I have a confession to make.
As I sit here and write this, I have absolutely no desire to make it happen. Putting these words is a battle – I’d rather be eating junk food, and truth be told, watching paint dry. But self-discipline is taking over, which will ultimately lead to the publication of this article.
We as humans absolutely love to take the easy way out. We are blessed with the brains that make us the smartest living creature on this planet, and because of this, we’re always creating efficient ways to deal with tangible things and processes. That’s a good thing.
But sometimes, blessings come with a curse. As smart as we are, it takes a wrong turn when we try to apply some impractical level of efficiency to the intangibles in life. In other words, you can’t hack hard work, applying yourself to a task, learning or growing, and taking risks. That’s a bad thing.
As you’ve probably heard, sometimes taking the stairs, instead of the elevator, is the best path to success.
Inevitably, life will lead you to a lot of moments where you don’t feel like doing the things you need to do. It is a natural part of living on this beautiful Earth. But we have the power to actively challenge our lack of motivation by developing the self-discipline necessary to accelerate your life to the level you want, and simultaneously, deserve.
Follow these seven steps to fine-tune your self-discipline.
1. Define What You Want
How do you know what you’re supposed to do if you don’t know what you’re going towards?
Before you implement any process, you need to have a goal. In other words, you need to know what you’re trying to achieve. This is probably the easiest step and one that can be continuously tinkered with as you adjust where you are in your life.
2. Find The Motivation
How does a fire burn for hours? It needs some type of gas or fuel. Think of your goal as the fire, and your motivation as the fuel. You want a slow, continuous injection of motivation to keep you on track, versus a rocket boost. Self-discipline doesn’t become a habit in short bursts; it becomes a habit with constant application.
With that out of the way, what is your motivation?
There’s two ways to get motivated – thinking of the things you want to achieve as a result of obtaining your goals (such as becoming CEO, owning your own business, or driving a Ferrari), or the things you don’t want if you don’t obtain your goals (such as the current spot in your life you find yourself in or could find yourself in).
In my opinion, the best form of motivation is the latter. Think about all the things you probably won’t achieve if you fail to implement the proper self-discipline in your life: the career or even career potential you’ll never reach because you got lazy. The money you’ll never have because you procrastinated. The house you won’t live in or the car you won’t drive or the partner you’ll never get.
This produces a lot more internal emotion than dreaming about the car you could be driving one day. It’s more realistic and upsetting to think about the car you would be driving if you don’t change.
3. Setup a System When You Lack The Desire
Inevitably, you’ll run into a wall. Chances are you’ll be running into walls on a pretty regular basis. It’s about doing things when you don’t always feel like doing them. That is what defines self-discipline and sets it from just doing things to actually determining who you are as a person.
So if you lack the motivation and you lack the desire to accomplish your goal, setup a system like the Pomodoro technique to make yourself work. Give yourself 20 minutes of distraction-free work, and then take a little break. Repeat as many times as you want in order to make progress.
By the same token, try blocking out all social media or distracting websites for a short time while you focus in on the task at hand. Turn off the TV even if it’s just background noise. Put on your headphones and dial in. Remind yourself of what you probably won’t achieve if you keep procrastinating.
4. Reward Yourself For Finishing
Whether you worked 20 minutes without any distractions or you went the whole day working non-stop until you completed your task, give yourself a little reward. Online shop for a bit. Step out of the house and go eat something fancier. Find some way to give yourself a little boost for accomplishing things.
Make the reward fit the task. We like being rewarded for effort, so don’t fight it.
5. Don’t Hate Yourself When You Don’t Finish
On the flip-side, here’s a reality check: you will, on a consistent basis, not be able to achieve every last thing you set out to do that day, that week, that month, or that year. Maybe it’s because you switched gears and went a different direction and thus accomplished other things, or perhaps it’s because you didn’t find it the right fit for your current goals.
Whatever it is, the more time you spend hating yourself, the more time you’re wasting not improving yourself. You aren’t a machine, and you aren’t likely to check off a list of tasks without coming up short. But you can get close. And if you don’t, move on, and check more things off.
6. Reflect on Your Progress
What works and what doesn’t is an entirely individual process that is unique to each person. There are methods out there that exist because they work – and you should try to use them. The question isn’t whether a technique works (because it probably does for a lot of people), it’s whether it fits for you in your life. Try things out, and if you aren’t feeling it, try something else. But try to give something a solid 30 days before you decide it’s not for you. See how it’s helping you achieve your goals, and then make the proper adjustments from there.
7. Adjust What You Want
As mentioned earlier, you shouldn’t be hard on yourself if you don’t accomplish something, because there’s a possibility you may have switched directions or goals.
It’s vitally important that you continually reassess your goals and desires on a regular basis in order to stay on track, while also making sure you’re achieving the things you set out to achieve. If you’re achieving things, but in your mind and on your paper you have a different set of written goals, then naturally you’ll be upset with yourself that you didn’t accomplish it. And in the process, you completely forget about what you actually did achieve.
So in order to avoid this gap of your actual achievements versus your written ones, make sure they both line up, so you get your brain adjusted to knowing it actually completes tasks.
It’s a Circular Process
Improving and developing self-discipline is somewhat of a circular process – you define what you want, the motivation you need to achieve it, the methods you implement to accomplish it, and then reassess or redefine what you want in order to start the process over.
Whether the reassess/redefine stage happens because you accomplished a goal or because you want to switch directions, it’s still a crucial step that allows you to keep your momentum going forward and instilling the habits necessary to achieve effective self-discipline.