Or, more specifically, self-discipline. When you institute and follow a habit or routine as you have determined with yourself, regardless of motivation or disposition. Whether it’s hot or cold, in the mood to do it or not.
Here in my office, I have this poster right behind me, which I see every time I come to work and every time I join a video conference (for the benefit of other participants):
At first glance, it may not seem accurate. Discipline seems almost the opposite of freedom. But let’s break it down a bit:
My alarm clock goes off at 4:15 in the morning. I don’t hit the snooze button. I don’t stay in bed enjoying another 5 minutes. When the alarm clock goes off, I immediately throw off the covers and sit on the bed—90% of the time, I don’t want to wake up. I’m not in the mood. It’s cold (I live in Canada, after all). Maybe I’m off duty and don’t have to work. But – out of sheer discipline – I get up.
That alone gives me enormous freedom. While most of the world is still sleeping, I can choose what to do with my day and get ahead of the competition.
If you have the discipline to wake up early, say 1 hour earlier than necessary, you can quickly improve your life by following the 20/20/20 principle from the book “ The 5 AM Club ”:
- Use the first 20 minutes for physical activities. Stretching, light jogging, or light resistance training (should not replace your primary exercise routine)
- Use the next 20 minutes for your education and development. Read a book, or listen to a technical podcast in your field, about self-help or another subject that will help you personally or professionally. Maybe watch a lecture or take an online course.
- Finally, use the last 20 minutes to meditate, reflect on the day before, write in your journal or have your daily devotional.
This isn’t particularly my routine, but it looks like a pretty decent framework.
Twenty minutes a day in a year means 121 hours. I guarantee that if you spend 121 hours a year studying, exercising and reflecting, you will be a better and more successful person, probably with more disposition and a better income.
Some perks of self-discipline I want to point out:
- By using discipline, you also avoid having to make decisions. And making decisions is something that generates fatigue and stress. See decision fatigue on Wikipedia.
- You become more productive. Less time is spent procrastinating or looking for excuses for doing or not doing something. Does your routine say that at 10 am, you answer emails? Guess what: At 10 am, you will be answering emails.
- Your Decisions Will Be Better: When you plan and institute a new habit or routine that you maintain via discipline, it’s usually something you’ve pondered and considered for a while. You have devised a strategy, and you have a plan. It’s not something you improvised at the last minute.
Developing discipline can seem tricky, but I think that’s because people often confuse discipline with willpower. People say I can lose weight and run marathons because I have willpower. Wrong. I have discipline.
Go back and read the first paragraph of this post again. Discipline is doing something regardless of wanting to.
I’m a fan of Jocko Willink, and on Twitter, he often answers questions as succinctly and obviously as possible.
– “How do I wake up earlier?”
– “Wake up earlier.”
– “How do I go to the gym every day?”
– “Go to the gym every day.”
One of the best ways to develop discipline is to use systems instead of setting goals.
The idea of systems vs goals suggests that you should focus on developing systems and habits that lead to your desired results rather than just focusing on the results themselves. That way, you can reach your goals more sustainably and efficiently while building the discipline and skills necessary for long-term success.
If your goal is to lose 10 kg, this cannot seem easy. But adopting a system that states that you only have two meals a day and no more soda is easy to follow through discipline.
I highly recommend James Clear’s Atomic Habits book.
Finally, be persistent and have perseverance. You will succeed by creating good habits and staying disciplined even when things get tough.
In summary, self-discipline is a valuable skill that can transform a person’s life in many ways. By instituting and following established habits and routines, regardless of motivation or disposition, you can be more productive, make better decisions, and achieve goals more efficiently. When developing self-discipline, it’s essential to focus on systems rather than goals, be persistent and persevering, and look for additional resources to help with the process. Start practicing self-discipline today and experience all the benefits it can bring to your life.