The True Secret to Self-Discipline
“Motivation comes and goes but what are your keys to building discipline that carries you through the lows?”
I got this question in a Q&A recently, and thought I’d answer it in more depth, because I think it’s an important subject.
The first thing I’d say about this is that you need to know your weaknesses and remove temptations.
Knowing what your strengths and weaknesses are, and doubling down on your strengths is one of the most invaluable pieces of advice I could possibly give.
We’re brought up to try and equal out our capabilities: if we’ve got a weakness, to focus on improving that rather than smashing on our strengths.
When it comes to discipline, you need to be aware of your weaknesses so that you can remove them. For example, if you’re cutting and you know you absolutely fucking LOVE chocolate, maybe refrain from buying a whole packet from the shop, and having it in your cupboard.
That way you don’t have to use willpower to prevent from over-eating. You’ve removed the temptation.
‘People need effective self-regulation strategies to put this understanding to work. Such strategies might involve arranging situations to minimize temptations (e.g., keeping junk food out of the house; blocking Facebook while trying to study)’
Veronika Job, Gregory M. Walton, Katharina Bernecker, and Carol S. Dweck, 2013
Next, I’d say you need to have a clear vision of what you want and set yourself realistic, specific, SMART goals.
Goal-setting is just one of those things we you’ll so much about – and it’s for good reason. It fucking works.
Set aside some time (maybe half an hour) to just sit down and write down some specific goals, with a completion date. Having specific goals applies not just to fitness, but to general life as well.
‘A person who is focused and goal-oriented is likely to have a more positive approach towards life and perceive failures as temporary setbacks, rather than personal shortcomings’.
Having dates written down too are so important. Having them on record creates a kind of subconscious trigger that will make it more likely for you to complete the goal in that timeframe. In order for this to happen, the goals have to be ambitious, but also realistic.
If they’re not ambitious enough, they won’t get you excited enough to stick to them. But if they’re unrealistics, this too will be detrimental. Having goals with a correct balance can be difficult, which is why it’s good to set time aside to concentrate on making sure they’re right.
‘Edwin A. Locke, a pioneer in the field of goal-setting, found that individuals who had highly ambitious goals had a better performance and output rate than those who didn’t’
When you do start making progress and hitting goals, make sure you reward yourself in some kind of way. Acknowledge you’ve achieved the goal, get that internal sense of gratification can give yourself renewed motivation to carry on, and trust that you’re making progress. It’s a great feeling.
But for me, personally speaking, when it comes to productivity, diet, training..
The most powerful way to stay disciplined is to develop good habits.
There’s an amazing book called The Power of Habit that I recommend you guys read.
‘Champions don’t do extraordinary things. They do ordinary things, but they do them without thinking, too fast for the other team to react. They follow the habits they’ve learned.’
Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit
The key point here is that once you get into a habit of doing something, it becomes effortless. It requires no willpower, no discipline and no motivation.
How much discipline does it take for you to brush your teeth? Not that much.. Because it’s so ingrained into your day.
I find working out very easy because it’s so wired into my brain. I don’t need motivation or discipline to go there, I just go.
That is the true key to self-discipline. Make the actions that contribute towards your goals habits so that motivation or willpower is not required to complete them.
“Habits are powerful, but delicate. They can emerge outside our consciousness, or can be deliberately designed. They often occur without our permission, but can be reshaped by fiddling with their parts. They shape our lives far more than we realize—they are so strong, in fact, that they cause our brains to cling to them at the exclusion of all else, including common sense.”
Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit
Chowdhury, M. (2019). The Science & Psychology Of Goal-Setting 101. [online] PositivePsychology.com. Available at: https://positivepsychology.com/goal-setting-psychology/ [Accessed 10 Jan. 2020].
Dweck, C., Job, V., Walton, G. and Bernecker, K. (2013). Beliefs about willpower determine the impact of glucose on self-control. [online] https://www.pnas.org/. Available at: https://www.pnas.org/content/110/37/14837.full#sec-5 [Accessed 10 Jan. 2020].
Park, W. (2019). How your friends change your habits – for better and worse. [online] BBC.com. Available at: https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20190520-how-your-friends-change-your-habits—for-better-and-worse [Accessed 10 Jan. 2020].
Purcell, M. (2018). The Health Benefits of Journaling. [online] https://psychcentral.com/. Available at: https://psychcentral.com/lib/the-health-benefits-of-journaling/721/ [Accessed 10 Jan. 2020].