Self-discipline is a skill that can mean the difference between success and failure, between perseverance until the goal is met, and giving up when discouragement prevails, or when distractions are just too alluring.
When you think about the concept of self-discipline, what springs to mind? Perhaps, it is having an iron will, nerves of steel or being a taskmaster are some of the rather negative concepts that spring to mind.
Self-discipline doesn’t have to be so unappealing.
Here are some tips to help you master the art and science of self-discipline, without torturing yourself in the process.
- Keep the self-talk gentle and compassionate. Beating yourself up for “failure” or for missing a deadline or for forgetting an important detail, does nothing to get the job accomplished. All it does is drain your energy and help you be defeated.
- Be your own champion. Everybody needs a cheerleader. You can be a good friend to yourself and talk to yourself in ways that are positive, up lifting and supportive. In this way, you will feel encouraged and therefore able to accomplish more in the long run.
- Start small. If you are having to make lifestyle changes in order to develop self-discipline, don’t make grandiose and sweeping changes: these are pretty well doomed to self-sabotage. Make one small change and when you have successfully incorporated it into your routine, make another small change. Small steps, one-step at a time. In this way, you will be able to continue putting one foot in front of the other.
- Make goals, and stick to them. Give yourself a timeline. Make your goals SMART: Specific, Measurable and Achievable, Realistic and Time oriented.
- Remember you are part of a team. Even if you work for yourself, your clients are your teammates. Don’t let your emotions override the bigger picture. As John C. Maxwell says in his book, “The 360 Degree Leader: Developing Your Influence from Anywhere in the Organization”, “The bottom line in managing your emotions is that you should put others – not yourself – first in how you handle and process them. Whether you delay or display your emotions should not be for your own gratification. You should ask yourself, what does the team need? Not, what will make me feel better?”
- Find an accountability buddy. Is there someone you know who would benefit from a partnership where you commit to keeping each other on track? Even if it is a friend, knowing there is someone you have to report to, can help you stay focused on meeting your goals.
- Find a role model. Whom do you admire, who could be a beacon for you? Having identified someone, you can ask yourself “What would X do in this situation?” This can help you problem solve and stay focused on finding solutions and moving forward, instead of getting stuck in overwhelm and not seeing answers.
- Check lists and time sheets. These can help give you a sense of perspective as you can see how much you accomplished, and in how much time. Knowing how much you have done in a day can help to keep you motivated. Without these tools, it is easy to fall into the trap of feeling that you can never do enough. This way, you are more likely to stay balanced and on track.
All in all, self-discipline is something, which must be grown and developed. Your level of commitment to your goals will determine your level of self-discipline. If you really, really want something, you will do whatever it takes to get there, right?
The important thing is to keep moving forward, one small step at a time. Celebrate your wins and successes, and view “failures” as learning opportunities. Stay positive, be kind to yourself, and, if you refuse to give up, you will get there.