I’ve been talking a lot about breaking out of your comfort zone to achieve your goals and dreams. Today, I’m tackling another way to get up and get going: self-discipline. Without self-discipline, it’s easy to get distracted from your goals and just coast through life. That may be fine for a little while, but coasting won’t take you where you want to go. Success takes commitment, and to stay committed, you need self-discipline.
Self-discipline is something I’ve been working on again lately. You may remember back in May, I tried the 75 Hard Challenge and only made it about halfway. I had all kinds of excuses to stop because the road to success is full of temptations and distractions. I was keeping up with things like my podcast and blog, but not doing some of the other things I knew I should have been doing to move my business forward so I can help more people. So, back to what I know works to be disciplined about my goals.
Self-discipline is something that can be learned, but like all good habits, it takes practice. Here are four ways to become more self-disciplined.
One of my biggest distractions this year has been supporting my son in his dream of bike racing. I think it’s common for parents to put their own dreams on hold to help their kids pursue theirs; after all, we want to support our kids! But there has to be some balance, because your dreams are important, too.
This is where learning to set boundaries and say “no” comes in. A boundary is a line you’re not supposed to cross. When something comes up that brings you to that boundary, you have the opportunity to decide if crossing it is useful or a waste of time. If you know that crossing your boundary will do more harm than good, you need to say “no”.
The first time you say “no” it may be uncomfortable, especially if it’s to something you would normally do or if it’s to someone close to you. But the more you say “no” to distractions, the stronger your resolve is and the easier it gets. You’re building self-discipline!
If you’re saying “no” to someone close to you, it can help to explain why you’ve set boundaries for yourself and tell them about your goals. They may even surprise you and cheer you on, and encourage you to stick with your boundaries. Of course, you don’t owe anyone an explanation; you can often say “no, now is not a good time” to end the conversation.
Mutual support is important, especially with your kids and loved ones. When it comes to my son’s bike racing, I’ve had to make choices to set aside something of my own to help him. Then other times, I’ve had to stick to my own boundaries, and not attended a race or had him catch a ride with a teammate instead of driving him myself. He sees that I support his dreams while I follow mine, and that’s an important lesson.
Being productive is deciding what matters most and making time for it. Note that it isn’t just being efficient, so you can pile more busywork on your already full plate. Good, supportive habits will help you be more productive and do more of what you need to do to achieve your goals.
Define Your Bad Habits
Your habits also help define who you are. How do you decide which ones are good or bad? Bad habits are those that don’t contribute to your growth or are destructive. Some habits, like watching a lot of TV or eating fast food every day, may not seemingly be related to your goals but can still have a negative impact. Once you’ve identified your bad habits, you can make the conscious decision to stop doing them.
Replace Them With Good Ones
One way to do this is by using the bad habit as a hook, or trigger, for the new habit you want to cultivate. For example, if you find yourself plopping down on the couch to binge-watch Netflix (again), use it as a reminder to stop and turn to the new habit instead. It could be picking up a book about something you want to learn or going for a fifteen minute walk.
Going for a walk might not be related to your goal, but it will help you build self-discipline, which is how you build positive habits. In the 75 Hard Challenge, every day I had committed to: drinking four quarts of water, reading ten pages of non-fiction, follow a diet of my choosing (I chose no gluten, dairy, or sugar), and exercising twice per day for 45 minutes, one of which had to be outside.
None of those things were tied directly toward my big goal, though being fit and healthy is one of my ten dreams for ten years. Even though I didn’t finish the challenge, being disciplined enough to do those things every day spilled over into other areas of my life where self-discipline was needed.
I think I’ll try the 75 Hard Challenge again next year, so stay tuned for that. Replacing your
old bad habits with new ones is how you build your positive habits. This even applies to replacing negative thoughts with positive. Habits don't form overnight, as much as we'd like them to. It takes practice, so keep trying. A few “failures” won’t undo all the good work you’ve done, and they may even help you tweak your process to make it better.
There are two types of accountability, and both are components of developing self-discipline: accountability to yourself and accountability to others.
Accountability to Others
It's actually easier to be accountable to others, especially if you choose to be accountable to someone who sincerely wants you to succeed. They won't mince words if they find out you haven’t been taking action on your goals or have been coasting too much. Some ways to use accountability to others as a motivator could be meeting a friend at the gym, having weekly check-ins with a coach or like-minded person, or doing a challenge with your spouse.
Accountability for Self
Being accountable to yourself is much harder. To pull it off successfully, you do need lots of self-discipline and self-control. It’s a lot easier to lie to yourself and deny responsibility than it is to others. However, if you've made it a practice to live your life with integrity, self-accountability will likely be easier for you. Paper journals are great for self-accountability. Or, if you like the convenience of modern technology, there are plenty of apps that can help.
To help improve your self-discipline and reach your goals faster, I recommend practicing both types of accountability. That's one of the great things about the Extraordinary Life Tribe, my group coaching program. You set goals that you need to be accountable for by yourself, but you also have the group holding you accountable, too. I love how the women share tips to help you succeed, and how our struggles tend to be universal.
Mastering self-discipline isn't easy, but you'll be able to accomplish so much more when you've built that muscle. And all that boundary setting, saying no, building supportive habits, and staying accountable is tough, especially in the beginning. That’s why it’s important to reward yourself! You deserve it.
A reward system can help keep you motivated and give you something to look forward to. Rewards can be short term and long term. For example, you could tell yourself if you finish your weekly list of tasks by Friday, you’ll treat yourself to an evening out with your partner. If you’ve accomplished a big goal, you could celebrate with a whole weekend away.
The right rewards will help you reinforce your goals and dreams in life, especially if you celebrate those wins with others. In my Design Your Decade workshops, we'll be looking back on 2022 together and celebrating our wins as a group. I hope that you'll join us!
Building self-discipline does take work, but it can be fun, too - especially when you start to see the results you’ve been dreaming of. Which self-discipline tool are you going to start with? I’d love to know.
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