Self-discipline is both a skill and a state of mind. And it’s interchangeable with willpower, self-control, drive and determination.
Every time you exercise self-discipline, you’re doing something for your future self. But it’s not always easy to stay the course and remain disciplined. So, what can you do?
Because self-discipline is a skill and mindset, then it’s possible to train it. Just like you would train to be stronger, faster or more powerful. So here are a few suggestions on how to train self-discipline (just like you would a muscle).
1. Get comfortable being uncomfortable.
To get results in the gym, you have to be willing to get outside your comfort zone and push yourself to do something new. Something uncomfortable.
Training self-discipline is no different. It’s not comfortable, pleasant or easy. But by finding ways to push forward even when you’re uncomfortable, not only will you get results, but you’ll also improve self-discipline.
2. Break things down.
Think about how you’d approach a goal like increasing your 1RM back squat. As much as you want to get stronger overnight, it doesn’t work like that. Instead, you have to plan out a few weeks or months of training where you gradually increase the load and work toward a new PR.
To train self-discipline, it requires a similar approach. Rather than waking up one morning and trying to set a new PR in self-discipline, you have to start with shorter, simpler tasks. For example, let’s say you want to clean up your diet. Try tackling this goal with gradual changes where you focus on one habit at a time before moving on to something else. For example, you might start by swapping out a sugary drink with water. And once you’re consistent with that change, try to add more vegetables to your meals.
3. Post your goals where you can see them.
You’re more likely to stick with the goals you set for fitness and performance when you write them down and post them where you can see them. Writing down a goal sends a signal to your brain that this is real. And by posting your goals where you see them frequently, your intentions are more likely to stay top of mind. No matter what area of life your goals cover, hang them somewhere where you’ll get a reminder of what you’re working toward.
4. Plan for your weaknesses and excuses.
The road to improving self-discipline has potholes and hazards that come in the shape of excuses and weaknesses. But by creating a plan to deal with the things that threaten your efforts, you’re more likely to continue making progress.
No one knows your weaknesses better than you. So, if you know you have a hard time waking up for a 6 am workout, prepare for this challenge by putting your alarm clock on the other side of the room or making plans to show up for a class with a friend.
What happens when you get off track?
It’s not a matter of if you will get off track. It’s a matter of when. No one is perfect. You’re going to have some setbacks – some within your control and some beyond it.
First, don’t be too hard on yourself. Remember that you’re not the only one who struggles with maintaining discipline or sticking to a plan. Next, get back to it as soon as possible. Just because you lose your path for a little while doesn’t mean you should abandon the whole plan entirely.
And finally, surround yourself with people who support you and share in similar efforts. Find a group of people who will challenge you, hold you accountable, and cheer you on along the way.