One of the biggest problems people face is the lack of discipline — they have goals or habits they want to achieve, but lack the discipline needed to stick with it. Then they beat themselves up about it and feel bad. And that leads to more failure, because we form a mindset that we don’t possess the necessary discipline.
Here’s what to do when you face a situation like this:
Forgive yourself. You aren’t perfect. No one is. Realise that beating yourself up will only make things worse. Take a few slow, deep breaths and let it go. Forgive yourself. And move on.
Realise that discipline is an illusion. While discipline is a common concept, it doesn’t actually exist. It’s not a thing you can actually do. Think about it: people say discipline is pushing yourself to do something you don’t want to do. But how do you do that? What skill is required? There isn’t a skill — it’s just forcing yourself to do something you don’t want to do. And that requires some kind of motivation. Without motivation, you won’t be able to force yourself to do anything. So motivation is the key concept — and this is something that’s real, something you can actually learn.
Focus on motivation. What’s your motivation for pursuing a goal or habit? How will you sustain your motivation when you struggle? Have a very strong motivation for doing something and write it down. Commit publicly. When things get tough, remind yourself of your motivation. Focus on it. It’ll pull you along — that’s more powerful than trying to focus on the push of discipline.
Make it easy. Discipline is tough because whatever the task or habit you’re trying to do is tough. Instead, make it easy. Remove barriers. Having a hard time exercising? Make it ridiculously easy, by only exercising for 5 minutes. What use is exercising for 5 minutes? You’re creating the habit. The 5 minutes of exercise will have only a tiny impact on your health, but it makes exercise super easy. If you can do that for 30 days in a row, you now have an exercise habit. Hate waking up early to go to the gym? Do it at home. Do it during lunch or after work.
Focus on enjoyment. It’s hard to push yourself — to have discipline — when you hate doing something. So find something enjoyable about the activity. If you don’t look forward to exercise, find some good music, or a workout partner who you can have a nice conversation with, or find a peaceful setting outside that is just beautiful. Focus on the enjoyable aspect. Hate doing your paperwork? Find a quiet sanctuary where you can do your paperwork and enjoy yourself. Maybe have a nice cup of tea or coffee, play some relaxing music. Always focus on the enjoyment.
Repeat. You’ll almost inevitably slip up sometime, no matter how good you are. Unfortunately, people often take this to mean they don’t have discipline, then they beat themselves up and give up. Well, it’s just a bump in the road. Get up, dust yourself off, and get going again. Start from Step 1 and start all over again.
Marion Jackson is an accomplished Executive Assistant who has identified a gap in the local New Zealand market for providing affordable websites and business support.