It took me a long time to figure out how to even find the surface of the iceberg of self discipline let alone the underlying fundamentals that lay dormant below.
The simple truth of the fact is that the odds are against you.
In 2018 you live in a world where everything can be had at a moment’s notice.
Hell, you don’t even need to go out and go to the grocery store for your food. We have developed an economies of scale so vast that if you live in certain areas, all you have to do to get your groceries is go to a site, click a few boxes and in a day or two you’ll have your food.
In that sense, life is pretty remarkable.
What does that do for the meaningful aspects of our life, however?
“Anything worth doing takes time.”
Whether your mother told you that, a teacher told you that or you stumbled upon the quote while scrolling through Instagram, the adage reigns true.
The juxtaposition arises in our present society and all the immediate gratification it offers.
Self discipline is sacrificing the present and bargaining against your future self.
So what exactly does that mean?
Well, it can take on many contexts but it broadly means putting in the work now and planting the seeds so your future self can reap the success.
There are no shortcuts in life when building something meaningful.
Just telling yourself, “I will be disciplined” isn’t enough- at least in my experience. The human brain doesn’t work that way. There are external conditioning forces against us (societal and technological immediate gratification forces) and the habit of the human brain to “relax” and be lazy create a terrifying cocktail of lethargy in our lives.
- When we see the sugary food we find it hard to resist.
- When we think about working out it’s easier to take a nap.
- When we should go to sleep and get that good night’s sleep we turn on House of Cards.
It feels like we go around in circles thinking to ourselves we’re going to be disciplined however we fall into these lazy pitfalls time and time again.
The good news is there are ways to overcome and set up barriers to falling again.
Whether you are building a business and can’t find the discipline to work everyday or you can find the discipline to write your memoir, these steps below will help you build your discipline to achieve your goals.
1. Restructure your “goals” into “quests.”
Goals are stressful. When you finally structure what you want to set out for you set yourself up for failure or success.
It’s binary in nature.
Quests are fun.
You have an end goal and obstacles that arise in order to get there. It makes you the hero in your own story rather than the binary “success” or “failure.”
2. Fortify your spaces.
Where does one workout? Where does one write? Where does one sleep?
In order to optimize your self discipline, an optimal space is necessary. For me, I write everyday in the same cafe in Downtown LA.
I do this because the space is my “work temple.”
My apartment is a place of leisure, sleep and cooking. I run downtown and I do HIIT and boxing in a separate gym. I have created spaces that condition my brain to perform a specific task or apply a specific role when I’m there.
3. Keep your mornings consistent.
The morning and the actions that comprise the first few hours set the tone for the rest of the day. Scientists and self-help gurus have been preaching this knowledge for years.
In order to foster self discipline, keeping your mornings consistent is paramount. For me, this even includes the order in which:
I get out of bed>make my bed>take a pee>brush my teeth>gargle mouthwash> shower>get dressed in bathroom>eat same breakfast (whole Greek yogurt with peanuts and a vegan protein shake)>watch a quick educational Youtube video while eating>grab laptop>walk to cafe.
I do this with little variance. It has become autonomous which bleeds into other autonomous self disciplines.
4. Steal Nike’s Mantra.
Whenever I sense the feeling of procrastination, I steal Nike’s mantra:
“Just do it.”
I tell myself over and over to “just do it.”
I sounds cheesy, I know.
Something remarkable in my mind after I say it to myself enough times. It’s like the mind takes over and my body moves on its own.
Maybe I’m feeling lazy and don’t want to hit the heavy bag- I tell myself this. Maybe I don’t feel like writing- I tell myself this. It changes something in your brain. It takes mindfulness to remember to tell yourself this when you start falling into a slump.
5. Fortify your eating.
This almost seems to simple to be part of the puzzle.
What you eat has a lot to govern how you are susceptible to succumbing to immediate gratification over delayed reward.
When your cabinet and fridge is filled with highly processed and sugary junk so will your mind. Take a moment and think about the last time you had cake. It probably made you feel numb and lethargic afterwards, no?
How are you supposed to tackle the obstacles of self discipline if you are stuffing your face with paralyzing food? You need to fuel your body with the proper nutrition and fight the urge for the “easy fix” when confronted with such.
6. Fill your day with productive work.
“Idle hands are the Devil’s work.”
A few hours before writing this, I was talking with my boxing coach. He recently broke up with his girl friend after proposing to her (unfortunately, she rejected the proposal). We were talking about how it’s funny that when you don’t do anything during the day you feel lazy.
When your day is jam packed, however, your energy levels are paramount. When you schedule your day and find productive things to take up the various hours that comprise it, you force yourself into a disciplined approach to overcoming the obstacles.
When you find you have nothing to do- laziness creeps in. Create systems throughout your day to keep yourself busy (but don’t fill it with “busywork” stay productive).
Ultimately, in order to build self discipline, one must construct a system of being rather than a light switch goal. Every morning you wake up you have another opportunity to fight the resistance that is trying to weigh you down. When you set up proper fortifications to combat resistance, you will find your self discipline blossom.
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