Studying Successful men and women is one of my fondly cherished hobbies. I have studied over 100 of successful people through biographies,autobiographies,blogs,diaries and many more just to find out what it takes to be successful. I have always been very intrigued with the thought that why there are so few people on this planet who become successful in what they do while we all have the same 24 hours of time every day?
Scientifically, it has already been proven that talent is overrated. There are probably millions of unknown people on this earth who are way more talented than some of our famous ones but unfortunately, we never get to know them. Hardwork definitely plays a key role. In fact, in one of my previous posts “10,000 Hours of Practice“, I have already pointed out there is no substitute for hardwork if you want to be successful in life. But even then, that is not all it takes. There is one more characteristic of successful people that popped up repeatedly in my study of Successful people. Therefore, today I am going to talk about that missing element that will make you successful in whatever you do and the name of that element is “Self-Descipline”.
What is ‘Self-Descipline’?
Self-Descipline is a habit, a practice, a philosophy and a way of living. Contrary to common belief, self-discipline does not mean being harsh toward yourself, or living a limited, restrictive lifestyle. Self discipline means self control, which is a sign of inner strength and control of yourself, your actions, and your reactions.All successful men and women are highly disciplined in the important work that they do. All great success in life is preceded by long, sustained periods of focused effort on a single goal, the most important goal, with the determination to stay with it until it is complete. Throughout history, we find that every man or woman who achieved anything lasting and worthwhile, had engaged in long, often unappreciated hours, weeks, months and even years of concentrated, disciplined work, in a particular direction. Fortunately the quality of self discipline is something that you can learn by continuous practice, over and over, until you master it. Once you have mastered the ability to delay gratification, the ability to discipline yourself to keep your attention focused on the most important task in front of you, there is virtually no goal that you cannot accomplish and no task that you cannot complete.
How do we build it?
Now that we know what it is, the next obvious question is how can we build it?
Lets imagine for a second that there was a switch in your brain that would allow you to efficiently smash through your daily to-do list, eat only foods that are good for you, and never skip a workout again. Ever wonder How would our life be different then? Well, I have a certain vision of my future-self in my mind and every morning when I wake up, I always try to put my best effort to move one more step forward towards my goal. Life is always hard and I am still not there yet, but I am NEVER STOP researching and trying new ways to get there and one day I know, I will.
There are plenty of ways you can teach yourself on becoming self-disciplined. Below are the one that are my top priorities right now. Research shows that these are the most influential areas of your mind that can lead you to success.
Meditation – The Zen Way
“Practicing mindfulness meditation for a few minutes each day can actually boost willpower by building up gray matter in areas of the brain that regulate emotions and govern decision making.”
Exercise- Magic for your body
This is already a well-discussed topic. Not only does it increase our fitness and mental performance, improve our mood and sleep quality, reduce our body fat percentage, anxiety levels and likelihood of becoming sick. It’s also been shown to improve our willpower.
Harness the power of Accountability
Admittedly, accountability isn’t the sexiest word in the English language. But the concept it represents is extremely powerful.The idea behind it is that when we’re left to our own devices, it’s easy to come up with excuses not to do something.
“I’m tired, I don’t feel like it, it’s too much work, it’s too hard.”
The solution is simple: build structures in your life that will hold you to a higher standard and that will prevent you from coming up. If you do not like to go to gym, hire a trainer, if you do not feel motivated to work, have a co-worker or partner to whom you report every day, if you do not have anyone, use website like stickK. Whatever specific system you use, the most important thing is that it takes away your ability to procrastinate and make excuses, and that it makes you stick to your plan and highest values.
Set SMART goals
When someone asks me how they could have more discipline and willpower, my first question to them is always, “do you have clear goals for yourself?” 90+% of the time, the answer is no. Oops.Why is it so important to have defined goals?Because they give you a clear direction in life and help you connect your daily actions to a greater purpose. I have worked really hard to define my goals. Trust me, it is not easy. But once you have that, its easier to take control on rest of your life.
When you create your goals, make sure they are SMART: Specific, Measurable Attainable, Relevant and Timely
For instance, don’t set a goal of “I want to lose weight” or “I want to make more money”. Instead, it should look more like “I want to lose 10 lbs of body fat by March 1s” or “I want to increase my monthly income by $5000 by June 10”. Once you do that, taking action and staying disciplined every day will be infinitely easier. You’ll be “pulled” towards the achievement of your goals, and you’ll feel a great sense of purpose and fulfilment.
Remove Temptations and Distractions
We all are subject to temptation—it’s just in our nature. And in today’s world we’re surrounded by more temptations than ever.Google gives us access to all the information in the world within a few seconds. YouTube is filled with funny, entertaining, and interesting videos. Our Facebook newsfeed gets updated every few seconds. Our smart phones are full of apps and other cool things. Knowing this, it’s imperative to figure out a system to bulletproof ourselves against all these distractions.
Some of the ideas along this line would be putting our phones away when you are working, use apps like Freedom to block internet for a certain period of time, block hours in your daily routine when you do not want to be disturbed by others, keep only those foods in the fridge that is good for your health etc.
Eliminate Unnecessary Decisions
Our brain is our the most important resource and we need it protect it.As Baumeiseter found, every single decision we make during the day dips into our willpower reserves. Therefore, we need to cut down the number of decision we make to a minimum, and focus on the ones that truly matters. President Obama once said, “I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing because I have too many other decisions to make.”
This is why all the famous people like Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and many othe prefer to wear the the same outfit, eat the same breakfast and lunch every single day.
Create Power Habits, Rituals, Routines
Creating rituals is a great way to remove needless decision-making from your day. Once something has been turned into a habit, you don’t even have to think about it. You do it without using any of your willpower. Each step of the ritual is carefully choreographed for optimal results, yet it requires no willpower on my part because it’s engrained in my ritual. You can read my other post on this related topic here.
Hack your Mind- 5 Minute Rule
One of our mind’s greatest flaws is that it often struggles to get things started. But once we’re in flow, it’s easy to keep going.
If you’re struggling to get started on some work you have to do, or to start your daily meditation/workout, make the following deal with yourself: you’ll do it for just 5 minutes.
Answer one email. Run 1 time around your block. Meditate for 5 minutes.
From personal experience and discussing it with others, I’ve found that 80 to 90% of the time, once we’re in motion, we end up continuing well past the 5-minute mark we had decided on.
Go for 100% Commitment
Jack Canfield, author of the book Chicken Soup for the Soul famously said “99% is a bitch, 100% is a breeze.”
If you really want to do something, commit to it 100%.
If you’re just sorta-committed, there’ll always be a little voice in your head saying “aahh, maybe today I’ll take the day off“. You’ll waste a lot of willpower fighting off that little voice.
But the moment have you that 100% commitment, the game becomes easy. You don’t have to think about it… you just do it!