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The Myth of Self-Discipline

Would you consider yourself a disciplined person? Why? Why not? I’ve found that most people believe they are either disciplined or they’re not.

They think they were somehow born a disciplined person or are that way because it is ingrained in them, something that was passed down from their ancestors and is fully out of their control.

Do you feel that way?

I think that must be a very helpless way to think.

Sadly, it seems that many people see themselves as part of the undisciplined group. They believe they lack the trait of being disciplined and have accepted this as part of their lives.

Today, I bring you good news in sharing that these beliefs are garbage!

You are not destined to be more or less disciplined than anyone else. Self-discipline is a learned quality, one in which your past does not equal or shed light on the outcomes that lie in your future.

The first step to improving your discipline is to understand the power and importance it holds. One of my favorite stories on this topic comes from Brian Tracy’s book, The Power of Discipline. In it, he writes about having lunch at a conference he attended in Washington DC. He unknowingly invited Kop Kopmeyer to sit at his table. When Kop introduced himself, Brian immediately recognized his name since he was well known in the field of achievement. He wrote four books, each of which had at least 250 principles about success from his more than fifty years of research. Brian asked Kop which principle he thought was the most important. Kop smiled, seeming familiar with the question, and answered,

“The most important success principle of all was stated by Thomas Huxley many years ago. He said, ‘Do what you should do, when you should do it, whether you feel like it or not’. . . .with self-discipline, the average person can rise as far and as fast as his talents and intelligence can take him. But without self-discipline, a person with every blessing of background, education and opportunity will seldom rise above mediocrity.”

Wow! How powerful! Hopefully, you are now sold on the idea that discipline is powerful and of great importance in your life.

Assuming you are, here are three simple steps we can all take to raise willpower and improve discipline:

  1. Personal changes in behavior must begin in the mind.
    Create the affirmation or belief that you are a disciplined individual, or at the very least, are becoming more of one each day. Watch your language in what you say to others and yourself. The things you say usually become self-realized truths. You may not find yourself on rooftops, shouting about your skills in discipline, but do try to share with those close around you that you are working on becoming more disciplined in life.
  2. Start with small victories.
    Momentum is an incredibly powerful thing. For the next three weeks, pick two goals that you would like to focus on. If you want to exercise six days per week for an hour, determine if that is a realistic goal for you—one that you’ll actually be able to follow through and complete. If it’s not, then commit to four 60-minute workouts or six 30-minute workouts instead. Don’t just say you’ll do them, either. Actually plug them into your calendar. Then, if you do a little more than you committed to, it becomes a bonus and something you can feel proud about.
  3. Celebrate those small victories.
    Take a minute to give yourself credit and acknowledge those things you’ve worked hard to achieve and do right. As humans, we often have no problem dishing out criticism to ourselves and others—especially when we fall short on goals. When we do this, it’s easy to begin to fall into the mindset that we are destined to fall short and fail and be “undisciplined.” Instead, take time each day to think through all of the moments from that day in which you practiced self-control and willpower. Fall asleep thinking about all of those successes, no matter how big or small, and let that self-fulfilling prophecy take over your mind.

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