To develop self-discipline requires having a strong desire to achieve a specific goal. Without a strong desire, there is very little hope for self-discipline.
Self-discipline needs fuel, and that fuel typically comes in the form of either inspiration or motivation. You need one or the other to fuel self-discipline. Otherwise, you will struggle to stay focused over extended periods of time.
All this essentially boils down to having enough compelling reasons for undertaking each task or project you commit to doing. Ask yourself:
What do I want?
Why do I want this?
Why specifically do I need to follow through and get this done?
The more compelling reasons you’re able to identify, the more fuel you will have driving your self-discipline forward.
Self-Discipline Requires Unwavering Commitment and Accountability
Now, of course, reasons alone are never really enough. You will also need an unwavering commitment to doing whatever’s required to accomplish your goal.
This, of course, is rarely easy. Long-term commitment takes discipline, and typically, this ain’t something that most people are good at doing by themselves. What these people are fundamentally lacking is a little bit of accountability.
Self-Discipline Requires Penalties and Rewards
Our motivation levels often ebb and flow as we pursue our goal. At certain times you will feel extremely motivated, while at other times you will struggle to get through specific tasks and activities.
To avoid falling into these cycles, it can be helpful to put some penalties and rewards in place. Punishments and awards can be used to help direct your behavior throughout the day.
You can, for instance, reward yourself for making particular choices or for partaking in certain kinds of behaviors. Likewise, you can penalize yourself for indulging in other types of behaviors or for making poor choices.
These penalties and rewards will add another element to the furnace that will keep the fuel of self-discipline burning throughout the day.
Some Steps to Developing Your Self-Discipline
Now that you have some clarity about what self-discipline is all about let’s break down a six-step process to help you practice self-discipline.
You can, of course, use this process anytime and anywhere. However, please do keep in mind that, as with any process, it can take time to get into the habit of applying it consistently to your life. Therefore, be patient with yourself and play the long-game when it comes to developing your self-discipline.
Step 1: Define What You Want
The first step of this process involves getting very clear about what it is you want to achieve.
Self-discipline can only endure if it’s channeled toward something specific. In this instance, let’s direct it toward the desired outcome you have in mind.
This outcome might be a goal you want to achieve, a habit you might like to develop or any other type of change you might like to make.
To gain clarity about what it is you want, ask yourself:
What is it that I want to do, be, have or achieve?
What new habit would I like to develop?
What behavior would I like to change?
What is the one thing that I want to focus on in this moment?
Step 2: Describe the Changes Required
Now that you have some clarity about what it is you want, it’s time to describe what kind of habits and behaviors will help you attain this desired outcome. In other words, what kind of person might you need to become to achieve your goal?
Every goal we set brings with it a precise set of behaviors and habits that are intrinsically intertwined with the goal we want to achieve.
Gaining some clarity in this area will help you figure out what it will take to achieve your desired outcome.
With that in mind, have a think about your goal and ask yourself:
What specific behaviors will I need to cultivate to achieve this goal?
What specific habits will I need to adopt to achieve this goal?
While answering these questions, it’s important to also keep in mind your core values.
The behaviors you cultivate and the habits you adopt must reflect your core values. That’s, essentially, the only way to ensure that you’ll stick to your goal over the long-run.
Secondly, the journey toward goal achievement almost always changes people in unexpected ways.
As we pursue a goal, we learn and grow along this journey. This, subsequently, helps transform how we see ourselves, how we see others, and how we interact with the world around us.
What this essentially means is that you will need to change and adapt in some respects to have this goal in your life. In other words, you need to become the person that deserves to have this goal in his/her life.
With this goal in mind, what person will I need to become to achieve it?
What qualities will I need to adopt?
How will I need to think about myself, my life, and my goal?
Answering these questions is crucial as self-discipline grows from the level of certainty you have about something.
Step 3: Find Adequate Role Models
It’s time now to look outward for answers to help strengthen your self-discipline. Specifically, let’s identify role models (friends, family, colleagues) who have already achieved the goal you are working towards. Ask yourself:
Who is doing this right now?
Who has successfully achieved this goal?
Who has successfully mastered this habit?
Who has successfully made this change?
Who has the necessary self-discipline in this area?
What can I learn from this person that can help me along my journey?
Take time to ask these people how they disciplined themselves. Ask them how they followed through with specific actions that got them their desired outcome. Then use their experience to help you discipline yourself along your own personal journey.