Updated: Feb 13, 2020
Discipline allows people to stay committed to goals, making the process of completing habits like regular workouts, eating well, and sleeping adequately much easier. But how do you learn discipline if you aren’t very good at it? Little by little. The definition of the word includes, “…training oneself to do something in a controlled or habitual way”. Therefore, one must train the habit of discipline.
Have you ever heard the advice to make your bed first thing every morning, to instill values of order and regiment? This advice can be a good mental step toward discipline, especially if you practice at the small things by applying this principle to many different tasks throughout the day. Truly training discipline also takes bigger picture efforts.
Building discipline first takes a willingness to mentally take responsibility for one’s actions. Each person’s life directly reflects their choices and actions. A person must accept this truth and understand their control over outcomes in their lives. Acting in ways which support long term goals determines success. It is important to have a clear understanding of what exactly one is aiming to do in life. Why would you want to have discipline? What does a disciplined life mean to YOU? Writing down goals either daily, weekly, and/or monthly can help clarify daily action steps that will lead to a lifestyle which supports those goals.
Goal reflection and thinking of the future provide a clearer understanding of which choices need to be made now. For example, if an athlete’s goal is to compete and medal at the national level in weightlifting, their daily decisions must be made to support their big picture goal. With each decision, ask yourself, “Does this bring me closer to or farther away from my goals?” As an athlete working to win nationally, acting with discipline would mean prioritizing training time, eating to support training and recovery, minimizing social time that cuts into sleeping/recovery/training (little to no drinking, not eating out if the food is not up to nutrition standards, etc.). The habits that form a disciplined life in this scenario are obvious because of the long-term goal. A committed athlete wouldn’t think twice about taking the necessary steps to achieve their goal and therefore discipline becomes a relatively easier set of small choices made each day.
Making decisions which support long-term goals is also a practice of consistency. Discipline requires good choices over and over. Again, training the habit of discipline takes time. A person will be most successful if they choose to commit to the process, regardless of faults. Even after making a mistake (and you will—because everyone makes mistakes, especially when learning something new), a person must remind themselves that it’s a process and keep working at the process with the next decision or action.
Learning discipline doesn’t happen overnight. Some people may train it quickly and others may take a whole lifetime to learn the habit. Importantly, figure out what it means to you to be disciplined. Consider the goals you wish to achieve and build habits that support your vision. Personally, I don’t make my bed every morning. It’s not that important to my overall vision. But I do spend about 30 minutes every single morning to make and eat a healthy breakfast, because that is important to my personal and professional goals. So, decide what your vision of discipline means. Clarify your goals and start taking actions that help you train consistency, and eventually, discipline.
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