Strengthening the Self Discipline Muscle

Self discipline as defined by dictionary.com is “discipline and training of oneself, usually for improvement.”   Over the years, I have given my self discipline muscle quite a workout from not sleeping to giving up foods, to pushing thru short term chaos to reach a long term goal.

Really self discipline is doing what needs to be done to done to accomplish a goal.  It is not allowing excuses, inconveniences, a social calendar, laziness, food, friends, family, fear, money, short term want, sleep, tv, work, school, negative talk, alcohol, drugs, playing with puppies (or kittens or horses or whatever animal is your time killing Achilles heel), watching Star Trek, playing video games, fun, or anything stop you from achieving your end goal.

My experience with self-discipline

I have worked for years on strengthening my self discipline.  I graduated high school at 16, college at 20 (even with losing a year because my credits from a school did not transfer) while volunteering and working full time.  I have gone for days without sleep – programming all day, saving lives via EMS all night only to head right back to programming all day.  I have become a vegetarian, a vegan, and now a raw food vegan.  I quit my job and moved across the country in under 2 weeks.  I have written 2 complete novels and started a website.  And this is just the short list.  So I thought I would share some tips on how to up your self discipline.

Self discipline is easier if it is fun.

Not everything can be fun, but most things can be.  When you pick a goal, pick one you are passionate about and find a way to accomplish it while having fun.  If the goal is not desirable enough to be fun or you cant find a way to make the process amusing then maybe it is not a good goal for you.

If your goal is become more fit, it would be silly to say you are going to walk for 2 hours a day if you dislike walking.  Perhaps try taking up a sport (I recently found racquetball and love it), swimming with friends, hiking, walking on the beach, and listening to music or audio books or podcasts while working out.

When I became raw, one of the fun things I did was to buy around 10 new raw vegan uncookbooks.  For someone who dislikes cooking, this would not be ideal, but for me, I love to create beautiful food that people love to eat.  And even more, I love to try and sneak raw vegan food to omnivores and see if they can tell and see if they like it.  One more then one occasion, people loved it and had no idea what they were eating was raw and vegan.

If you are not having fun maybe you need to reevaluate your goal or how you are getting to your goal.

Give yourself measurable mini steps to the end goal

If your end goal is to write a book, each chapter can be a goal and cause for celebration.  Giving yourself a clear path of attainable steps makes the end result not look so far away.

Recently, I had been up almost all night entertaining some friends for a game night.  I knew I had to be up and at the famers market to get groceries for some new awesome recipe I was trying.  I was going on about an hour of sleep, and I still got up and went to the farmers market.  After I had gotten 20 pounds of sweet potatoes and other veggies, I was 3 blocks from the car when I miss stepped and twisted my ankle.

Each step to the car was very painful, but I focused on taking one step at a time.  I did not think of the 3 more blocks I had to go to make it to my car, the drive home, and having to get inside to my bed with an ice pack.  I thought only of each step.  I did not give myself the option to sit down because it would be significantly harder to start walking again after a break.

If I really had thought about everything I had to do to get home, it would have been much more difficult because the anticipation of the pain would have been overwhelming.   For anyone wondering, now, 2 plus weeks later, my ankle is still swollen and bruised but I am doing much better.  :)

If looking to the future is too overwhelming with enormity of work that needs to be done, then don’t do it.  Look at the next step, then take it. Then do that again, and again.  Before you know it, you will have climbed to the top.

If this is new for you, go easy on yourself

If you self discipline ability is weak, it probably is not in your best interest to set a goal that requires extreme self discipline.

Set reasonable expectations and steps and make them.

If you don’t get up early, and you have never had a regular workout schedule, saying you are going to get up at 5am and head to the gym 7 days a week might be too much.  Perhaps joining a league sport, or taking a walk during lunch to start out or just trying to go 3 times per week.

Don’t give yourself an excuse

If you set a goal, do what needs to be done to attain it.  Every time you make an excuse, it becomes easier to make an excuse and not do what you want to do again.

Recently I went raw – no cooked food for me anymore (at least for 100 days).  Sometimes it is very tempting to want to eat something cooked, but if I give in, then it pretty much invalidates the experiment I am trying to do and then I will have to start over.  My solution is I don’t think about it.  I pretend other food does not exist.  If it does not exist, I can not eat it.

The first time you lie to someone, it becomes easier to lie to them each time until you may not even know you are lying.  If you never get on the slippery slope, it is easier not to slip.

An excuse, any excuse – fear, work, family, etc- is the real enemy.

Sometimes it helps to imagine that you don’t want someone else to be right to push though the excuse.  For example, sometimes when I am doing a strenuous hike, and I want to take a break but my time goal or workout goal does not fit with a break at that point, I can picture other people with me.  I am competitive enough that if I had other people with me, I would not admit to wanting to stop.

Also, you can picture how wonderful your end result it.  The body you want, the life you want, the financial freedom you want.

A 30-day trial works well too.  When I was in college and doing an insane schedule of 24 credits (upper division), working full time, and volunteering, my Auntie told me, me this, “It is 16 weeks.  That is all.  You can do anything for 16 weeks.  Then it will be over.”  The same idea applies to a 30 day trial.  It is 30 days.  You can do almost anything for 30 days – workout, eat a specific way, write everyday, talk to a new person per day, etc.  And at the end of the 30 days, you have an idea if your end goal you want is worth it, and if you want to continue.

The good news is:

The stronger your self discipline muscle the easier it is to harder tasks.  The more you do, the easier it becomes. When I started college, a 5 page paper was a lot.  It took a lot for me to accomplish that.  However, at the end of college, I did not break a sweat for a 25-page paper.  My first novel, I took chapter by chapter, my next one was easier, my 3rd one even easier to sit down and write it all out.

Just do it

I am not saying it is easy, growth often is not.  Changing life long habits is not typically easy.  But the time is going to pass anyway, wouldn’t you enjoy it more if in a year you were in a different place because you accomplished your goals?  If not, then you probably want to reexamine your goals.

So, put one foot in front of the other.  Takes the steps, to make your dreams come true.

Self discipline is one of the key differences between ordinary results and extraordinary ones.  I would rather be extraordinary.  How about you?

Adrienne :)

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3 Responses to “Strengthening the Self Discipline Muscle”

  1. [...] think it is great to strengthen and grow you self discipline muscle.  However, there is a limit – a fine line between going good for you and making a questionable [...]

  2. A good post please keep it up thanks

  3. Adrienne says:

    Thanks Grady!

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