First, what is self discipline? Very simply put, once you decide upon something you stick to it and do it irrespective of any other emotions or circumstances that stop you. That is self discipline for me.
Now many of us are definitely low on it. Suppose you decide today that you will get up at 5 AM for the next 30 days. Will you actually get up? If you are a smoker and decide to quit today, will you actually quit? If you decide to meditate for the next one week for 15 minutes each day, will you actually do it? The yes or no answers here depend on how much self discipline you have.
The one basic problem with low self discipline is that you don’t really complete whatever you decide to do and that frustrates you and keeps you unhappy. You want to start your own business but you do not devote the time you intended to devote to starting it because you want to rest and be lazy and do nothing after your day job. You want to loose weight and keep talking about losing it but never work towards losing it. You want to manage your expenses and maintain a budget, and you do it at times but never regularly. You want to wake up early but end up waking early very rarely.
The key point is, low self discipline keeps you stuck where you are and doesn’t let you achieve anything challenging that you want to achieve. So there’s no doubt that high self discipline is something terrific and wonderful if you can have it.
Fine, so decided that you want to improve your self discipline. Now what to do?
Developing Self Discipline Step 1
First you need to identify what your self discipline level is and decide where you want it to be.
If you are making some money and want to make more money, what’s the first step? You calculate how much money you are currently making and how much money you want to make. Say you are making 1000 dollars a month right now and you want to make 10000 dollars a month. After you’ve got this clear, you can then think about how to make 10000 dollars.
Now how to determine what level of self discipline you are at and what level of self discipline you want to achieve?
You can do this by devising a scale which indicates various acts of self discipline arranged in increasing order of difficulty. For example here is the scale I devised for myself some weeks ago.
In this scale, I have written a number before each act of self discipline. The number 1 indicates an activity requiring very little self discipline for me - holding my breath for 3 seconds. Similarly, the number 10 indicates an activity requiring a lot of self discipline on my part.
Write your own scale of self discipline with your own activities. Your level of self discipline may be much more than mine, so what you consider easy ( 1 on the scale), might require a good amount of self discipline on my part (7 on the scale)! It all depends on you.
Once you’ve got your scale, look at where you are currently on this scale and decide clearly where you want to reach. When I looked at my scale, I was between number 3 and 4. And I wanted to reach number 9.
Decided? There you go, it’s action time!
Developing Self Discipline Step 2
Think of an activity that requires a slightly higher level of self discipline than you currently have. If your current level of self discipline is 4 on your scale, what activity would rank 4.3 or 4.5 or 4.7 on your scale?
I used to eat a lot throughout the day - continuously. All sorts of fatty and sugary foods. So for me, not eating anything from 12 noon to 8 PM was an activity involving slightly more than my current level of self discipline.
What is it for you? Is it watering the plants? Is it not checking email more than once a day? Is it not surfing the net for more than 3 hours? Is it working on a project for 3 hours everyday?
Whatever it is, resolve to do it every single day for a week. For 7 days, starting from today, you must water your plants everyday or not check mail more than once everyday, or work on a project everyday or ______________ :)
What if you are not able to regularly perform the activity for 7 days? What if you worked on a project for only 1 hour on the third day after resolving to work on it for 3 hours for 7 days? Then downgrade your work. Maybe you expected too much of yourself. Select something simpler that requires lesser self discipline. Something that you can do for 7 days at a stretch.
After 7 days of performing your chosen task, you will in some way have improved your self discipline. The improvement will be very small but it will nonetheless be there.
Time for more action!
Developing Self Discipline Step 3
NOW, for the next one week, pick another task which is slightly more difficult for you than last week’s task. Resolve to do it every single day for the next 7 days. And then the next week, choose another task slightly more difficult than this one. And the next week….well you get the idea. :)
As you choose the next week’s task, you can look at the self discipline scale you made for yourself and smile. One fine day, you will have reached the level of self discipline you had decided to reach the day you made your scale.
Ain’t that cool? :)
In his book Personal Development For Smart People , Steve Pavlina says that improving self discipline is like progressive muscle training. Initially you can’t lift a weight of 50 kg but you can lift a weight of 8 kg. So for the next few days you try lifting a weight of 10 kg. Once you are comfortable with 10 kg, you stretch slightly and lift up 12 kg for the next few days. Then 15 kg….and one fine day, you get to 100 kg. Isn't that an interesting way to look at self-discipline?
So what activity will you perform this week? Common, I know your schedule is tight and you are jam packed - but is there something you could do everyday for the next 7 days? Why not do it!
Developing self discipline can be real fun. :)
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