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The Art of Self Discipline

“The first and best victory is to conquer self” – Plato

It seems like some people are just born with an exceptional sense of self discipline: getting up early to exercise, perfectly balancing their work and fun, saying no to that one bite too many and always contributing the suggested amount to their retirement plan. Hint: They aren’t genetically blessed in any way; they have figured out the 'why' that's driving them to create discipline around a particular goal, focusing on what’s important to their future.

Self discipline begins with understanding “self” – who we are and what’s most important to us. The work of really understanding who we are is ongoing and requires time and focus. For most of us, it’s not enough to say, “I want to be more organized” in order to become more organized. As human beings, we respond to goals and outcomes that motivate us to change. For example, “being organized” might translate into appearing more professional, reducing stress or achieving more and transcending a barrier to success. Those are the “whys” for becoming more organized, and discerning specifically why changing a habit will improve your outcomes and your outlook will remind you that it will be worth the energy and time to commit to practice something new.

To begin your quest toward self discipline you must first identify your exact goal – then write it down in a place where you will see it, review it and test it. Language can be fickle, and our attention is often distracted. Writing your goals down will allow you to refocus and reorient to the goals, as well as refine and recommit to why this goal is meaningful for you.

There will be certain steps you need to take to reach that goal – identify those as well. PRACTICE sticking to those steps. Let’s say your goal is to run a marathon. In order to do that, you will have to train by running an increasing number of miles each week, without fail. There will be days that you don’t want to run. Run anyway. You might have to talk yourself into it; you might have to have a friend cajole you into running; you might have to join a running club to give yourself accountability – whatever it takes, do it. After a while, you’ll stop even thinking about it; it will just be what you do, and voila! You will have achieved self discipline.

It may sound like you’ll be making constant sacrifices, but the truth is, if you learn the art of self discipline, you’ll actually end up with more time to do with as you wish.