Be Disciplined (Part 1)

Have you ever imagined what may happen if Earth stops to make round on its axis for a single moment? There would be no life on earth from that very moment. Nature works according to its discipline. Discipline means a particular code of conduct or order. If that is not followed, there would be punishment to regulate. Discipline is one of the main pillars of our modern life.

If we wish to be happy, we need to be disciplined, we need to follow the code of conduct to ensure that every other member of our society does not get disturbed with our acts. For an ideal society, we need to have self-disciplined.

We can define Self-discipline as our ability to motivate ourselves in spite of a negative emotional state through our readiness of accepting the difficult circumstances, having strong willpower to fight against the odds, doing hard work, and persistence.

Self-discipline means whipping yourself towards the code of conduct you choose to live with by Acceptance, Will Power, Hard Work, Industrious attitude to fight against the odds and your Persistence. It is “A WHIP” — a convenient way to remember them, since many people associate self-discipline with whipping themselves into shape. Really, it is the ability to get yourself to take action regardless of your emotional state.

Imagine what you could accomplish if you could simply get yourself to follow through on your best intentions no matter what. Picture yourself saying to your body, “You’re overweight. Lose 20 pounds.” Without self-discipline that intention won’t become manifest. But with sufficient self-discipline, it’s a done deal. The pinnacle of self-discipline is when you reach the point that when you make a conscious decision; it’s virtually guaranteed you’ll follow through on it.

Self-discipline is one of the most important personal development tools available to you. Of course it is not a panacea. Nevertheless, the problems which self-discipline can solve are important, and while there are other ways to solve these problems, self-discipline absolutely shreds them. Self-discipline can empower you to overcome any addiction or lose any amount of weight. It can wipe out procrastination, disorder, and ignorance. Within the domain of problems it can solve, self-discipline is simply unmatched. Moreover, it becomes a powerful teammate when combined with other tools like passion, goal-setting, and planning.

Building Self-Discipline

Self-discipline is like a muscle. The more you train it, the stronger you become. The less you train it, the weaker you become. Just as everyone has different muscular strength, we all possess different levels of self-discipline. Everyone has some — if you can hold your breath a few seconds, you have some self-discipline. But not everyone has developed their discipline to the same degree.

The way to build self-discipline is analogous to using progressive weight training to build muscle. This means lifting weights that are close to your limit. Note that when you weight train, you lift weights that are within your ability to lift. You push your muscles until they fail, and then you rest.

Similarly, the basic method to build self-discipline is to tackle challenges that you can successfully accomplish but which are near your limit. This doesn’t mean trying something and failing at it every day, nor does it mean staying within your comfort zone. You will gain no strength trying to lift a weight that you cannot budge, nor will you gain strength lifting weights that are too light for you. You must start with weights/challenges that are within your current ability to lift but which are near your limit.

Progressive training means that once you succeed, you increase the challenge. If you keep working out with the same weights, you won’t get any stronger. Similarly, if you fail to challenge yourself in life, you won’t gain any more self-discipline.

Just as most people have very weak muscles compared to how strong they could become with training, most people are very weak in their level of self-discipline.

It’s a mistake to try to push yourself too hard when trying to build self-discipline. If you try to transform your entire life overnight by setting dozens of new goals for yourself and expecting yourself to follow through consistently starting the very next day, you’re almost certain to fail. This is like a person going to the gym for the first time ever and packing 300 pounds on the bench press. You will only look silly.

If you can only lift 10 lbs, you can only lift 10 lbs. There’s no shame in starting where you are. I recall when I began working with a personal trainer several years ago, on my first attempt at doing a barbell shoulder press, I could only lift a 7-lb bar with no weight on it. My shoulders were very weak because I’d never trained them. But within a few months I was up to 60 lbs.

Similarly, if you’re very undisciplined right now, you can still use what little discipline you have to build more. The more disciplined you become, the easier life gets. Challenges that were once impossible for you will eventually seem like child’s play. As you get stronger, the same weights will seem lighter and lighter.

Don’t compare yourself to other people. It won’t help. You’ll only find what you expect to find. If you think you’re weak, everyone else will seem stronger. If you think you’re strong, everyone else will seem weaker. There’s no point in doing this. Simply look at where you are now, and aim to get better as you go forward.

Suppose you want to develop the ability to do 8 solid hours of work each day, since you know it will make a real difference in your career. You may assume that an average office worker spends 37% of their time in idle socializing, not to mention other vices that chew up more than 50% of work time with unproductive non-work. So the
re’s plenty of room for improvement.

