Overcoming the Pain of Self-Discipline and How to Follow Your Plans, Not Your Emotions.
As humans, we are wired to seek pleasure and to avoid pain.
Cookies; Nutella; and Netflix.
Soft couches; sleeping in; and social media.
Push-ups; Lettuce; and Cardio.
Reading books; rising early; and writing blogs.
When given the choice, instinctually speaking, we will choose cookies over push-ups.
Or Netflix over cardio.
Or social media over writing blogs.
Unless we learn learn the power of delaying gratification.
A person’s ability to delay gratification is their ability to control (or rather distract) their impulses to obtain immediate pleasure in order to receive a larger or more enduring reward later.
You don’t need me to tell you what happens when you choose cookies, a soft bed, and Netflix too often.
…In the short term and in the moment, it all feels so good!
But as soon as the cookies run out or Netflix shows ends (which could easily be never) – you are hit with feelings of terrible guilt, sluggishness, and enduring pains.
Whereas rising early, push-ups and cardio, and reading books leaves you flush with feelings of accomplishment, health, and enduring vitality.
What has become increasingly evident to me is that, one of the biggest differences between those who are successful and those who are not, is that successful people do what they know they should do even when they don’t want to do it.
As James Clear points out in an article on delaying gratification, “Success usually comes down to choosing the pain of discipline over the ease of distraction.”
Follow your plans not your emotions.
If we wait to workout until we’re in the mood, we’re going to end up doing a lot more waiting than we will lifting.
If we wait for inspiration to strike, we’re going to end up doing a lot more thumb-twiddling than we will art-creating.
If we wait until we’re hungry before we figure out what we want to eat, we’re going to end up eating a lot more junk, processed foods than we will green, wholesome foods.
We set ourselves up for success by strategically planning out our actions ahead of time.
Without that careful planning and time-blocking, we may easily lose our focus and discipline to the endless distractions and media/ entertainment outlets in our worlds.
If we wanted to, we could stay perfectly distracted and entertained for the rest of our lives and never get any meaningful work done.
The Internet, Netflix, and the nightly news can take care of that for you.
But if you want to live your best life; if you want to positively influence others; if you want to leave behind a legacy that matters – you have to learn how to embrace the pain of discipline.
Following your moods leads to sporadic and infrequent actions – following your plans keeps your actions focused and consistent and that is how you keep moving forward.
Your plan of action for building up self-discipline:
1) Plan, plan, plan.
2) Execute, execute, execute.
There it is.
Your one-size-fits-all formula for building up self-discipline.
But don’t be deceived- while this list may be peculiarly simple, it’s one of those things that’s easy to say, hard to do.
Here’s what’s important to remember when following step one:
- Plan on improving one area of your life at a time. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Start small and build momentum up from there. One of my first steps was cutting out cream and sugar from my coffee. Then I focused on cutting out all pop. Then I focused on my workout routines. Singularity of focus makes a huge difference.
- Plan on keeping your who, what, where, when, and how’s consistent week-to-week. We are habitual creatures. The more you can keep your actions consistent week-to-week the better. Think about some habits you have carved in stone in your life already: coffee time, bed time, work time, lunch time, chill time, etc. Try and mirror what created that behavior as you seek to create new habits in your life.
- Embrace the “ups” and plan for the “downs.” You realize that there will be days when you won’t feel like working out or eating healthy or meditating right? Have a plan ready for what you will do when you don’t feel like being self-disciplined. I know that if I really feel tired and lethargic on a workout day, I show up anyway and sit on the matts for as long as I need to. That’s my plan and it works. More on that idea here. It’s pivotal to your success that you follow through with your plan on those days.
Here’s what’s important to remember when following step two:
- Execute and follow through with what you say you will follow through with. Make your word law. No excuses. If you say you are going to do something, make it of such importance to do it that not even a legal document would change your action(s). For example, if you say that you’re going to start a new workout routine at 3pm every day, then take that verbal commitment seriously! Plan ahead, create reminders, tell people, and show up at all costs! That being said, be conscientious and practical-minded when giving out your word!
- Execute doesn’t necessarily mean do at 100%. Follow the 70% Rule. Remember that showing up consistently is much more powerful than showing up inconsistently yet working at a higher level. Your running a marathon here (lifestyle habit change) not sprinting for your life. Just… keep… showing… up.
- Aim to improve your execution by 1% every week. You want to continually improve over the long run right? You don’t want to make a ton of progress over the course of a month only to stop and lose everything you gained right? So commit to tiny gains over the long term over massive gains over the short term. Add one pound to your lifts every week or get in one more rep during the same workout the following week. Short term thinking will yield short term results. Long term thinking will yield long term results.
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Comment: How do you overcome the pain of discipline in your life? Share with us an example or two of some healthy habits you have built up and how you overcame the pain of discipline when building them up in their initial stages.