Success Begins with Self‑Discipline
A lot of people who know me will tell you I’m hard on myself. The truth is I’m self-disciplined. I live a disciplined life. It’s not a form of self-imposed restriction or punishment. It’s simply how I choose to live — to be effective at what I do and to be healthy and happy. Studies prove that self-control (a pre-requisite of self-discipline) is positively related to wellbeing and happiness.
I follow the same routine and do the same tasks every day, waking up at the crack of dawn, doing my yoga and meditation to get off to a positive start, attending to my day’s work, getting some laughs with my family, colleagues, or pet dogs, eating simple plant-based meals. Of course, I have my self-indulgences — lying in till later than usual, skipping my daily practice, reaching out for a sweet treat midweek, or taking a day off from work. I am kind to myself when I need to be, as must you.
Self-discipline is especially important if you want to be successful at work. As an employer, I was able to witness to different approaches to self-discipline during the pandemic, as WFH necessitated more self-discipline than work from office. Some of my colleagues adapted with more ease than others, but everyone had to rejig their lives to build in greater degrees of self-discipline.
Beyond work, I can’t emphasize enough the importance of self-discipline in achieving your life’s goals. It gives you the ability to regulate your behavior and stick to your decisions. It helps avoid procrastination and enables positive, goal-oriented action. This, then, helps you achieve success in your goals related to health and wellbeing, work, and even relationships.
So, how can you develop self-discipline?
Self-discipline is about knowing yourself — your targets, deliverables, and deadlines, but also your goals, your ambitions, and your values. When we bear these in mind, we find it easier to resist the temptation of distractions — of that casual coffee with a friend in the middle of a work afternoon, or the couple of episodes of Netflix we might watch “in the background” while “working”. Self-awareness is encoded within the very idea of discipline.
Set realistic goals
Identify your goals. “I want to be more fit” or “I’m going to be more disciplined with my finances,” is not enough. You need to write down your specific goals; perhaps put them up on a piece of paper at a place you can see them every day.
Be mindful of choosing goals that are realistic and aligned to your priorities and abilities. Don’t imitate others; pick goals that are meaningful to you. That will help avoid frustration over not being able to achieve them. For instance, if you hate running, there’s no point committing to running a 10K in three months. Of course, you can train and get there, but give yourself enough time to achieve your goals.
Monitor your progress
So, you’ve set a goal — say of learning a new work skill or doing a handstand in 60 days. How do you ensure you stay on track? Self-monitor your progress by keeping a record of your wins, however small. If it’s a quantifiable goal, you could note down the numbers in a diary or your phone or computer; if its unquantifiable, take photos and videos. Measuring progress and being able to see how far you have come will help you remain committed.
Be kind to yourself
Breaking out of inertia or a longstanding habit and doing something new takes time — and motivation. Think positive. Stop telling yourself “I can’t do this” or “that’s not me”. Set your intent and visualize yourself having reached your goals — you can do this through meditation or by simply closing your eyes and drawing up vivid imagery of whatever it is you want. It is essential that you tell yourself a positive story.
Also, when you falter — which you may — don’t beat yourself up for perceived failures. Setbacks are part of the journey and should serve to help you course correct or redouble your efforts, not demotivate you. Pull yourself up and get back on track. Consistency is key.
Self-discipline is not about being tough on yourself to an extreme, sanctioning your shortcomings, and rewarding your successes: it’s about feeding your soul with a passion for learning and, beyond that, for personal growth.