I’m not willing to say I am the poster child of self-discipline, however I am willing to say I am the poster child for getting stuff done. Just ask friends, family, colleagues, and employers. They will tell you I am quite efficient. And while I think most of us believe productive people are self-restrained delayed-gratification experts, it’s not true. In fact, over the past three years I have worked at becoming more disciplined, especially on a daily basis. While it’s not easy, it is possible to pick up the trait that successful people own, and I am happy to share with you what I have been learning on my own journey.
Rigidity vs. Discipline.
First, let’s distinguish the difference between the two. Being rigid is not the same as being disciplined. Rigidity often comes with highly unwavering, minimally-realistic demands. It’s an end in and of itself as opposed to a means to an end. It’s not willing to consider the options to achieve the same goal. Discipline on the other hand is. Discipline embraces and adopts process in order to get to a goal. Discipline acknowledges options while working within clearly defined boundaries. Discipline says, “I refuse to spend more than $75.00 a month on socializing” and allows for a variety of social outlets with a budget. Rigidity on the other hand will take the same goal, do the same one or two social activities even if bowling is getting boring but fits in the budget. You will have stayed with in your budget and find yourself bored and unhappy. Go for discipline not rigidity.
Be purposeful with your discipline.
Why are you trying to be more disciplined anyway? When I decided to make a conscious effort to be disciplined in various daily activities it was a result of me hating the effects of things piling up all week because I was avoiding them. I was fitting in chores and other necessary things into 48 hours a.k.a. my weekend. By Monday morning, I was returning to work tired. Deciding to stop watching television an hour and a half before bed each night in order to straighten up my apartment did wonders for my weekends. Deciding to bring my lunch to work every day (which meant packing it every night) also worked wonders on my budget. Getting up a half hour earlier to exercise has been helpful to my body and mind. I was purposeful about where I needed to buckle down in my life in little ways and seeing the pay off — toned legs, lazy Saturday mornings, more money to put into savings — helped me stay on track.
Be ambitious with caution.
In other words, don’t go overboard with your efforts to be more disciplined. Doing so is an easy way to not accomplish goals and become discouraged. Instead, as you think of one area in your life where you want to be more disciplined think of one to three ways you can do so. For me, in my efforts to monitor my health and weight (I come from a family with various health and weight challenges) the idea of 30 minutes a day of exercise was feasible. I didn’t limit myself to the gym (rigidity vs. discipline), but instead incorporated walking, jogging outdoors, and yoga. Likewise, I knew I could cut back my sugar intake. Cutting out all sugar at once wouldn’t have worked for me. I started with cutting out on soda. I moved to one big sweet a.k.a. cupcake or sour patch kids once a week and now once a month. These were a few things I could do to be more disciplined and do it in a way where I didn’t set myself up to fail.
It’s hard to make change without accountability. Talk to people about your endeavors to be more disciplined and ask a few people to help you as you work on being more disciplined. Sometimes just knowing that someone is going to check in and see how your efforts to change a behavior are panning out helps you stick to your goal. If you want your coffee money to become your new condo money, then tell your coffee buddy and your favorite barista at the coffee shop. That way when they see your face still stopping by to order that tall soy vanilla latte, they can give you the side eye and expect not to see you for a while because you’re working on transforming your change into a new home.