Perhaps you try to work a solid 8-hour day without succumbing to distractions, and you can only do it once. The next day you fail utterly. That’s OK. You did one rep of 8 hours. Two is too much for you. So cut back a bit. What duration would allow you to successfully do 5 reps (i.e. a whole week)? Could you work with concentration for one hour a day, five days in a row? If you can’t do that, cut back to 30 minutes or whatever you can do. If you succeed (or if you feel that would be too easy), then increase the challenge (i.e. the resistance).

Once you’ve mastered a week at one level, take it up a notch the next week. And continue with this progressive training until you’ve reached your goal.

While analogies like this are never perfect, I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of this one. By raising the bar just a little each week, you stay within your capabilities and grow stronger over time. But when doing weight training, the actual work you do doesn’t mean anything. There’s no intrinsic benefit in lifting a weight up and down — the benefit comes from the muscle growth. However, when building self-discipline, you also get the benefit of the work you’ve done along the way, so that’s even better. It’s great when your training produces something of value AND makes you stronger.

Throughout this week we’ll dive more deeply into the five pillars of self-discipline. If you have any questions on the subject of self-discipline (either specific or general) that you’d like to see addressed, feel free to post them as comments, and I do my best to incorporate them along the way.

The first of the five pillars of self-discipline is acceptance. Acceptance means that you perceive reality accurately and consciously acknowledge what you perceive.

This may sound simple and obvious, but in practice it’s extremely difficult. If you experience chronic difficulties in a particular area of your life, there’s a strong chance that the root of the problem is a failure to accept reality as it is.

Why is acceptance a pillar of self-discipline? The most basic mistake people make with respect to self-discipline is a failure to accurately perceive and accept their present situation. If you’re going to succeed at weight training, the first step is to figure out what weights you can already lift. How strong are you right now? Until you figure out where you stand right now, you cannot adopt a sensible training program.

If you haven’t consciously acknowledged where you stand right now in terms of your level of self-discipline, it’s highly unlikely that you’re going to improve at all in this area. Imagine a would-be bodybuilder who has no idea how much weight s/he can lift and arbitrarily adopts a training routine. It’s virtually certain that the chosen weights will be either too heavy or too light. If the weights are too heavy, the trainee won’t be able to lift them at all and thus will experience no muscle growth. And if the weights are too light, the trainee will lift them easily but won’t build any muscle in doing so.

Similarly, if you want to increase your self-discipline, you must know where you stand right now. How strong is your discipline at this moment? Which challenges are easy for you, and which are virtually impossible for you?

Here’s a list of challenges to get you thinking about where you stand right now. If you take them seriously and fix up your priorities to implement, you will see the change in your life.

  • Do you shower/bathe every day?
  • Do you get up at the same time every morning? Including weekends?
  • Are you overweight?
  • Do you have any addictions (caffeine, nicotine, sugar, etc.) you’d like to break but haven’t?
  • Is your email inbox empty right now?
  • Is your office neat and well organized?
  • Is your home neat and well organized?
  • How much time do you waste in a typical day? On a weekend?
  • If you make a promise to someone, what’s the percentage chance you’ll keep it?
  • If you make a promise to yourself, what’s the percentage chance you’ll keep it?
  • Could you fast for one day?
  • How well organized is your computer’s hard drive?
  • How often do you exercise?
  • What’s the greatest physical challenge you’ve ever faced, and how long ago was it?
  • How many hours of focused work do you complete in a typical workday?
  • How many items on your to do list are older than 90 days?
  • Do you have clear, written goals? Do you have written plans to achieve them?
  • If you lost your job, how much time would you spend each day looking for a new one, and how long would you maintain that level of effort?
  • How much TV do you currently watch? Could you give up TV for 30 days?
  • How do you look right now? What does your appearance say about your level of discipline (clothes, grooming, etc)?
  • Do you primarily select foods to eat based on health considerations or on taste/satiety?
  • When was the last time you consciously adopted a positive new habit? Discontinued a bad habit?
  • Are you in debt? Do you consider this debt an investment or a mistake?
  • Did you decide in advance to be reading this blog right now, or did it just happen?
  • Can you tell me what you’ll be doing tomorrow? Next weekend?
  • On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your overall level of self-discipline?
  • What more could you accomplish if you could answer that last question with a 9 or 10?
Be Happy – Be Disciplined.

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