Self-discipline is one of the most needed skills in life. It defines whether you are really able to reach your long-term goals or not. It belongs to the same category as resilience. Let me tell you one thing. There is no such thing as a motivation that will last day after day or even year after year until you’ve reached or those goals you want to achieve. Yes, it’s motivation that will help you to get started with your goals. But it’s self-discipline that will help you to finish your projects and to achieve your goals. Yes, I hate to break it to you. I’m totally aware that this is something people don’t want to hear. Most of us think that when you find your purpose or your dream job, you motivation will be unbreakable. That’s just not true. This is of course bad news for those people who simply don’t have any self-discipline. But you know what? It’s actually possible to practice self-discipline.
It’s going to be hard, but not doing it is even harder
First things first, it’s not going to be easy. That’s what I’ve learned in life. Self-discipline and commitment have always been my biggest weaknesses. I’ve started countless projects, diets, jobs and challenges just to find out I’m not going to finish them. Trust me, lack of motivation has never been the case. The problem is that your motivation will fade away sooner or later. And then you’re on your own. You need to know how to push through even when you don’t feel like doing it. If you’re able to stick to it and stay disciplined, you’ll end up finishing the project successfully. If you’re like me, you probably give up after couple of weeks and feel like a failure, again.
After doing this for years I finally understand that I need to do something about it. The lack of self-discipline had lead to the point where I couldn’t trust myself. My own promises were worth nothing so I couldn’t really promise anything. Of course, you can’t live your life like that. I have a lot of dreams and a lot of goals and without self-discipline I’m never going to accomplish them. I realized that things needed to change. But how do you practice self-discipline when you have none? Well, here’s how I did it.
Here’s how to practice self-discipline
1. Start small – really small
Everytime you fail, it damages your confidence. And when you lose your confidence, you eventually stop trying and just give up. We don’t want that to happen. So we need to minimize the risk of failure. That’s why you should start very small. How small exactly? Well, that’s up to you. My first decision was to fill my planner every day for 30 days. I love filling up my planner and it actually doesn’t take more than 10 minutes to do it. Sometimes I just got too lazy and skipped this part of my evening ritual. So, I decided to change that. It was something I knew I could accomplish. And I did. It wasn’t even hard but it was so meaningful. I gained a ridiculous amount of confidence after I managed to stick to this simple task for a month. But I did it and it was a beginning of something bigger.
Takeaway: Set a small goal and stick to it. Make it small enough so you can be almost sure you won’t fail. Still, try to make it hard enough so that it challenges you just a little bit. Maybe “brush my teeth everyday for a week” isn’t that great goal if you’re going to do that anyway.
2. Take some baby steps
When you’ve succeeded with your first project and boosted your confidence a bit, it’s very important that you don’t rush into the next big project. Instead, make another small decision that is just a little bit bigger than the first one. You don’t want to get all greedy just because you managed to stick to one small decision. Your self-discipline is still very fragile and you need to strengthen it before taking any big leaps.
3. Find your ways to get motivated again
Like I said, motivation isn’t going to be there forever. But getting excited about your long-term project or goals is very important and it definitely makes staying disciplined a lot easier. Find out the best ways to motivate yourself and use them when you’re having a hard time. For me Pinterest usually helps, as odd as it sounds. Also, books, articles and success stories are a great way to find some new inspiration. After you’ve found your motivation again, things get much easier. Just remember that it won’t last this time either.
4. Accept that it will be hard sometimes
You won’t always feel like doing what you need to do. Accept that. When those days happen, accept that you feel tired, lazy or unmotivated but do what you need to do. Just get it over with and move on. You don’t always need to be that positive or do any extra work. Just do what you need to do and then go do something else.
5. Always set some clear goals
In order to practice self-discipline you need some clear goals. You need to know exactly what you want to achieve and when you need to achieve it. It’s impossible to stay disciplined if you don’t really know how long or why you need to stick to your goal. Clear goals make it easier for you to push yourself just a little bit further with your self-discipline. For example if you have a work project you don’t really enjoy that much, you can always tell yourself things like “I only need to do this for 4 weeks, I can survive that”.
So, what about you? How do you practice self-discipline and how has it changed your life? Or do you think that it’s not even that important to practice self-discipline? Share your thoughts!