When I say self-discipline, what comes to mind?
Does it have to do with forcing yourself to do things you don’t want to do?
Maybe to be strict with yourself? To shame or mentally beat yourself up until you give in? Or maybe even to focus on all the bad things you’ll suffer if you don’t do what you know you should?
These are all typical responses I get when I ask people what self-discipline means to them. And these tactics are not just wrong and potentially harmful – they’re also inefficient.
Self-discipline should not be about force. And we definitely shouldn’t try to create it through threats or suffering. Doing so will only create negative associations with both the activity and being self-disciplined. Which is likely to make us try to avoid both in the future and become a couch potato.
Self-discipline should be about connecting with our higher desires. Our big-picture goals. Our long-term plans.
You see, it’s a lot easier to do the things we – in the moment – don’t feel like doing if we remember why we want to do them deep down. Because even if we don’t want to right there and then, bringing our thoughts to that big-picture goal is likely to make it much easier to do them.
When we’re feeling lazy and don’t want to exercise it’ll be a lot more motivating to focus on our big-picture goal for working out than to try to make ourselves feel bad about not doing it.
If we’re feeling shy or anxious in a social setting, we’ll likely start engaging with others more if we think about our desire to make friends or find a partner – than if we beat ourselves up for not being “good enough”.
When we don’t feel like doing our dishes, tapping into our desire to be the kind of person that has a clean home will likely work better than shaming ourselves.
That said, we still might not actually want to work out, talk to strangers, or clean our plate. But I guarantee that it will be a lot easier to do it anyway when you put your focus on your big-picture desire.
So start practicing positive and self-loving self-discipline.
When you know you should do something that’s important to you – but you don’t feel like doing it – think about the big picture.
How does the activity move you closer to your core desires? Why will it help you get to where you want to be? How will it help you become more of the person you see yourself as? Why is it important?
Once you know, focus on that answer and go do the activity – whether you feel like it or not.
All you have to do is put one foot in front of the other until you’ve gotten started, and then keep going.
That’s how you create positive associations to both the activity and the concept of self-discipline. And that’s how you’ll start to have more and more of both in your life.