Self discipline is a topic that comes up time and time again for me. Personally and with our clients. Particularly at this time of year when the children are off school and I want to manage my time in terms of how I can fit more in, still see them and get everything done that needs my attention. I know that I am better when in a routine and this time of year, that routine is thrown a bit.
Self discipline is often a topic that comes up in coaching or as a training request – though it’s usually called Time management or Personal organisation.
And actually it is not that complicated. Self-discipline is nothing more than a. It is your ability to self manage your own thoughts and actions, regardless of your emotional state. And it is something that EVERY successful person on this planet has had to develop at some point.
Just imagine for a second that your mind is like an untrained dog on a lead. Even though you may be holding the lead and you ‘feel’ like you have control, you will quickly realise how wild and unruly an untrained dog is… He will end up dragging YOU along, going wherever he’d like to go without any regard or concern for anyone else around him. The dog will just impulsively go where he wants…
The untrained mind acts the exact same way. Our minds will habitually seek out pleasurable experiences, avoid uncomfortable situations, and continually ‘trick’ us into giving it what it wants. If we don’t learn to train the mind, the mind will always have control over us… We will fall into the trap of living life on a lead and not achieve our full potential.
A trained mind is essential for anyone who is looking to grow and become a more effective, more powerful human being. And I’ll be the first to admit… I wasn’t born with a whole lot of self discipline. It’s something that I’ve had to consciously develop and work on for quite some time now. But my lack of self-discipline really became apparent when I entered into the world of entrepreneurship.
As an entrepreneur, I had no one telling me what to do, when to do it, or how to structure my workday. I was completely on my own, I had no one looking over my shoulder, and I was accountable to no one but myself. This was a major challenge for me because I was used to the discipline of working in a large corporate organisation and having a managed diary and day with a big team to do things. Over time, I have had to learn this skill of self discipline… It’s not always an easy one, but it is absolutely necessary. Without self discipline, there is no structure, no routine, no habits… And success is ultimately a HABIT.
Become a conscious observer of your thoughts
First and foremost, you have to learn the skill of mind observation. Most people are so consumed by the thoughts in their head, that they don’t even question them! They take everything to be true and let the ‘untrained dog’ blindly lead them. So it’s critical that you create some space between your thoughts and the observation of your thoughts. Spend some time observing your mind. You can take mental notes or even keep record with a journal, but just make it a point to start observing your thoughts throughout the day.
What you will most likely find is that your mind is quite unruly! It is constantly jumping around from one thought to the next, and most of the thoughts that go through the mind are not even based in reality. The mind will seek to ‘get what it wants’ at any cost. When you learn to observe your thoughts, you will learn to take a bit of space before you automatically and unconsciously go along with the whims of your mind. You begin to become the observer of your mind. And from this place, you can start the practice of self discipline.
Create A Routine
Having a daily routine is a fundamental part of self discipline. This will lay the groundwork and create the infrastructure for massive productivity. When I get up in the morning, I make a cup of tea and take the dog for a walk to clear my head and plan the day ahead. If I am back before the family are up I sit down to work for a bit. Often I draft a blog entry or tweak our business plan. After that, I feel energized and ready to start my work day. This morning routine definitely helps me to start my day on the right track… And the days where this doesn’t happen, I feel a lot less organised and less productive. Having a daily routine is like driving with Satnav… You know exactly where to go!
Create A To-Do List
Being an entrepreneur can get quite distracting sometimes… With all of the information and entertainment out there on the web, it can be easy to get distracted and completely off track. This has happened to me numerous times… I’ll sit down to get some work done and before I know it, I’ve just spent hours responding to emails (other peoples priorities) and web surfing! So a great idea for cultivating more discipline throughout your work day is creating a to-do list. Start with the most important or most difficult activities first and check them off as you go. This will give you some clear direction and keep your level of productivity high.
One of the best practices for self discipline is delayed gratification. As children, we are taught to finish our chores and homework BEFORE we can go out and play. This same practice is incredibly effective for adults, too. Make it a point to reward yourself after a productive work day. You can pour a glass of wine, sit down with your favorite book, go out for a nice meal, or any other pleasurable activity that you enjoy. Just make sure you reward yourself AFTER you get your work done and only then.
Set Clearly Defined Goals with Deadlines
Initially you need to be very clear about why you want to become more self disciplined in the first place. What is your ultimate goal to which you are devoting your working life. Once you have that I would suggest starting out by creating a goal for the next 90 days. After that’s clearly defined, create a goal for the next 7 days… And then you can start setting very small, daily goals that go along with your to-do list. Review your goals everyday and this will keep you on the right track.
Persistence and Consistency
It’s not enough to practice self discipline one day and then forget about it the next. You have to stay consistent and make it a daily priority. Stay consistent for 30-60 days and your perseverance will transform into a habit. Once you consciously create an engrained habit, it will become so much easier for you to practice self-discipline…. It’ll just feel natural.
These are just a few ideas to get you started on the path towards true effectiveness, productivity, and success. When you train your mind and train your actions, you can then honestly say that you are ‘your own boss’! No one else can be your internal manager but you…even if you have a manager, he or she won’t have the time to get too involved in your work. So it’s your responsibility to step up to the plate and train yourself to become the empowered and successful person you know you can be!