It took me many years to realise that discipline is not a dirty word, that discipline is the true key to success, all of the other success factors will not work without discipline.
Believe me I fought hard against this fact for many years. Stubbornly I wanted to do it my way. I have always hated to be told what to do, a trait I am reminded of daily with my teenage son. I fought hard against the norm and status quo. I spat in the face of tradition, thinking its followers were lacking in both intelligence and creativity. But I finally realised that my struggle was against myself that there are times when we need to follow the crowd and do what countless others have used to be successful.
It all starts with making the right decision, having the right goal…
When you set a clear goal that you know is right for you, it is easier to employ self discipline to achieve it. If you choose to run a marathon, it is very clear with the right training plan what you need to do to achieve that goal. If you choose to start a business, get healthy or be a nicer person, these goals are a little more open to interpretation and unless you get specific about what exactly that means to you, you are less likely to be successful with your goal. When setting goals be clear about what it is you are striving for and then break it down into the steps necessary to achieve the goal. After doing this it will be easier to track and reach the goal.
Create the right habits
When you decide on the goal, and after making sure that goal is something that feels right for you and you have the capacity and motivation to achieve it, you will need to break down the goal into monthly, weekly and daily habits that will support you to achieve it. When you create habits it takes the daily decision making away from you. It makes it easier to do what you have to do because you have already made the decision in advance. Decision making tires your brain. When we use our brain power with one activity our mental capacity may be hindered in another activity, related or not. When we create habits we take this load off the brain and allow our brain to focus on solving serious problems being creative or more strategic.
Acknowledge that it’s going to be uncomfortable
To reach a goal chances are you are going to have to do things differently that you have before. This will probably mean stepping outside your comfort zone, and we all know what happens there! When we step outside our comfort zone we step into a zone of discomfort, it’s a place where we have to stretch ourselves, do things that we wouldn’t normally do. It is usually a scary and uncomfortable place but we also know that outside our comfort zone is the place where the magic happens.
Psychologist Aisling Curtin of Act Now says that “the key to long-term sustainable success and breaking outside of our comfort zone is to learn to identify when we need to move and we we need to stand still.” Aisling promotes 5 minute activities to help people break out of their comfort zone, but if you have decided you are going for your goal then you need to put that comfort zone in the rear view mirror and muster the discipline to do what it takes to reach that magical zone of success.
Don’t question the process
When you set your goal and work out the steps or plan that is going to get you there don’t spend time questioning the plan. Now of course there may be the odd occasion where the plan you have laid out for yourself needs tweaking or an event in your life might steer you in a different direction but in general if you have decided on good information that this is what is required to reach your goal then do it. In order to write a book, perhaps you have decided you need to write 1,000 words a day, then you need to write 1,000 words a day. When you start to give yourself leeway on how many words you need to write or skip today and write 2,000 tomorrow you are setting yourself up for a big fall. Trust the decision you made at the beginning, don’t allow your brain to sabotage your plans by telling you it’s not such a great idea and have the discipline to see it through.
Overcoming the bad days
There will be days when you are too tired, too lazy or full of self pity to follow through but these are the days that you need to be strong. These are the days that you need to find that strength inside to overcome the negative self talk, when your brain is screaming at you to take a break, to skip today, and get back to it tomorrow.
Take note: these are the traps, these are the obstacles your brain will throw your way to avoid the discomfort and resist the change. Recognise this and fight back. Just for today continue with your habit, do your training, your writing, your healthy eating and if you still need a break tomorrow take it tomorrow. Win today’s battle and feel that sense of pride and accomplishment that you had the mental strength to say no, I don’t need to skip this session I value myself too much for that.
Immediate Gratification vs Long term success
The biggest challenge will be to put off the immediate gratification in order to see the long term success.
Tim Urban of waitbutwhy.com says that we all have an instant gratification monkey that hijacks our rational decision making brain and makes us do enjoyable things that actually turn out to be not so enjoyable because they are shrouded in guilt! When we stay focused on the end goal we are more likely to be able ot banish the instant gratification monkey and do what we need to do stay focused on the long term goal, keep your goals close by to remind yourself of what and why?
Let NASA launch you towards your goals
Before letting your brain coax you off track, try our Mel Robbin’s 5 second rule. Mel explains that she was a terrible procrastinator and her habits were having a very negative effect on her life. One morning while lying in bed, pressing the snooze button she saw a NASA launch on the TV and as they did the countdown she did it in her head.
Everytime you hesitate when you know you should be doing something start counting backwards from 5. According to Robbins the rule is a proven form of metacognition. When you use it you will shift mental gears, avoid over thinking and wake up your pre frontal cortex which will make change easier.
Remember that discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment, stick with it, not only will you reach all your goals and dreams but you will be among a group of elite humans who have a rare strength to overcome their sabotaging mind and stay focused on their success.
If you have any other ideas for being disciplined with your goals please share your experience and let us know.