forward. You attack your problems strategically at their weakest points until they crack, allowing you enough room to maneuver deeper into their territory and finish them off. The application of willpower includes the following steps: 1. Choose your objective 2. Create a plan of attack 3. Execute the plan With willpower you may take your time implementing steps 1 and 2, but when you get to step 3, you’ve got to hit it hard and fast. Don’t try to tackle your problems and challenges in such a way that a high level of willpower is required every day. Willpower is unsustainable. If you attempt to use it for too long, you’ll burn out. It requires a level of energy that you can maintain only for a short period of time… in most cases the fuel is spent within a matter of days.
Third pillar: Hard work
Most people will do what’s easiest and avoid hard work — and that’s precisely why you should do the opposite. The superficial opportunities of life will be attacked by hordes of people seeking what’s easy. The much tougher challenges will usually see a lot less competition and a lot more opportunity.
There’s an African gold mine two miles deep. It cost tens of millions of dollars to construct, but it’s one of the most lucrative gold mines ever. These miners tackled a very challenging problem with a lot of hard work, but ultimately it’s paying off.
Fourth pillar: Industry
Industry is working hard. In contrast to hard work, being industrious doesn’t necessarily mean doing work that’s challenging or difficult. It simply means putting in the time. You can be industrious doing easy work or hard work. In life there are many tasks that aren’t necessarily difficult, but they collectively require a significant time investment. If you don’t discipline yourself to stay on top of them, they can make a big mess of your life. Just think of all the little things you need to do: shopping, cooking, cleaning, laundry, taxes, paying bills, home maintenance, childcare, etc. And this is just for home — if you include work the list grows even longer. These things may not reach your A-list for importance, but they still need to be done.
Fifth pillar: Persistence
Persistence is the ability to maintain action regardless of your feelings. You press on even when you feel like quitting. When you work on any big goal, your motivation will wax and wane like waves hitting the shore. Sometimes you’ll feel motivated; sometimes you won’t. But it’s not your motivation that will produce results — it’s your action. Persistence allows you to keep taking action even when you don’t feel motivated to do so, and therefore you keep accumulating results. Persistence will ultimately provide its own motivation. If you simply keep taking action, you’ll eventually get results, and results can be very motivating. For example, you may become a lot more enthusiastic about dieting and exercising once you’ve lost those first 10 pounds and feel your clothes fitting more loosely.
Learning Self Discipline
Learning self-discipline is critical in life. It is the ability to regulate one’s conduct by principle and sound judgment, rather than by impulse, desire, custom or culture. Since self-discipline is so important, how does a young person develop it? Here are six helpful hints: (or dos of self discipline)
Begin With the Small Stuff
Clean your room, do your chores and put things where they belong when they are out of place. Get to the point where order matters. When you are disciplined in small matters it helps prepare you for success in life. It’s the little foxes that ruin the vineyards.
“When it comes to your integrity and credibility, there are no small issues.”
Get Yourself Organized and Be On Time
Make a schedule and stick to it. Have a to-do list of things you need to accomplish using a daily planning book or personal information manager program on your computer. If you don’t control your time, everything and everyone else will! Be on time for engagements. Being punctual marks a life that is organized and under control. Being on time acknowledges the importance of other people and the value of their time.
Keep Your Words and Finish What You Start
• • • Do not promise what you cannot perform. When you say you are going to do something do it when and how you said you would. That calls for discipline to properly evaluate whether you have the time and capability to do something. Self-discipline will enable you to do it.
• • It will help you develop self-discipline by showing you what you need to avoid. Thus it should not be rejected but gladly accepted. Correction will bless your life.
Practice Self-Denial and don’t constantly seek to be entertained
Learn to say no to your impulses and feeling. Skip dessert after a meal. Occasionally deny yourself pleasures that are perfectly legitimate for you to enjoy. Refraining from those things will remind your body who is in charge. When you have free time, do things that are productive instead of merely entertaining. Read a good book, take a walk or have a conversation.
