Imagine what you could accomplish if you could simply get yourself to follow through on your best intentions no matter what. Picture yourself saying to your body, “You’re overweight. Lose 20 pounds”. Without self-discipline that intention won’t become manifest. But with sufficient self-discipline, it’s done deal. The pinnacle of self-discipline is when you reach the point that when you make a conscious decision; it’s virtually guaranteed you’ll follow through on it.
As we go through pages, we’ll understand how our lives are being molded.
Individuals pushed by self-discipline, others not and how it changes. Individual structure, its effect to society and norms.
What Is Self-Discipline?
Self-discipline is the ability to get yourself to take action regardless of your emotional state. Self-discipline is one of many personal development tools available to you. Of course it is not a panacea. Nevertheless, the problems which self-discipline can solve are important, and while there are other ways to solve these problems, self-discipline absolutely shreds them.
Self-discipline can empower you to overcome any addiction or lose any amount of weight. It can wipe out procrastination, disorder, and ignorance. Within the domain of problems it can solve, self-discipline is simply unmatched. Moreover, it becomes a powerful teammate when combined with other tools like passion, goal-setting, and planning.
Self-discipline is like a muscle. The more you train it, the stronger you become. The less you train it, the weaker you become. Just as everyone has different muscular strength, we all possess different levels of self-discipline. Everyone has some — if you can hold your breath a few seconds, you have some self-discipline. But not everyone has developed their discipline to the same degree. Just as it takes muscle to build muscle, it takes self-discipline to build self-discipline. The way to build self-discipline is analogous to using progressive weight training to build muscle. This means lifting weights that are close to your limit. Note that when you weight train, you lift weights that are within your ability to lift. You push your muscles until they fail, and then you rest.
Similarly, the basic method to build self-discipline is to tackle challenges that you can successfully accomplish but which are near your limit. This doesn’t mean trying something and failing at it every day, nor does it mean staying within your comfort zone. You will gain no strength trying to lift a weight that you cannot budge, nor will you gain strength lifting weights that are too light for you. You must start with weights/challenges that are within your current ability to lift but which are near your limit. Progressive training means that once you succeed, you increase the challenge. If you keep working out with the same weights, you won’t get any stronger. Similarly, if you fail to challenge yourself in life, you won’t gain any more self-discipline. Just as most people have very weak muscles compared to how strong they could become with training, most people are very weak in their level of self-discipline.
Don’t compare yourself to other people. It won’t help. You’ll only find what you expect to find. If you think you’re weak, everyone else will seem stronger. If you think you’re strong, everyone else will seem weaker. There’s no point in doing this. Simply look at where you are now, and aim to get better as you go forward.
The Five Pillars of Self-Discipline
The five pillars of self-discipline are: Acceptance, Willpower, Hard Work, Industry, and Persistence. If you take the first letter of each word, you get the acronym “A WHIP” — a convenient way to remember them, since many people associate self-discipline with whipping themselves into shape.
Acceptance means that you perceive reality accurately and consciously acknowledge what you perceive. This may sound simple and obvious, but in practice it’s extremely difficult. If you experience chronic difficulties in a particular area of your life, there’s a strong chance that the root of the problem is a failure to accept reality as it is.
Why is acceptance a pillar of self-discipline? The most basic mistake people make with respect to self-discipline is a failure to accurately perceive and accept their present situation. If you’re going to succeed at weight training, the first step is to figure out what weights you can already lift. How strong are you right now? Until you figure out where you stand right now, you cannot adopt a sensible training program. If you haven’t consciously acknowledged where you stand right now in terms of your level of self-discipline, it’s highly unlikely that you’re going to improve at all in this area. Imagine a would-be bodybuilder who has no idea how much weight s/he can lift and arbitrarily adopts a training routine.
It’s virtually certain that the chosen weights will be either too heavy or too light. If the weights are too heavy, the trainee won’t be able to lift them at all and thus will experience no muscle growth. And if the weights are too light, the trainee will lift them easily but won’t build any muscle in doing so. Similarly, if you want to increase your self-discipline, you must know where you stand right now. How strong is your discipline at this moment? Which challenges are easy for you, and which are virtually impossible for you?
Just as there are different muscle groups which you train with different exercises, there are different areas of self-discipline: disciplined sleep, disciplined diet, disciplined work habits, disciplined communication, etc. It takes different exercises to build discipline in each area. Progressive training works with self-discipline just as it does with building muscle. For example, if you can barely get out of bed at 10am, are you likely to succeed at waking up at 5am every morning? Probably not. But could you master getting up at 9:45am? Very likely. And once you’ve done that, could you progress to 9:30 or 9:15? Sure.
When I started getting up at 5am consistently, I had already done it several times for a few days in a row, and my normal wake-up time was 6-6:30am, so that next step was challenging but achievable for me partly because I was already within range of it. Without acceptance you get either ignorance or denial. With ignorance you simply don’t know how disciplined you are — you’ve probably never even thought about it. You don’t know that you don’t know. You’ll only have a fuzzy notion of what you can and can’t do. You’ll experience some easy successes and some dismal failures, but you’re more likely to blame the task or blame yourself instead of simply acknowledging that the “weight” was too heavy for you and that you need to become stronger.
