Wednesday, 1 April 2015

7 Self-Discipline Techniques


1) Don't wait to 'feel like it'

In some ways, exercising self-discipline is harder than ever before. We're all encouraged to feel something should entertain us before it is worthwhile. We become brainwashed with messages like:
"Don't do it unless you feel like it!"
"If it feels good, do it!"
"Yeah, the money's good but I'm not getting up at that time!"
Choosing to do something or not based on whether it feels comfortable/pleasurable or not is a disaster. If I waited to 'feel like it' before exercising or working or making that tricky phone call or putting in the occasional all-nighter to meet a deadline, then I would be much less disciplined than I am now and believe me that would be really bad. : o
"Don't have a wishbone where your backbone should be!"

2) Finish what you start (as a point of honour)

Winston Churchill could only offer the British people 'blood, sweat, and tears', but victory was the greater goal for the whole nation. Really think about:
A, How much you want to achieve a greater goal (be it weight loss, a finished novel, new business, or mastering a musical instrument).
B, How serious you really are.
You may think you are serious and even tell others how serious you are, but only your actions really convey how genuine you are. Better you keep silent and get on with it than delude yourself and others.
Focus on the long-term 'big outcome' and self-discipline will naturally follow. Every morning, get up (yes do please get up!) and tell yourself: "Today is not over until I have done..." – whatever you need to do that day. Literally, you can't finish your day until what you set out to do has been done. I'm not kidding. Respect yourself enough to keep your own promises to yourself.

3) Dump the excuses

Be honest with yourself. Do the following sound familiar?
"I don't want to overdo it!"
"I'll start it when the weather gets better!"
"Well it's too late now to do it, anyway!" (Remember: your day ain't over 'til it's done.)
"I'm not getting support from others so I won't bother then!"
"I'm not going to do it at all now if you're going to take that attitude!"
Now, lest you think I'm holier than thou – perish the thought. I have used all the above excuses and many more besides to mask my own laziness or fear.
But if you are going to make excuses, don't fall for them yourself. Don't believe your own PR.
In fact, start being honest. Tell yourself:
"I'm not going to go for the run now because I'm too soft and lazy."
Or: "I've decided not to give that speech now because I'm too cowardly!"
I've tried this and you know what? Honesty can be hard to take. Harder, in fact, than actually doing the thing you're trying to avoid. Stop mistaking excuses for credible reasons.

4) Sorry, it's non-negotiable

When we start to question whether we are really going to get down to some work, whether it's too late to make a start, whether we should watch the James Bond movie on TV instead, we start to 'leak' motivation. Make self-discipline 'non-negotiable'. I'm guessing you don't um and ah about whether to clean your teeth or pull the chain in the toilet (I'm hoping) – these things are unquestioned by you. Likewise, tell yourself: "I'm not going to listen to excuses or wimp-outs – this is non-negotiable!"
Remember the words of Abraham J. Heschel: "Self-respect is the fruit of discipline; the sense of dignity grows with the ability to say no to oneself."

5) The pull of the external deadline

Alan made promises to himself and he had enough self-respect to keep these promises. No one else put pressure on him to practice so much. But if he had a concert coming up, he worked even harder. External deadlines – working to deliver what others expect from you – can massively boost your drive to succeed. If there are no external deadlines, then make some.
Maybe you do contract work or a publisher is expecting your work by a certain time, so you already have an external deadline. But if you don't, then create an internal one (such as "by July the 1st I'm going to be 12 pounds slimmer") and make it external by telling as many people as possible.
If you need to write 100,000 words in two months, tell other people that on a certain date you are going to get back to them to tell them you've done it. Print off a letter of intent, sign it in front of a friend or several people, and ask them to remind you of your deadline when it arrives and sign again that you have completed it. External deadlines work.

6) Ignore the naysayers

Other people can exert an immensely negative effect... if we let them. Don't let them. Don't let words or even negative facial expressions deter you. Seek the advice of experts by all means and learn from the best, but never accept negativity from people who haven't themselves achieved what it is you are set upon achieving.
If people say what you plan is not possible or sneer at your efforts, don't be deterred by this; rather, use it to fire your energy and strength. Proving others wrong is a greatly underrated pleasure.

7) Don't get hijacked by trivia

We all have a need to complete things, be it a story we are reading or an opera we are composing. If someone starts to tell you a joke (or a piece of gossip), they set an expectation in your brain that you really want fulfilled. But if you have important things to do, things to learn, an important project, then trivial things can 'hijack' this need for completion. Playing endless computer games or watching TV thrillers can leave you feeling satisfied because something has been completed. This is like meeting your physical hunger by eating junk, then no longer wanting to eat real nutrition.
By cutting out (or down) your consumption of TV, gaming, or even newspaper reading, you leave your need for completion free to work on what you really need to be focusing on. You need to feel that things remain unfinished to keep focused and you need to devote valuable time and energy where it's really needed.


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