How to Create Self-discipline (Hint: Create a Habit Instead)

“Self-discipline is the magic power that makes you virtually unstoppable.”

–Anonymous
  • How many more things would you do, if only for a little more self-discipline?
  • What are you be willing to do for a constant source of self-discipline?
  • How many times have you regretted not having the “self-discipline” to follow through on an important task or goal?

Keep reading. Self-discipline is as close as:

  • your willingness to declare a goal that is meaningful to you, then
  • create a habit related to it.

After I got a coach and wrote my first manuscript, I realized writing a book is actually pretty simple.

As Jeff Goins says:

“It isn’t hard, but it does require discipline.”

–Jeff Goins

How many “difficult” things in life are difficult, really only because they require discipline?

In fact, writing a book isn’t hard… There are numerous books and experts on the subject. (One good example is linked below.) Basically, you write an outline, then write the content for each element of the outline. When you’re done with the content, you have a manuscript! After a few rounds of editing, you have a book!

The really hard part about writing a book is just sitting down often enough to actually finish it. Once you’ve got the outline, the writing is actually fairly easy.

With that understanding as a foundation, I realized that writing a book, like most other sustainable creative pursuits, is more about habit than herculean effort.

Writing a book is a habit, not a monumental effort.

“All things are difficult before they are easy.”

–Thomas Fuller

Thomas Fuller: photo by By David Loggan - National Portrait Gallery: NPG D20295, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=884269
Thomas Fuller was an English churchman and historian who lived in the 17th century.

Few things are really all that difficult, if we are willing to just keep working at them.

In this way, the wage-culture around the world is very useful: most people really need the money on an ongoing basis, and many have been trained their whole life to go work for someone else to get that money.

On the flip side, some other people and companies have been trained to harness all that available labor to get big results over time. 

By showing up for the paycheck every day, workers devote their discipline, and their lives, to other people’s goals, and they accomplish far bigger things than they might otherwise.

They apply the habit of just showing up and doing what they’re told. As a result, they produce results.

By harnessing all this available labor, employers and companies deliver big results on an ongoing basis.

Habits can trap you, or be your salvation.

The habits of our parents become our own (because they train us — or leave us to train ourselves or be trained by others — in our daily living habits).

  • Some peoples’ parents train them to go to work for someone else.
  • Other peoples’ parents train them to hire other people and use the available labor.

In adulthood, the spouses, social networks, and the jobs we choose reinforce the lifestyles and habits we have been developing since childhood.

It becomes impossible to change the trajectory of our lives until we take on a level of self-discipline that can literally overcome the inertia of our entire lives, which is constantly reinforced by the inertia of our friends’ and family’s patterns.

Self-discipline is nothing more than the application of habit.

Just as the would-be author cannot complete a book if s/he won’t sit down regularly to write, none of us can carry out a big plan if we don’t apply ourself to it regularly.

We fail to achieve most big plans because we fail to create the habit of following through.

Sometimes, we believe “self-discipline” is what happens when we force ourselves (or others) to do something we wouldn’t otherwise do. We force a result that wouldn’t happen otherwise.

Unfortunately, we can’t sustain this approach. We can’t rely on temporary force to create a sustainable, long-term change. Once we let up and stop applying the force, people and processes return to their former comfort zones.

For example:

  • Many people are able to starve themselves to weight loss, but are unable to use that approach to sustain their goal weight long-term.
  • Some people are able to “cram” for a test or complete an essay in the night before it’s due, but we will likely have difficulty at some point in our education, because eventually the tests and projects get big enough they can’t possibly be completed overnight.
  • We may be able to “force” a result by bowling over our family or workgroup, but this ends up not being sustainable due to the failure by others to accept the result, their grudging cooperation and sometimes passive aggressive undermining of it.

Most “difficult” undertakings are difficult because the required work is assigned to someone who’s incapable (or uninterested).

With application and skills development, these identical initiatives become possible. Assigned to the right individuals, they’re downright easy (or, at least, achievable).

Alternatively, if we identify people who have the skills, capacity, and desire to perform a role, there’s little to do after we enlist them in the endeavor… but that’s the next lesson…

Practice

As you consider the vision you previously created, assess the following in writing, and put the results in your PowerBoard:

  • Which elements of your current life keep you in your current situation (or hold you back from achieving your vision)?
  • Which elements of you current life, if changed, would have the biggest impact on achieving your vision?
  • What one action could you take today to begin delivering on one element of your vision?

Reflect

Answer these questions in writing, and put the result in your PowerBoard.

  • What was most useful for you here?
  • Write one thing you learned that you did not previously know.
  • What one idea can you put to use immediately?

Results

You now have one more action you can take to move your initiative forward, and you have one more technique on your PowerBoard you can put to use in all areas of your life.

More Information

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Hi, I’m Dylan Cornelius.
I was passed over for promotions four times in three years, every time passed over by a peer. My marriage was a wreck. I was obese and my doctor threatened to medicate me if I didn’t lose weight.
When I calculated the per-hour value of my overtime at work, the additional money in my bonus didn’t justify the costs to my health, relationships, and personal satisfaction.
After five years of hearing me complain, my brother told me to stop complaining or do something about it. I was stunned that it had been so long.
After a long and expensive search, I realized the quality of my relationships was poor and I wasn’t taking care of other people or myself.
When I committed to creating fantastic relationships and high-performing teams in every area of my life that mattered, my life transformed.
I was promoted. Now I’m picked to lead teams and frequently thanked for my contribution.
While my marriage didn’t survive, I met an amazing woman who trained me for my first two marathons, and now I do triathlons for fun. I lost 50 pounds and controlled my diet, allergies, and autoimmunity.
Now my “Honey Bunny” and I tour for weeks at a time on a tandem bike. Soon, we’ll cross countries and continents.
I created a Team Acceleration Blueprint based on my personal development journey and decades of education and experience building and leading teams at some of the best universities and companies on the planet.
I believe the world can work for everyone. It starts with clarity of purpose, fantastic relationships, and high-performing teams. I intend to help 10,000 people create an unfair advantage and achieve results they didn’t believe were possible too.

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