Do you ever feel that despite being competent, bright and ambitious, youíre just not getting where you want to be? Itís probably not for a lack of talent on your part. H. Jackson Brown said, ďTalent without discipline is like an octopus on roller skates. Thereís plenty of movement, but you never know if itís going to be forward, backward, or sideways.Ē
Which way is your movement taking you? If youíre moving forward, are your flailing arms slowing you down? More importantly, what can you do about it?
Self-discipline is the key. Yet, itís one thing that so many people struggle with. Itís especially hard because we live in a world where people clamor for instant gratification. And instant gratification is the antithesis of self-discipline.
Instant gratification is about fulfilling your wants now. Self-discipline is about doing what is needed for your long-term success. Instant gratification is about focusing on immediate consequences; itís about doing what is fun and easy. Self-discipline, on the other hand, is about focusing on secondary consequences; itís about doing what is necessary and responsible.
Everything we do has immediate and secondary consequences. For example, the immediate consequence of eating dessert is that it tastes good and we enjoy it. The secondary consequence is that it adds lots of calories to our diet and we gain weight. This is not to say that you should never eat dessert. It does mean that everything we do or donít do has consequences beyond the immediate.
Self-discipline, then, is about making sacrifices. So why should you want to exercise self-discipline? Itís because personal mastery, long-term happiness and success require it. Self-discipline also impacts your self-esteem which, in turn, impacts how you relate to the world around you.
Itís not easy to be self-disciplined. It takes real effort and self-control, but the rewards can last a lifetime. Here are a few ideas to help you become more self-disciplined:
Practice moderation Ė Too much of something can be bad for you. Regardless of whether itís procrastinating at work or watching too much TV at home, we all have habits that are not productive. Instead of trying to stop your bad habits cold turkey, practice moderation. Cut back on the time you spend socializing with co-workers or the time you spend watching television and invest the time on more productive activities.
Set goals Ė Determine what is important to you and set goals to achieve what you want. Once you have determined your goals, analyze the rewards and consequences of achieving them. Visualize and emotionalize the rewards and consequences to stay focused and motivated. Break your goals down so they are manageable and give yourself little rewards along the way.
Write in a journal Ė By noting your successes and failures, you will become more aware of what you can do now and in the future. Your successes will inspire you to make additional positive change. Your failures will force you to examine what youíre doing and why itís not working. Your time spent writing will lead to greater personal reflection, self-discovery and growth.
Challenge yourself Ė Is it easy for you to rationalize and explain why you arenít where you would like to be in your career or your personal life? Take each area of your life and state where you are, where you want to be, and whatís getting in your way. Then discard the excuses and focus on what you can do today to make forward progress.