self-discipline

Lacking Self-Discipline? 5 Ways to Develop It and Reach Your Goals

Americans are known to overeat, abuse credit cards, marinate for hours in social media, and break New Year’s resolutions before the end of January. Self-discipline doesn’t seem to be a national strength.

And achieving self-discipline – and the success that can come with it – may never have been harder than it is in this instant-gratification age.

Self-discipline is an undervalued trait in a modern society that wants everything now. Self-discipline is the ability to motivate and coordinate our efforts to improve our quality of life, but unfortunately most people are not taught it.

It is, however, a skill that everyone can learn. Self-discipline is the skill that will allow you to reach any goal you set.

Here are five ways to develop self-discipline:

Be aware of your resistance. Resistance is the biggest obstacle to developing self-discipline, and it often comes in the form of discouraging internal self-talk such as, “I can’t do it” or “Why should I have to change?” The next time you embark on a new project that causes resistance, fight it by asserting or writing down your intended goal and the benefits it will bring.

I can do it.

Plan for every outcome. Plans go awry when people let excuses get in the way. An example is having a goal of running in the morning for 30 minutes, but you have bailouts such as it’s raining, cold, or you don’t feel like it. Developing self-discipline is recognizing and planning for these self-created obstacles and actively choosing to work through them. So when you set a goal to achieve, have chart in place listing “Even ifs.” List the potential obstacles to achieving your goal and counter each one with a promise to yourself that you’ll achieve your goal even if these challenges arise.

Prepare to give something up in order to gain. Compile a list of the pros and cons of sacrificing for a certain goal. To reach your goal, you will more than likely have to impose certain limitations on yourself in order to gain something. These limitations could be less free time, socializing, money or television. The upside is that seeing the rewards of the sacrifice on the pros list will keep you motivated and disciplined.

Reward yourself with self-compensation. Rewards are an incredibly powerful tool for motivating yourself to reach your goals. Consider them the carrot on the stick. Have a reward in place for when you achieve a goal or part of a goal, and make sure it’s appropriate.

Break your goal down into manageable steps. If you break your goal down into bite-sized steps, you’re much more likely to stay disciplined enough to complete every sub-goal. Each step accomplished gives you an encouraging boost. Consider using SMART goals — specific, measurable, attractive, realistic, timed. This makes the goal more definitive and puts the steps in tangible action.

Self-discipline includes structured planning, organization, delayed gratification, and the willingness to step outside your comfort zone. These things can appear scary, but don’t worry, you’re not alone. And once you take the first step, you have ventured onto a beautiful path that offers many rewards.

Dr. Rob Carter III and Dr. Kirti Salwe Carter are co-authors of The Morning Mind: Use Your Brain to Master Your Day and Supercharge Your Life (www.themorningmind.com). Rob Carter is a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army, an expert in human performance and physiology, and has academic appointments in emergency medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, in public health and health sciences at Los Angeles Pacific University, and in nutrition at the University of Maryland, University College. He holds a PhD in biomedical sciences and medical physiology and an MPH in chronic disease epidemiology.

Kirti Carter was born in Pune, India, and received her medical education in India, where she practiced as an intensive-care physician before moving to Texas to complete postgraduate training in public health. She is a Fellow of the American Institute of Stress (FAIS), has more than 18 years of experience in meditation and breathing techniques, and has been facilitating wellness seminars for the past decade.

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