Think back to a time when nothing and no one could stop you from accomplishing a goal. There was a fire burning in you, you couldn’t stop, it was natural, it was even effortless and life was fun. You had immense momentum and it was exhilarating. Do you remember such a time? Now that you’ve brought that memory back, are you currently experiencing the same thing?
The truth is that at some point in our lives we all demonstrated incredible discipline. Whether it was in our quest of an end goal or simply being consistent daily to create a habit, we did it. Some of us even succeeded at being disciplined without realizing what it was. But I can guarantee you that more than 75% of the time, the driving engine is really a certain objective to attain. Then discipline is combined with determination, courage, a will of steel and one becomes unstoppable. Think of a toddler learning to walk. Every day, every hour, that kid is on his feet, fighting to stay up just a few more seconds. And when it all fails, she is right back at it no matter how the shock on the floor hurts. Dozens of times, the baby fails, but have you ever heard of a toddler who just gave up trying to walk? Of course not.
Truthfully, I am not always the perfect example. Many times over I have had to grind through obstacles, fatigue, lack of time management and even pure complacency just to get back to a level of discipline I’ve played at before or that I want to excel at. Through my experiences though, I’ve learned a few principles that I apply today in my life and which get me back right on track. You, who are reading this text, you may not agree or relate. My goal is not to convince you; I only hope that after reading this article, you’re able to try out something else if every other technique you’ve tried has let you down.
Most people think of discipline as a strenuous process involving the application of extraordinary mental strength and incredible effort. In reality, discipline is simply making the decision every day to take one more consistent step. The accumulation of those small decisions compounds overtime and the world see exponential growth. But how does it all come together? Here is my approach.
First, let’s establish some ground. Nothing of significance can be achieved without discipline. And for something to be significant, it must have some importance to you. In general, people working toward that important matter to them (the goal) develop discipline along the way. Unless you’re willing to set a goal, pack your bags and go home. Man without vision must perish, the number one selling book of all times says. You may feel motivated today but motivation is simply a feeling that fades away quickly. What brings back the strength to act is a clear defined objective. ‘But I’ve set goals multiple times and I end up starting all over again!’. Trust me I’ve been there and it sucks. But keep trying, it’s better than giving up.
I once heard this piece of wisdom: ‘How you do anything is how you do everything’. That is so true. Think about it. Have you ever known someone whose car is a total mess while their office or bedroom is absolutely impeccable? Better yet. Have you noticed that very successful athletes succeed at other endeavors once they retire from professional sports? Why. I believe it’s because they’ve developed patterns and habits that are applicable and transferable to anything. Once you are disciplined in one area, that character becomes part of your DNA and it overtakes your life. So, I’ve found a technique that works for me: that is creating a routine and patterns. When you are trying to create discipline and struggling with it, find something else in your life that you’re comfortable with and add it to your daily routine, regardless of its simplicity. For instance, if your goal is to get healthier by walking away from your desk and walking around your office building everyday for a few minutes, you could create the habit of making your bed first thing in the morning when you wake up. Silly, you may think, but very powerful. The accomplishment of such a small task puts you in a frame of mind that leads you to get things done. You’ve started your day on a good note and naturally, you brain wants to continue in that pattern. For me, it’s exercising. My most productive days are the ones that start with working out very early in the morning. It doesn’t have to be waking up at 5 am and burning some calories for everyone, find the one thing that works for you.
Next, to-do lists and calendar management. Pick any of my most productive days, look at my calendar and you will find that that day is planned to the minute. Seriously. Try it. Tonight before you end your day, plan tomorrow by specific blocks of time. Be explicit about what you’ll be doing during each block of time. You will be amazed by how much you’ve accomplished by 5 pm. For once, use your smartphone as what it is, a SMART tool and not just an entertainment device.
Dr. Steve Maraboli said ‘if you hang out with chickens, you’re going to cluck and if you hang out with eagles, you’re going to fly’! Get the point? There is huge power in association which leads to accountability. When you want discipline in your life, associate with people who are striving for it too or who obviously have it. Learn from them but go further. Be accountable to yourself first but by being accountable to them will surely encourage you to stay consistent…unless you really don’t care. I believe accountability breads consistency and stability.
So, there you have. This is not a formula for discipline. This is not gospel, it’s simply my experience, actions and habits that have proven effective in my life:
- Start by setting goals
- Create simply routines and patterns in easier areas of your life
- Make to-do lists and manage your calendar
- Link arms with others and be accountable.
You are now equipped. Go now and make yourself proud!