Forcing yourself to do something that you don’t want to do just doesn’t work. It’s a recipe for frustration, low achievement, and heartache.
The tried and true advice of “Find Your Purpose” really does work, I find. Disciplined action results from moving forward on goals that are important to you. If what you’re doing isn’t motivating for you, then you’re not going to have the same willpower reserves available as someone who feels that they are doing something important and meaningful.
For example, my number one goal in life is to be authentically myself. It’s a process of becoming that is very energizing for me, and it spurs me on to new growth and to take on new challenges.
Occasionally, there are things vital to my growth that are mildly unpleasant. Like, pushing my muscles past failure at the gym.
But, I’m becoming someone who’s trying to find out what his body is capable of, and being authentically myself means becoming disciplined in this way. Find what works for you, and stick to your vision.
Another huge part of making discipline an extension of your authentic self is to have a look at your self-image. You literally can NOT act differently than your self-image; the image you have of yourself guides your actions in ways that are quite surprising.
1) Find Out Why You’re Really Doing This
Disciplined action becomes easier when you attach what you have in front of you to a larger purpose. Maybe you’d like to put on a few pounds of muscle but you don’t have a big appetite. Well, eating 4,000 calories per day (or more) gets way easier when you attach this action with something that you want, like getting bigger.
Make the connection vivid in your mind how eating this meal now, is going to change your life later.
Or maybe you have to write up a report at work and you have no interest in doing it. It’s mind-numbing work, and you just wish someone else could do it. If you have a family at home, and you’re dedicated to providing for them, then writing the report becomes an extension of your own will to support your family. You just do it.
2) Stay True To Your Authentic Self
Self-Discipline must be an extension of YOUR own will, and not that of somebody else’s. Absolutely, flat-out refuse to live someone else’s life. Personally, I have more self-respect than that; don’t you?
I love the definition of a true entrepreneur and it’s this: “An entrepreneur will spend 24 hours a day working on his dream, but hates to spend one minute working on someone else’s dream.”
Even if you don’t run your own business, figure out what drives YOU, and center your entire life around that. Millions of people already do, and what millions of others have done, you can do too.
3) Realize You Enjoy This
Occasionally, we’re blessed with something that we have to do that we actually DO enjoy. I find myself in this pleasant situation every single day. I had to work up to this point, but I can honestly say that there is nothing coming up in my life that I’m not looking forward to. Within reason, of course.
An example is when I was sitting down to write this article for you. It takes a fair amount of discipline to sit down, organize your thoughts, and really try and hammer out an article that’s going to be of value to those who read it. It’s a lot of pressure, it’s a lot of work, and so on and so forth.
But then I realized…I ENJOY writing. I love connecting with readers through the printed word and I love crafting something that’s going to be useful in people’s lives. Sure, my fingers might get sore from typing and I’m not looking forward to that, but I did take the time to realize that I enjoy the act of writing, and then the disciplined effort of actually sitting down to write this thing was made way easier.
4) Get An Idea Of Your Self Image
You will act like the sort of person you believe yourself to be. You literally can’t act differently than your self-image. At least not for long.
I’ve found that when you have an idea of yourself that is different from the actions you’re currently taking, then your behavior will gradually, and unconsciously, shift back to be more in line with how you currently feel about yourself.
To be happy, we need to have an adequate and realistic self image that we can live with and be happy with, and you can change this self-image to have it include you as a disciplined person.
Human beings always act and feel and perform in accordance with what they imagine to be true about themselves and their environment, and if you imagine that you are a disciplined person, then you will, over time, become more disciplined.
When you feel successful and self-confident, you will act successfully. Everyone has been successful in the past and can call up that feeling at will. So do that! Create lots of reference experiences from when you were self-disciplined, and then remember those times often. You will begin to see yourself as more self-disciplined, and then become so.
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*Get an idea of what really motivates you, and connect all your actions to that.
*Identify what you believe to be your true, authentic self, and never stray from that ideal. Not for money, not for recognition, not for ANYTHING.
*Find something positive about the task you need to accomplish, and realize that you actually enjoy it.
*Develop the self-image of a disciplined person, and never let that vision fade. Call it back when you feel challenged, and remember that there have been lots of time when you have been disciplined and have acted in your own best interests.
Difficulty Level: “Moderate” to “Extremely Goddamn Difficult”
Strong, disciplined people don’t even ask themselves whether or not they feel like doing something. They just do it. You can become one of those people, but you need some strategies to help you.
As always, the price of discipline is way less than the price of regret. You are alive right now, walking this beautiful earth, and you have this one chance to make it work. What we do now echoes in eternity, and what you feel like doing doesn’t matter in the conquest of happiness.
All the best,
Matt Karamazov is a human rights activist, boxer, and writer who reads about 200 books per year and throws precisely 300 punches per minute. His website, Godlike Discipline, is dedicated to raising money for causes like Doctors Without Borders, and Human Rights Watch, among others. It’s also dedicated to helping people tackle their biggest willpower challenges. He also like death metal, and so, consequently doesn’t get many second dates. Here he is on a horse. You can join the Godlike Discipline mailing list HERE.