Discipline seems to be an ever elusive, constantly sought after skill for a lot of people. Doing a Google search on the subject brings up a crapload of articles, books, videos, and websites about how to develop self-discipline. There are an abundance of theories out there about the best way to aquire this skill. While it’s great that there are so many tips and tricks to get there, I think a lot of people struggle with one main issue, as I once did.
Because self-discipline is so hard to develop (not complicated, just hard), I think people are looking for that magic little trick or 10 step program that will make the whole process easy and turn them into self-disciplined machines overnight. This was definitely the case for me. I spent a lifetime searching for a way to become disciplined RIGHT. FRICKING. NOW. I figured because it was so hard, it must also be complicated. There must be some complex formula involving unicorns and quantum physics that is applied to be successful in the art of self-discipline. Shockingly, this is not the case.
As it turns out, there’s one fool proof way to develop self-discipline. Are you ready for this ground breaking, revolutionary information? Here it is: Practice it every day. Seriously. It really is that simple.
Whatever it is you’re trying to develop discipline in – exercise, writing, meditation, whatever – schedule it, plan for it, and make it an absolute non-negotiable in your daily activities.
At first it will suck. A lot. It may make you uncomfortable. It may make you angry. It may frustrate you. Do it anyways, even for just a short period of time. I remember when I started working out every day. I freakin hated it. I dreaded it. It made me wildly uncomfortable. But I did it. Thirty minutes every day. And before long, I actually started looking forward to it. It became a habit – something I didn’t even have to think about.
James Altucher wrote a kick ass article about little changes every day. So much truth and so much simplicity. He talks about improving just a little every day. 1%. It’s not a lot, but it compounds. Nobody changes drastically overnight. It takes time. But not as much as you might think. And like I said, the beginning is always the hardest and the worst. But when that passes and you can look back a week, a month, a year, and see consistent progress? My god, is it ever encouraging. This is what motivates you to keep going. You just have to get the ball rolling. Get started. Do the thing. Every day.
One of the best and the shittiest parts about being an adult is that no one is there to make you do things you don’t want to do. Yes we have bosses. Yes we have to answer to our families to some extent. But it’s not like when we were kids and had parents making us do homework and chores and run errands with them and go to bed at a certain time. As adults, we create the life we want. We choose what we do and don’t do every day. We are 100% responsible for the life we have, good or bad.
We are the ones who decide what’s important and what we’re going to fill our days with. We choose our priorities and build our habits, good and bad. Now you may be tempted to throw down some excuses and some blame. ‘You don’t know my life’, you say. True. But I do know that no matter who you’re married to, how many jobs you have, how much weight you have to lose, how poor you are, I can find someone out there who had it tougher and still found it in themselves to overcome and do the thing every day until they got where they wanted. It’s totally your call. You can stay where you’re at, make your excuses, live in your comfort zone, and place your blame or you can take responsibility for your life and find out what you’re really made of.
The exceptionally cool part about practicing self-discipline in your life is that once you establish it in one area, it tends to spill over into other areas and it becomes an easier and easier habit to build every time. The more areas you apply it to in your life, the more powerful and successful you become, which in turn motivates and inspires you to push yourself and go after what you want.
I will offer a word of warning here: for the love of god, don’t try to completely overhaul your entire life in one fell swoop. It will overwhelm and frustrate you to no end. Trust me, I speak from experience. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve become inspired by some great book/article/video and immediately turned around and applied the principles to every component in my life that I was dissatisfied with. I failed miserably every single time and gave up altogether because it’s just too much discomfort, too much change, too much too soon.
The key is to start with one thing you want to develop discipline for then do that one thing every single day. Once that becomes a habit, pick something else and giddyup. Before long, you will kicking ass and taking names, unable to recognize the person you used to be.
What are you waiting for?