Tuesday, December 15, 2009

How to improve your self-discipline.

Post 392 - Yesterday's post may have seemed obvious advice for many, but after a lifetime spent in meetings, I've found that these guidelines are ignored more often than they're practiced. This suggests that a few words about self-discipline might be in order. Vince Lombardi once noted that, "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."

Self-discipline is the ability to get yourself to take action regardless of how you feel. Imagine what you could accomplish if you could follow through on your best intentions no matter what. Experience suggests the more disciplined you become, the easier life gets. Self-discipline is like a muscle. The more you train it, the stronger it gets. But it takes self-discipline to build self-discipline. You can learn to improve by tackling challenges that you can successfully accomplish but which are near your limit. This doesn’t mean trying something new and failing at it every day, but it doesn't mean staying in your comfort zone either.

Steve Pavlina writes that the five pillars of self-discipline are: Acceptance, Willpower, Hard Work, Industry, and Persistence. The first letter of each gives you the acronym “A WHIP,” which is a convenient way to remember them. That way, you can think of self-discipline as whipping yourself into shape!

• Acceptance means that you see reality accurately and consciously acknowledge what you perceive. This may sound simple, but in real life it can be very difficult. If you experience chronic difficulties in a specific area, the root of the problem is probably a failure to accept reality as it is. And if you haven’t consciously acknowledged where you currently stand in terms of your level of self-discipline, it’s highly unlikely that you’re going to improve in this area. So begin by identifying an area where your discipline is weakest, assess where you stand right now, acknowledge this as your starting point, and design a program to improve in this area. Start out with some easy exercises you know you can do, and gradually progress to greater challenges.

• Willpower is your ability to set a course of action and “Go for it!” Start by sitting down and making a plan. This doesn’t require a lot of energy, and you can spread the work over several days if you wish. Don’t try to attack your biggest problem directly. Instead attack the environmental and social obstacles that perpetuate the problem. Once you implement the plan, you can turn it into a habit. Habit puts action on autopilot, so very little willpower is needed for ongoing progress. This makes it a whole lot easier to achieve your goal of improved self-discipline.

Hard Work, Industry, and Persistence tomorrow.

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