Volunteer to do things that need to be done. That will force you to have your life organized enough to have the time for such pursuits.
As far as the logical point is concerned all do’s in their negative form are don’ts of self discipline.
Advantages of Possessing Self Discipline
There are tons of rewards for having self-discipline with the obvious one being that you get more things done. There’s also the sense of satisfaction and pride of accomplishment. Imagine being in a position where the majority of your goals are reached. What a feeling that would be! Probably the greatest reward though, is not having that feeling of regret. There’s a saying: “We must all suffer from one of two pains: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret.” The difference is discipline weighs ounces while regret weighs tons”. That feeling of regret and thoughts of “I should’ve” are some of those things in life that’s hard to get over. Even a nasty break up will heal over time. But regrets, those can last a life time. You’ll always be left wondering, “If only”. It’s a feeling no one wants to have. If that’s the case, shouldn’t everyone have the self-discipline to do whatever is necessary to accomplish their goals? You need it in order to rule your thoughts and to be the boss of your mind. The stronger they are, the more control you have over your thoughts, and consequently your powers of concentration get stronger. When you are the master of your mind you enjoy inner peace and happiness. Outer events do not sway you, and circumstances have no power over your peace of mind. This might sound too unreal for you, but experience will prove to you that all the above is true. This ability is essential for self growth, spiritual growth and meditation. It gives you control over your daily life, help you improve your habits and behavior, and they are the keys to every success.
How to practice self discipline
1. Get clear on the end result and have strong enough reasons for getting it. You have to know exactly what it is you want to accomplish and know why you want to accomplish it, otherwise temptations can easily take you off track. When you have a purpose and reasons behind that purpose greater than any short-term satisfaction you can come up with, it will be easier to fight off temptations to get off track. If you don’t, you’ll be in for a rough ride.
2. Create a sense of regret for NOT following through immediately. Instead of having regrets later on for not doing something you intended to do, why not create that feeling of regret right away, so afterwards, you can actually do something about it to change it? To do this, you’d have to visualize yourself sometime in the future where enough time has passed by that you can’t do anything to change the situation. How would your life be 5 or 10 years from now if you keep putting off things you know you should be doing? Where would you be physically, financially, and emotionally? Really feel the pain. Imagine looking into the mirror and seeing your future self. If you really get into it, it can be an emotional and inspiring experience. When you snap back to reality, you’ll have a sense of great relief knowing that you can change that future of regrets. 3. Take smaller steps. Often times, we set ourselves up for failure and when we do fail, we blame it on ourselves and our self-esteem goes down. Here’s what I mean. If you wanted to get into shape and haven’t been working out for the longest time and suddenly decide you’re going to start going to the gym everyday for 2 hours, you might be disappointed. Take smaller steps. Start out with something you’re confident you can do like 20 minutes a day, then build up. 4. Evaluate your strategy. Sometimes you’ll run into a situation where you’re disciplining yourself perfectly. You’re getting yourself to do what you intended to do, yet you find that you’re not getting the results you want. Just remember to evaluate your strategy. Know what’s working and what’s not and do more of what’s working and less of what’s not. 5. Start with the little things. Developing self-discipline is like building a muscle. The more you do it, the stronger it will get. If you have a hard time getting yourself to do things like go to the gym, work on your business, or even getting up before noon in the morning, you need to start disciplining yourself with the little things. Make it a goal to finish everything you start even if it’s something simple like cleaning your room or mowing the lawn. When you continually do this, you’ll get into the habit of getting yourself to keep going even if you no longer feel like it. As your self-discipline muscles get stronger and stronger, those bigger projects will become easier and easier to do.
“No horse gets anywhere until he is harnessed. No stream or gas drives anything until it is confined. No Niagara is ever turned into light and power until it is tunneled. No life ever grows great until it is focused, dedicated, disciplined.”
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