What it is and why you need it.
Discipline is choosing between what you want now, and what you want most - Abraham Lincoln.
Discipline is not really a widely discussed topic, or even really something we actively think about let alone train to improve.
We know what it is to be a lazy person and we could easily call that same person undisciplined, but should we be conflating these two terms?
To be disciplined is not to just be not lazy, in-fact I believe that you can actually be highly productive but still be undisciplined; productivity can take many shapes and forms. You can easily be productive in one area yet procrastinate in another. Productivity refers mainly to the result of a certain activity. You could spend an hour in the gym working out and have a productive or an unproductive session.
A productive session would be one that is in line with your goals, doing the right amount of exercises with the right amount of reps, you have good energy and so on.
An unproductive session could be one that you turn up to after no sleep and a night of drinking, you do a routine you found on google but its tailored for children as you downloaded the wrong one. This could be called an unproductive session.
Discipline is what gets you to the gym in the first place, whether you're feeling good, bad, happy, sad, tired, awake, etc.
This is quite an extreme example and you would ideally also extend discipline to mean not being drunk before a workout, ensuring adequate sleep, etc.
Discipline is what's needed to do the things that you need to do but don't want to do. Discipline is what you need when the motivation starts running dry.
So discipline is what makes you do the things that you need to do when you don't want to do them.
But it's easy to do the things you need to do when you want to do them, right? So the part of discipline that we need to actually practice is the part about doing things that you don't want to do.
Before we get too sadistic it's worth always remembering that ultimately the reason we're doing this is for a postitive benefit, not just to torture yourself (even if it seems like it at the time).
With this in mind here are some simple suggestions for simple daily tasks that can improve discipline if you decide to intergrate them into your routine and do them daily:
- Wake up at exactly the same time every day
- Have a cold shower every day
- Create a morning routine and stick to it every day (exercise, yoga, etc)
- Stretch every evening.
These are all relatively basic but it's the message that is key. Taking the first example of waking up at the same time each day, so simple but yet so hard for many of us.
The idea is that you set an alarm because you want to wake up at that time, there are two ways this can go: You can wake up at that time and achieve what you set out to do (wake up at that time.). Or you can hit the snooze button and fail to achieve what you set out to do. It's a black or white situation, achieve or fail, win or lose.
Yes the snooze is only 5 minutes, yes it's important to sleep + all the other excuses and rationalisations you will tell yourself. You still failed to do what you wanted to the previous day when you set your alarm.
The words discipline can easily be intertwined with habit. It takes discipline to repeat a certain thing to the point that it becomes habitual behaviour and once your have achieved this then it will become easy to do.
To create a new habit takes approximately 66 days. Once the learning process is complete you will no longer struggle in the same way to achieve these habits - the behaviour will become ingrained within who you are.
Recommended reading to understand habits and how to create habit out of discipline is Atomic Habits.
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