Many people have a totally skewed view on self-discipline thinking that some people are born as hard workers and others simply don’t have it in them. Yes, some people grow up with environmental factors that make them more or less self-disciplined. However, it’s a learned behavior, and certainly not something that’s inaccessible to you. If you feel that temptations and mental barriers are always getting the best of you, then this guide is for you! Here, I will go over some of the best-proven methods for developing self-discipline, and working towards the healthy and productive life you want.
Ways to Develop Self-Discipline
Get Rid of the Temptations
That old saying “out of sight, out of mind” has a huge part to play in developing your self-discipline. Taking any kind of distractions and temptations out of your environment when you should be doing something productive is an excellent first step towards greater self-discipline. If you want to stick to healthy eating habits, then toss out all the junk in your kitchen and wave away invitations to go to the local fast food joint during your lunch breaks.
If you’re easily distracted from your work, turn your cell phone off, or put it on silent. You may also want to load up any necessary web pages you can access offline and then disconnect your computer from the Wi-Fi. When you try to get Facebook, or god forbid YouTube, up in another tab, the “You’re not connected” page will remind you of what you should be doing. Just don’t start playing that dinosaur game if you use Chrome!
Stop Waiting to ‘Feel Right’
Developing self-discipline means making changes to your regular routine, which can often feel awkward and difficult. This is because all those comfortable, unproductive habits you’re used to are heavily ingrained in your psyche. Bear with me while I get a bit technical here: The habit behaviors we all have are traced to a part of the brain called the basal ganglia – the area associated with our emotions, recognition of patterns, and memories. Our reasoning and decisions, on the other hand, occur in the prefrontal cortex, which is a totally different area.
When our behaviors become habits, they peel away from our decision-making mental functions and instead begin functioning automatically. This can be detrimental to our self-discipline in the case of bad habits, but we can use this process to develop good habits as well. The next time you feel the habitual pull to load up Netflix, don’t. Instead, make an active decision to get in the car and visit a fitness center near you.
The first time will be the hardest as your brain is going to resist the change in routine and lean towards what you’ve already programmed it to do. However, if you keep making these active, productive decisions, eventually they’ll become a habit, and start to feel natural. Then, you’ll begin to resist your former bad habits. The change can’t happen all at once, but every time you make the right choice, the next one will become easier.
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Eat Healthy and Regularly
Studies have shown on several occasions that when we have low blood sugar, it weakens our resolve. When we’re not eating right, we get hungry and our ability to concentrate goes down because our brain isn’t getting all the energy it needs to reach its potential.
Besides making it harder to concentrate on the task you should be focusing on, hunger also makes a lot of us pessimistic and grumpy, a.k.a hangry! If you’re not eating right, you’re likely to have a weakened sense of self-control in pretty much every area of your life.
If you’re always finding it tough to stay on track, start making changes to your diet, and make sure you’re well-fueled throughout the day with healthy meals and snacks every few hours. This will keep your mind off of eating and prevents a growling stomach, making it much easier to stay on-task.
One easy habit to get into is keeping a bag of almonds or other healthy nuts on hand at all times. When you start to get cravings and hear the vending machine in the hall calling you, your healthy alternative will be right there.
Schedule Breaks, Treats, and Rewards
Self-discipline doesn’t mean moving from your current habits straight into Rocky-esque training montages. In fact, if you jump right in and don’t give yourself any room for breaks and rewards, you’ll only be increasing the chances for failures, disappointments, and ultimately reverting back to your old habits.
While you’re planning the goals you want to achieve and the schedule you’ll follow to reach them, be sure to schedule breaks, treats and rewards here and there. If you’re dieting, make Saturday your cheat day. If you’re trying to learn a skill, give yourself a day when you take a break from practicing and don’t force yourself to do much of anything!
If you’re trying to develop financial discipline, treat yourself to something inexpensive but satisfying on occasion. Rewarding your work will keep your stress under control, and keep you moving forward.
Don’t Beat Yourself Up
Getting into a new mindset doesn’t always go according to plan. In fact, it rarely does. There are going to be times where you screw up, fall short of your targets, and have flat-on-your-face failures that could have been avoided if you’d obeyed your own rules. The important thing to do here is to forgive yourself and keep on moving forward. When you slip up, just accept it, think about what triggered it, and then concentrate on moving on.
Yes, it’s very easy to get bogged down in guilt, frustration, and anger toward yourself, but these emotions are going to eat away at your self-discipline instead of improving it. Obviously, if you’re too soft on yourself, you’ll go back to your old habits, but at the same time, don’t beat yourself up. Your failures aren’t the end of the world. They’re just setbacks and if you approach them the right way, they’re learning experiences. The longer you’re in a negative mindset, the harder it will be to get yourself back in the saddle.
You’ll find that these strategies will be helpful to you in many areas of life. It won’t be easy at first, but if you’re determined to achieve goals, stick with it and you will see the results!
– Marsha 💋