Think of self-discipline as a personal quest, one that you will embark on many times in your life. It will probably be a challenge every single time, and you'll likely run into some obstacles. No surprise! But whenever you do, you can have a couple of hacks up your sleeve to master it, get better at it, and use it to thrive.
Here are five hacks to help you master self-discipline.
Hack #1. Tap into your willpower EARLY.
When we start the day, we are often overwhelmed with the amount of things we need to do, so we tend to procrastinate on some of those things (okay, many!) and postpone them for later in the day. Big mistake. Why? Because we all have a finite amount of willpower, that takes us through the day. If you want to focus on priorities, work on them early. Do that task that you've been putting off all week before lunchtime. Write up a plan for the school or work week ahead of time. Finish up homework you've been putting off because you'd rather do something more fun. You'll be glad that you did in the evening when it's time to wind down and chill.
Hack #2. Make a new habit stick by keeping it simple.
Every habit we'd like to acquire needs self-discipline, time, and repetition. Sounds intimidating? That's because you positioned it that way; you feel like you "should" be doing something difficult when you'd rather be relaxing. If you are reading this, you may feel that it's time to make some changes in your life: start working out, stop eating out so much, get more sleep, find more time to spend with family, watch TV less. To simplify a change you're trying to make, start with tiny steps: do a mini-workout at home for 10 minutes this month before you buy that gym membership. Start going to bed 15 minutes earlier than usual to give yourself time to de-stress and relax with a good book or soothing music. Prep and pack your lunch the night before, so you don't end up rushing in the morning.
Hack #3. Start saying NO more often.
If you've ever found yourself running out of time to do what you need or would like to have time for, that means you're wasting time and energy on things that are not that important in the long run. Just because there's leftover cake in the fridge doesn't mean you should eat a double portion for the next three days. When you're in the middle of finishing up a project and a friend calls to ask if you want to go party, it doesn't mean you should drop everything and go. Know your priorities. Be in tune with them. Be aware of what is important to you and why you're working on something. Then you will be less likely to ignore the things that are key to your personal and professional growth.
Hack #4. Anticipate resistance.
In other words, plan ahead for those moments when you're lazy, tired, or in a bad mood and nothing seems like a good idea to do. First, tell yourself that whatever it is you're feeling, it's an emotional reaction and it will pass. Second, resist the urge to give up doing something that you know is good for you. Just because it feels uncomfortable now doesn't mean it won't have a positive impact on your life. And third, nurture a growth mindset: instead of telling yourself that you are "just not good enough" to take on a new language or start practicing karate, give yourself the time to learn new things. You'll be surprised how much you can do when you keep an open mind.
Hack #5. Believe in yourself.
Practicing self-discipline isn't only for the chosen few. You can be extroverted or quiet, and you can be a college student or a parent of two, or you can be an entrepreneur embarking on the next step of your career. It's not about what you're doing right now; it's more about how you envision your life and what you can start doing today to become the best version of yourself down the road. It's important to sit in the driver's seat of your life journey, instead of letting situations and external factors dictate how you will act. Most important of all, believe. Believe you can do it. When you do, then self-discipline will become a skill you can apply to many areas of your life: your education, your career, even your relationships. It will guide you, remind you of the goals you've set for yourself, and keep you focused on your future and all the possibilities that it can bring.
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