Self Discipline; The art of doing something you don't want to (but you know is good for you)

Sounds great, right? Exactly what most of us could do with. The perfect tool for those life goals. Now, we could all do with being a little more self disciplined at times, “Ok, just one more chocolate..”, but when it comes to reaching a long term goal, it is crucial.

Self discipline doesn’t happen overnight unfortunately, but it can be practised and built up everyday to help you reach any goal you set out for yourself. Here are some ways you can get started:

1. Know where you’re likely to slip up

When it comes to discipline, a hard conversation with yourself is often needed to establish where your weaknesses are. What the things that are really likely to stand in your way. By doing so, you can start to put solutions in place to help you through when temptation arises. For instance, if you think you spend too much time on social media, you can install apps to help monitor and reduce your usage. If you can’t resist a coffee and bagel from that nice little bakery on the way to work, plan to go a different way and avoid walking past all together.

2. Understand the reasons you’re doing it

You want it or you think you want it? You are more likely to put in the hard work to reach your goals if you’re doing it for yourself. The fear of missing out (FOMO) could be the reason you are working so hard and  not reaching a particular goal. If you’re trying to get a promotion just because a family member has just had one, or trying to save because your friend is, you may find it harder to reach the goal. Try a little JOLO instead (joy of missing out) and ensure that any goal you set out to achieve, is set because you want it.

3. Establish a clear plan

Having a plan means you can see the way, which will make the journey seem a little easier. Start by writing down your goal and be specific, instead of saying ‘exercise more’ say ‘exercise for 30 minutes 3 times a week’. Instead of saying ‘save money’ say ‘say £5,000 towards my first home deposit’ and then write the steps to get there. Once you understand the steps, you can start to build routines to help your willpower and get into good habits - Perhaps you could get off the tube early and walk the rest of the way to work or make a payment into a savings account regularly, then you could log progress to see how you’re getting on compared to your plan. Self discipline means doing it even when you don’t want to, so ensuring you have an umbrella when it rains on your way to work or automating a payment to your savings will help you push through and stick to your plan.

4. Distract yourself when temptation arises

In the famous Stanford marshmallow experiment, children were given a marshmallow and told if they didn’t eat it, they could have two later. Most of the children who managed to resist eating the marshmallow distracted themselves. If you find yourself a situation that may lead to temptation, employ a method of distraction. Leave the situation and go and do something else, watch a YouTube video, call a friend, anything to take your mind off the temptation. In the experiment, the children simply closed their eyes so they couldn’t see the marshmallow!

5. Picture your long term goal

All through the process, remind yourself why you are doing it. In a moment of weakness, build self discipline by picturing what it is you want to achieve. You could keep a picture on your phone, create a mood board or simply keep the imagine in your mind, but the constant reminder of why you are doing it, should help see you through the more difficult moments.

Whatever your goal is, building self discipline is a great way to get there. Perhaps you don’t have a clear goal at the moment, you could still put some of these methods in place and begin to build your self discipline so when you decide what you want, you’ll be ready.

Michaela Regan

Michaela is the Head of Communications at StepLadder and is passionate about helping people be at their best!

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