When you’re in a state of denial about your level of discipline, you’re locked into a false view of reality. You’re either overly pessimistic or optimistic about your capabilities. And like the trainee who doesn’t know his/her own strength, you won’t get much better because it’s unlikely you’ll be able to hit the proper training zone by accident. On the pessimistic side, you’ll only pick up easy weights and avoid the heavy ones which you could actually lift and which would make you stronger. And on the optimistic side, you’ll keep trying to lift weights that are too heavy for you and failing, and afterwards you may either beat yourself up or resolve to try harder, neither of which will make you stronger.
The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will. – Vince Lombardi
Willpower is your ability to set a course of action and say, “Engage!” Willpower provides an intensely powerful yet temporary boost. Think of it as a one-shot thruster. It burns out quickly, but if directed intelligently, it can provide the burst you need to overcome inertia and create momentum. Willpower is the spearhead of self-discipline. To use a World War II analogy, willpower would be D-Day, the Normandy Invasion. It was the gigantic battle that turned the tide of the war and got things moving in a new direction, even though it took another year to reach VE Day (Victory in Europe). To make that kind of effort every day of the war would have been impossible. Willpower is a concentration of force. You gather up all your energy and make a massive thrust forward. You attack your problems strategically at their weakest points until they crack, allowing you enough room to maneuver deeper into their territory and finish them off.
The application of willpower includes the following steps:
1. Choose your objective
2. Create a plan of attack
3. Execute the plan
With willpower you may take your time implementing steps 1 and 2, but when you get to step 3, you’ve got to hit it hard and fast. Don’t try to tackle your problems and challenges in such a way that a high level of willpower is required every day. Willpower is unsustainable. If you attempt to use it for too long, you’ll burn out. It requires a level of energy that you can maintain only for a short period of time… in most cases the fuel is spent within a matter of days.
The big secret in life is that there is no big secret. Whatever your goal, you can get there if you’re willing to work. – Oprah Winfrey
The meaning of hard work in a manual economy is clear. Without the leverage of machines and organizations, working hard meant producing more. Those days are long gone. Most of us don’t use our bodies as a replacement for a machine – unless we’re paying for the privilege and getting a workout at the gym…Even if you’re a workaholic, you’re not working very hard at all. Sure, you’re working long, but “long” and “hard” are now two different things. In the old days, hard work meant more work…
The future is not about time at all. The future is about work that’s really and truly hard, not time-consuming. Hard work is about risk. It begins when you deal with the things that you’d rather not deal with: fear of failure, fear of standing out, fear of rejection. Hard work is about training yourself to leap over this barrier, tunnel under that barrier, and drive through the other barrier. And, after you’ve done that, to do it again the next day.
Industry is working hard. In contrast to hard work, being industrious doesn’t necessarily mean doing work that’s challenging or difficult. It simply means putting in the time. You can be industrious doing easy work or hard work. In life there are many tasks that aren’t necessarily difficult, but they collectively require a significant time investment. If you don’t discipline yourself to stay on top of them, they can make a big mess of your life. Just think of all the little things you need to do: shopping, cooking, cleaning, laundry, taxes, paying bills, home maintenance, childcare, etc.
And this is just for home — if you include work the list grows even longer. These things may not reach your A-list for importance, but they still need to be done. Self-discipline requires that you develop the capacity to put in the time where it’s needed. A lot of messes are created when we refuse to put in the time to do what needs to be done — and to do it correctly. Such messes range from a messy desk or cluttered email inbox all the way down to an Enron or WorldCom. Big mess or small mess — takes your pick. Either way a significant contributing factor is the refusal to do what needs to be done.
Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “Press On” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race. – Calvin Coolidge
Persistence is the ability to maintain action regardless of your feelings. You press on even when you feel like quitting. When you work on any big goal, your motivation will wax and wane like waves hitting the shore. Sometimes you’ll feel motivated; sometimes you won’t. But it’s not your motivation that will produce results — it’s your action. Persistence allows you to keep taking action even when you don’t feel motivated to do so, and therefore you keep accumulating results.
Persistence will ultimately provide its own motivation. If you simply keep taking action, you’ll eventually get results, and results can be very motivating. For example, you may become a lot more enthusiastic about dieting and exercising once you’ve lost those first 10 pounds and feel your clothes fitting more loosely. The value of persistence comes not from stubbornly clinging to the past. It comes from a vision of the future that’s so compelling you would give almost anything to make it real.
Develop Your Personal Productivity
Disciplining yourself to be industrious allows you to squeeze more value out of your time. Time is a constant, but your personal productivity is not. Some people will use the hours of their day far more efficiently than others. It’s amazing that people will spend extra money to buy a faster computer or a fuel efficient car, but they’ll barely pay any attention to their personal capacity. Your personal productivity will do a lot more for you than a computer or a car in the long run.
