13 Apr

Exercising  self-discipline can make the difference between an averagely talented person  doing something amazing with their lives and a naturally talented person  realizing very little of their potential.

Over the years I’ve come to see self-discipline as  an invisible magic. You can’t see, taste, or smell it, but its effects are  huge. It can transform fat into slim, sag into buff, uninformed into expert,  poor into rich, misery into happiness. It’s the submerged part of the iceberg  others don’t see when they see your ‘genius’.

Yes, luck plays its role and who doesn’t need the ‘lucky break’?  But self-discipline prepares you to ride that break all the way up the success ladder. Self-discipline  makes you happier; it gives you that sense of real achievement earned through  sheer intensity of sustained focus.

If you really  want to succeed at a task and beat others to the top, then self-discipline is essential.

The myth of easy success

Celebrities  have never been more visible in our culture. Famous sportspeople, wonderful  actors, and musicians are all over the media. But what we don’t see are the thousands of hours of super-focused work these  people have put in behind the scenes.

It’s  easy to feel that success comes easily; that it’s just a question of self-belief.  But anyone who has achieved anything has done so because they’ve been able to  control and direct their own inner lives and actions to the extent that has enabled  them to become super-able at what they do.

Life is Not a Waiting Room

Life  isn’t some waiting room in which to ‘kill time’ with repetitive self-amusements.

Self-discipline,  like a muscle, can be developed. If we were raised in a disciplined environment,  we may find it easier to be self-disciplined, but we can all develop more.

The  following self-discipline tips have been gleaned from how top achievers manage  and develop ability. Try them:

Tip 1 – Don’t Wait to ‘Feel Like It’

In  some ways, exercising self-discipline is harder than ever before. We’re all  encouraged to feel something should entertain us before it is worthwhile.  We become  brainwashed with messages like:

“Don’t do it  unless you feel like it!”

“If it feels good,  do it!”

“Yeah, the money’s  good but I’m not getting up at that time!”

Choosing  to do something or not based on whether it feels comfortable/pleasurable or not  is a disaster. If I waited to ‘feel like it’ before exercising or working or  making that tricky phone call or putting in the occasional all-nighter to meet  a deadline, then I would be much less disciplined than I am now and believe me  that would be really bad. : o

“Don’t  have a wishbone where your backbone should be!”

2 – Finish What You Start  (As a Point of Honour)

Winston Churchill could only offer the British people ‘blood,  sweat, and tears’, but victory was the greater goal for the whole nation.  Really think about:

A, How much you want to achieve a  greater goal (be it weight loss, a finished novel, new business, or mastering a  musical instrument).

B, How serious you really are.

You may think you are  serious and even tell others how serious you are, but only your actions really convey how genuine you  are. Better you keep silent and get on with it than delude yourself and others.

Focus on the long-term ‘big outcome’ and self-discipline will  naturally follow. Every morning, get up (yes do please get up!) and tell yourself: “Today is not over until I  have done…” – whatever you need to do that day. Literally, you can’t finish  your day until what you set out to do has been done.  I’m not kidding. Respect yourself enough to  keep your own promises to yourself.

3Dump  the Excuses

Be honest with yourself. Do the following sound familiar?

“I don’t want to overdo  it!”

“I’ll start it when the  weather gets better!”

“Well it’s too late now to  do it, anyway!” (Remember: your day ain’t over ‘til it’s done.)

“I’m not getting support  from others so I won’t bother then!”

“I’m not going to do it at  all now if you’re going to take that attitude!”

Now, lest you think I’m holier than thou – perish the thought. I  have used all the above excuses and many more besides to mask my own laziness  or fear.

But if you are going to make excuses, don’t fall for them  yourself. Don’t believe your own PR.

In fact, start being honest. Tell yourself:

“I’m not going to go for the run now because I’m too soft and  lazy.”

Or: “I’ve decided not to give that speech now because I’m too  cowardly!”

I’ve tried this and you know what? Honesty can be hard to take.  Harder, in fact, than actually doing the thing you’re trying to avoid. Stop  mistaking excuses for credible reasons.

4Sorry, It’s Non-Negotiable

When we start to question whether we are really going to get  down to some work, whether it’s too late to make a start, whether we should  watch the James Bond movie on TV instead, we start to ’leak‘ motivation. Make self-discipline  ’non-negotiable‘. I’m guessing you don’t um and ah about whether to clean your  teeth or pull the chain in the toilet (I’m hoping) – these things are  unquestioned by you. Likewise, tell yourself: “I’m not going to listen to  excuses or wimp-outs – this is non-negotiable!”

5The  Pull of the Eexternal Deadline

External deadlines – working to deliver what others expect  from you – can massively boost your drive to succeed. If there are no external  deadlines, then make some. Maybe you do contract work or a publisher is expecting your work  by a certain time, so you already have an external deadline. But if you don’t,  then create an internal one (such as “by  July the 1st I’m going to be 12 pounds slimmer”) and make it external by telling as many people as  possible.

If you need to write 100,000 words in two months, tell other  people that on a certain date you are going to get back to them to tell them  you’ve done it. Print off a letter of intent, sign it in front of a friend or  several people, and ask them to remind you of your deadline when it arrives and  sign again that you have completed it. External deadlines work.

6Ignore  the Naysayers

Other people can exert an immensely negative effect…  if we let them. Don’t let them. Don’t let words or even negative facial  expressions deter you. Seek the advice of experts by all means and learn from  the best, but never accept negativity from people who haven’t themselves  achieved what it is you are set upon achieving.

If people say what you plan is not possible or sneer  at your efforts, don’t be deterred by this; rather, use it to fire your energy  and strength. Proving others wrong is a greatly underrated pleasure.

7 – Don’t Get Hijacked by Trivia

We all have a need to complete things, be it a story  we are reading or an opera we are composing. If someone starts to tell you a  joke (or a piece of gossip), they set an expectation in your brain that you  really want fulfilled. But if you have important things to do, things to learn,  an important project, then trivial things can ’hijack’ this need for completion.  Playing endless computer games or watching TV thrillers can leave you feeling  satisfied because something has been  completed. This is like meeting your physical hunger by eating junk, then no  longer wanting to eat real nutrition.

By cutting out (or down) your consumption of TV,  gaming, or even newspaper reading, you leave your need for completion free to  work on what you really need to be focusing on. You need to feel that things  remain unfinished to keep focused and you need to devote valuable time and  energy where it’s really needed.

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Posted by on April 13, 2012 in Uncategorized


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