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I have some good news: self-discipline is not an innate trait. Meaning it’s not something you either have or you don’t; it’s a skill that you can develop.
Tell me if this happens to you: you want to do something but you just don’t feel like doing it a lot of the time.
Disciplined people have learned one thing others haven’t: don’t wait until you “feel like it.”
A common misconception is that disciplined people must somehow feel like doing things more than others do and it simply isn’t true.
I want to share 6 practical ways you can develop self-discipline.
1. Go to Bed Early
I’m a night owl. I don’t like going to bed early. I don’t like waking up early. There’s nothing fun about leaving a warm bed. I don’t like leaving a warm bed and nobody does, but I like the person I am when I do.
I always did my best work at night. At least, that’s what I always told myself because I didn’t like getting up early. Then I decided to put it to the test. I logged my output. I kept track of how productive I was in the morning and the results were astounding. I got nearly twice as much work done when I woke up early in the morning.
Going to bed early and waking up early isn’t all about that productivity, although I think you will be more productive if you wake up early. It’s also about taking control of the day and saying, “I’m going to tell this day how it’s going to operate. I’m going to say how I perform on this day. I’m not going to let this day tell me.”
If you want to wake up early, you have to start the night before. You can’t get less sleep—you have to go to bed earlier. A successful morning routine starts the night before.
2. Remove Temptations
Temptations are things that are going to steal your focus and pull you away from what you should be doing. You have to prevent and preempt those. It’s not just this reactionary thing where a temptation comes and you have to fight it, but you also want to prevent against them.
Proactively, you want to construct an environment that’s going to be free of temptations or at least have minimal temptations. Prepare ahead of time to eliminate those distractions, but also work on fighting those temptations, and recognizing the triggers that may cause you to lose focus.
3. Don’t Wait Until You “Feel Like It.” Schedule It.
Developing a good habit means doing things that you don’t feel like doing and doing things that you don’t want to do. Rather than start with saying, “I will do this when I feel like it,” start with a commitment.
Make a commitment to show up every day. It has to be on your schedule. It has to be a thing that you do because it’s on your schedule, not because it’s something you feel like doing.
You’re not going to start with feelings all the time.
Sometimes you’ll be inspired and you’ll have the feelings to do something, but it’s not always going to start with inspiration. It’s not always going to start with motivation.
On the times where you are not motivated, you need to start with a commitment. You need to do because the motivation is going to come after you start doing.
4. Acknowledge the Difficulties and Make a Choice
A lot of people half-heartedly commit to something because they like the idea of having done it. They like the idea of completing it or thinking about the results they’ll get, and the problem is they haven’t been realistic with the difficulties involved with actually getting there.
Let’s be honest here: if it was easy, you would already be doing it.
If you want to work out, you have to acknowledge that you’re going to feel sore.
If you want to wake up early, you have to acknowledge that you’re going to feel tired in the beginning.
If you want to show up consistently, you have to acknowledge that you’re going to make sacrifices.
5. Get Around People Who Have Self Discipline
There are three groups of people:
- People who are self-disciplined.
- People who want to be self-disciplined.
- People who don’t know and they don’t care.
If you’re in group #2 you want to get around group #1. You want to get around people who are self-disciplined because that’s going to rub off on you.
6. Understand the Importance of Self Respect
If someone you respect asks you to do something, are you going to do it? Of course you are, because you respect them.
If you ask yourself to do something or you make a commitment, are you going to follow through? If not, you’re lacking self-respect. It’s a deeper issue than just self-discipline.
Self-discipline comes from self respect.