Give an industrious programmer a 10-year old computer, and s/he’ll get much more done with it over the course of a year than a lazy programmer with state of the art technology. Despite all the technology and gadgets we have available that can potentially make us more efficient, your personal productivity is still your greatest bottleneck. Don’t look to technology to make you more productive. If you don’t consider yourself productive without technology, you won’t be productive with it — it will only serve to mask your bad habits. But if you’re already industrious without technology, it can help you become even more so. Think of technology as a force multiplier — it multiplies what you already are. Requisites in achieving Self- Discipline
Discipline means behaving according to what you have decided is best, regardless of how you feel in the moment. Therefore the first trait of discipline is self-knowledge. You need to decide what behavior best reflects your goals and values. This process requires introspection and self-analysis, and is most effective when tied to written expression. I highly recommend taking the time to write out your goals, dreams and ambitions. Even better, write out a personal mission statement. I found that writing such a statement gave me a greater understanding of who I am, what I am about and what I value. Dr. Covey has an excellent Mission Statement Builder on his site.
2. Conscious Awareness
Self-discipline depends upon conscious awareness as to both what you are doing and what you are not doing. Think about it. If you aren’t aware your behavior is undisciplined, how will you know to act otherwise? As you begin to build self-discipline, you may catch yourself being in the act of being undisciplined – e.g. biting your nails, avoiding the gym, eating a piece of cake or checking your email constantly. Developing self-discipline takes time, and the key here is you are aware of your undisciplined behavior. With time this awareness will come earlier, meaning rather than catching yourself in the act of being undisciplined you will have awareness before you act in this way. This gives you the opportunity to make a decision that is in better alignment with your goals and values.
3. Commitment to Self-Discipline
It is not enough to simply write out your goals and values. You must make an internal commitment to them. Otherwise when your alarm clock goes off at 5am you will see no harm in hitting the snooze button for “just another 5 minutes….” Or, when initial rush of enthusiasm has faded away from a project you will struggle to see it through to completion. If you struggle with commitment, start by making a conscious decision to follow through on what you say you’re going to do – both when you said you would do it and how you said you would do it. Then, I highly recommend putting in place a system to track these commitments. As the saying goes, “What gets measured gets improved”.
Did you notice the sweat dripping from the man in the picture at the start of this article? Make no mistake, self-discipline is often extremely difficult. Moods, appetites and passions can be powerful forces to go against. Therefore self-discipline is highly dependent on courage. Don’t pretend something is easy for you to do when it is in fact very difficult and/ or painful. Instead, find the courage to face this pain and difficulty. As you begin to accumulate small private victories, your self-confidence will grow and the courage that underpins self-discipline will come more naturally.
5. Internal Coaching
Self-talk is often harmful, but it can also be extremely beneficial if you have control of it. When you find yourself being tested, I suggest you talk to yourself, encourage yourself and reassure yourself. After all, it is self-talk that has the ability to remind you of your goals, call up courage, reinforce your commitment and keep you conscious of the task at hand. When I find my discipline being tested, I always recall the following quote: “The price of discipline is always less than the pain of regret”. Burn this quote into your memory, and recall in whenever you find yourself being tested. It may change your life.
One of the main characteristics of self- discipline is the ability to forgo instant and immediate gratification and pleasure, in favor of some greater gain or more satisfying results, even if this requires effort and time. The term self- discipline often causes discomfort and resistance, due to the erroneous notion that is something unpleasant, difficult to attain, and which requires a lot of effort and sacrifice. Actually, exercising and attaining self- discipline can be fun, does not require strenuous efforts, and the benefits are great.
Self-discipline appears in various forms, such as perseverance, restraint, endurance, thinking before acting, finishing what you start doing, and as the ability to carry out one’s decisions and plans, in spite of inconvenience, hardships or obstacles. Self-discipline also means self-control, the ability to avoid unhealthy excess of anything that could lead to negative consequences. It involves acting according to what you think instead of how you feel in the moment. Often it involves sacrificing the pleasure and thrill of the moment for what matters most in life. Therefore it is self-discipline that drives you to: * Work on an idea or project after the initial rush of enthusiasm has faded away * Go to the gym when all you want to do is lie on the couch and watch TV * Wake early to work on yourself * Say “no” when tempted to break your diet
1. Vince Lombardi :http://thinkexist.com
2. Jim Randel (February 1, 2009) the Skinny on Willpower: How to Develop Self Discipline 3. Andrew J. DuBrin (January 1, 1997) Getting It Done
4. October 18th 2006 by McSweeney’s : What is the What
5. Oprah Winfrey : O Magazine
US actress & television talk show host (1954 – ) http://www.quotationspage.com 6. Calvin Coolidge (1872 – 1933) http://www.quotationspage.com 7. Remez Sasson : http://www.successconsciousness.com
Cite this page
Values Formation. (2017, Jan 10). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/values-formation-essay