I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about self-discipline. What is it? How do we learn it? Things of that sort.
We live in a cultural society of instant gratification and self absorption with the intent to impress others. I’ve lived it.
I’ve been driving for 15 years. I’ve owned 9 different cars. NINE.
I was not wise with my finances. And I’ve definitely cared about what others thought. Too much.
These days, I realize that was a set back. Just one of many. There were so many areas in which I have lacked self discipline. There are still so many that I have no self discipline whatsoever. Like when a burrito is placed in front of me. No discipline. None. One day I might get there. Or…I just need to understand my weaknesses and avoid putting myself in situations that will tempt me. Like going to Roberto’s multiple times a week.
Building up self-discipline takes practice. Kind of like everything else.
It’s a mental muscle. It’s far from easy. But just like exercise, you have to start small and work your way up. If you go super hard at the gym for the first time and then are so sore that you can’t move for the next 3 days, you probably won’t be going back. True story. When we completely deprive ourselves, having discipline to keep going or even finish will only be more difficult.
So, why do we want or even need self-discipline? And how the hell does one actually begin practicing self disciple?
“No other single requirement for individual success is as important as self-discipline…. Self-discipline is the tool with which man may harness and direct his inborn emotions in the direction of his choice.” – Napoleon Hill
There are many ways. But first, it must begin with knowing and being honest with yourself of exactly where you currently stand in regards to where you want to go. So if it’s improving a skill, getting healthier or getting your finances in order, it will require you to self assess and know where you are and how you got there.
The following is important: do NOT waste time beating yourself up for WHY you have failed thus far. Do NOT live there. Just know why you are there so that when you begin slipping into the old routine (that has gotten you exactly where you are at currently), you can identify it and swiftly pivot back to the necessary direction to achieve success. Self-forgiveness is necessary for moving on. Self-loathing is NOT what we are shooting for. Of course you need to have enough of it to know you desire to change, but again, not staying there. We will not get stuck in feeling sorry for ourselves. Not if we, ourselves, harness the power necessary to change. And in almost all cases, we do.
After identifying where your patterns of weakness have been, then it’s time to develop a plan. A plan to practice. Gradually.
I’ve told my story many times. After a dark season of my life of walking away from my dreams, I gave up for some time. Years. Specifically, I gave up on planning. When I was 17, I had my life planned out through my 30th birthday. When things were derailed, I gave up completely. I gave up on myself. Nobody else did it for me. I went to my day job of doing tech support and did whatever I felt like with my free time. I would sleep in until 11am, eat whatever I wanted, drank all evening while playing video games. It was not an unhappy time by any means, but it was far from fulfilling. I also gained a solid 25 pounds and was always broke. No savings. Paycheck to paycheck and no plans to do anything of purpose with my life. I was coasting. Merely existing.
And to some people, that might feel ideal. But there are some people out there who deep down know and feel that there has to be something more. I knew there was more. It was not how I had imagined my life would turn out. I wanted to live a life of purpose and have done something significant with the short time I have here on Earth.
My life needed some work. Luckily, at the time, I didn’t try to do all necessary life repairs simultaneously.
I actually was most frustrated with my health than anything. Up to this point, for the majority of my life, I had been a petite lady. I felt sluggish and frumpy. In my younger days, between playing sports and drums, I always had quite the athletic build. I never worried about what I consumed. But now, I had become harshly aware that was no longer the case. After having a moment where I sat down in front of a mirror and happened to catch the profile of myself and saw my belly hanging over my pants, I went through my brief period of self-loathing and knew I needed to make a change. Because at this point, I was sick of myself.
But I didn’t stay there. I took action.
My Mom had taken me to the gym when I was younger. I was lucky to have a great example of health growing up. Between that and sports, I knew what had to be done. I needed to put the cider and the xbox remote down and get my body moving.
One day I opened my eyes and decided to go for a jog. Something I had not done in YEARS. I laced up some old sneakers I found in my closet and ran about a half mile around my neighborhood. Upon finishing the jog, I burst through my front door, immediately ran to my downstairs bathroom, puked my brains out and then collapsed on my bed.
That could have been it. I could have said, “forget this.” And picked my cider back up and burned my running shoes.
But I didn’t.
I did something even crazier, I got a gym membership. I woke up everyday at 4:30am so I could get to the gym before work at 8am and I did something even crazier. I stayed committed. Eventually, I decided I should probably watch what I was eating too. I cut back my drinking to maybe once a week, and every morning on the way to work, made a stop at the grocery store and picked up a banana and a salad. Don’t ask me why I didn’t just buy enough for the week, I literally picked up a fresh one each morning. I think the extra effort made me need to remain committed to it.
But I saw results. They were incremental, but every incremental change spurred me on further. It kept me going. I lost those 25 pounds and got into the best shape of my life. I made it a lifestyle. I remained committed to my health and still am today. That was 6 years ago.
And it was just the beginning for me.
It was an eye opening season of what I am capable of when I decide to create a plan and remain committed to it. I discovered what I am capable of when I choose to practice self-discipline.
Soon, I took the same skill and applied it to my finances. Using self-discipline at the grocery store, self-discipline in not going out to eat for two-thirds of my meals. Using self-discipline by making my coffee at home and not going to Starbucks. By leaving my house a few minutes earlier every Friday and getting gas only from Costco. By paying off thousands of dollars of credit card debt. By selling my Mini Cooper that had a $570/month car payment. By buying used car cash. By saving up a 6 month emergency fund. By contributing more to my 401(k). And soon, by wisely investing 20% of my income into things that will bring me additional income. I say none of this to brag, but to prove a point. And because people want proof, and results are proof.
It started with small things. Small forms of self-discipline. Small wins. Into much larger ones.
And now, I apply the same skill of self-discipline towards the pursuit of my dreams of a more fulfilled life for myself. Educating myself. Being better with my time. Connecting with others. Investing into my writing and content I share out. Mapping out how I will hit targets of things I want to accomplish. There is nothing too unrealistic. I know because I’ve surprised myself.
The reality is, we need that. We need an opportunity to surprise ourselves.
To prove our capability to ourselves.
From there, it’s a choice.
It was the same lesson for love, for me. After falling in love for the first time, and learning what my heart was capable of, I decided love was a choice. And it didn’t only apply to romantic love. My heart was capable of more.
Once we know the truth, it’s merely a decision to act.
Many of us have not allowed ourselves the opportunity to surprise us.
We need that. We need small wins. We need them to gain momentum. To continue our forward motion.
Eventually it leads to much greater things. But only if we keep going.
I am convinced, as Napoleon Hill, that self-discipline is the single most important behavior one can employ to achieve success with their life. And success will be defined by our own terms, by our own dreams and desires.
But it is necessary for the success of anything.
So do you need to gain some self-discipline? How can you start small? How do you afford yourself an opportunity to try? And what will it take to surprise yourself?
And what if you do? What then? What’s next? What will it take to get to a life more fulfilled? What will the best version of you require?
You’ll never know until you try. But start small. Then crush it. Everyday. Because you know that you can.
And I believe you can. If you need some help, just ask. I’d love to support.