“In reading the lives of great men, I found that the first victory they won was over themselves, self-discipline, with all of them came first” – Harry S. Truman
The Oxford dictionary describes discipline as the practice of training a person to obey rules or a code of behaviour (paraphrased). In line with this definition, self-discipline is the practice of training yourself to obey the rules that you set for yourself.
Should be fun.
Unfortunately, some people are of the opinion that self-discipline is a form of inflicting some kind of punishment on yourself – to prove a point perhaps. In contrast, I like to think of self-discipline as an expression of inner strength and will power, both of which are vital ingredients for achieving our life goals and carrying on our daily affairs.
Yes, this can mean denying yourself of certain wants, not because you cannot grant yourself those wants, but because you have a greater goal in mind (greater than the need to fulfil that want or desire). Self-discipline in earnest, is a means of taking charge and responsibility of/for your own life. And that’s just great; isn’t it?
While it may require us to make tough decisions, true self-discipline is not punitive or impossible to achieve. Unlike a random skill, self-discipline requires the old basics of self-motivation, self-denial, resilience and restrain. Self-discipline is a skill that we need in all areas of our lives – our relationships, jobs, schools, personal businesses, towards a specific target, for a vocation, or even for general conduct in public.
Self-discipline is the reason why you choose to not flare up in an outburst of anger (for the most part) despite the fact that you are very upset. It is likely one of the main reasons you refuse to cheat on your partner even when ‘opportunity’ presents itself. It could even be the reason you decide to eat right regardless that you have a sweet tooth.
Does self-discipline require determination? Yes. Does it take practice? Yes. Does it involve some sacrifice? Is it important? Yes. Is it achievable? Yes.
Being self-disciplined does not require us to be or act perfect so there is no need to feel over-burdened by a need to be perfect –that’s too much pressure we put on ourselves.
Self-discipline is a gradual process and all you need for starters is only a conscious effort. If you want to get there in the twinkle of an eye, you will likely wear yourself out early. The good news though, is that the more we work at it, the better we get at it.
One of the unique things about self-discipline is the fact that it is self-imposed. This means that you own the switch and you can flick it on or turn it off as you so desire. Constantly reminding yourself of why you flicked the self-discipline switch on in the first place could unlock the key to staying in discipline. And just in case you were wondering, self-discipline is the cousin of self-control, yup they are pretty much related.
What self-discipline does to you
It makes you more organised
By default, self-discipline requires you to cut off activities that are posed as a waste of time and energy. This would naturally lead you to be more organised in your daily activities and life as a whole.
It puts you more in control of your life
The thing with self-discipline is that you know the areas of your life which require discipline and you get to decide if you want to do something about it or not. How good to know that you can do life on your own terms, it is definitely something to take advantage of.
You focus better
Living a self-disciplined life helps to improve your focus, because your mind is trained to be fixated on a certain bigger picture. Being self-disciplined also helps to provide clarity and reduces confusion.
It gives you a sense of fulfilment
How do you feel when you know you exercised commendable restraint in a situation despite the fact that you could have acted otherwise? How do you feel at the end of the day when you know that you were in control of your day or you handled your day like a boss? Great, I suppose. That is how I would feel.
The above points can be summed up into one major benefit of self-discipline which is that it helps you achieve your goals both short term and long term.
How to practice self-discipline
Constant goal-setting and time management
These two are topics on their own and their importance cannot be over-emphasized. Setting goals for ourselves gives us a sense of direction and vision of where we want to see ourselves in the future. Setting goals makes it easy to cut off things that do not align with those goals. Goal setting goes hand in hand with time management. You cannot be disciplined if you are not concerned about how you spend your time.
Somebody once told me ‘You sleep too much’. My eyes shot wide open and with eyebrows furrowed, I questioned rhetorically: ‘Me’? ‘How’? Then I went on to give the person a million and one reasons why I did not think so. Shey the daily recommended sleep time for an adult is between 7 and 9 hours and I was not doing beyond that (I am an advocate of good sleep!). Plus did this person not know that I love my sleep? Not like I even get this exact amount of sleep every night ahn ahn.
Although I did not agree with this person, I knew though that I needed to improve along the lines of waking up early because whether I liked it or not, studies show a positive correlation between rising early and being generally more organised and successful. For me, this means I have to start getting to bed earlier if I want to maintain that optimal sleep duration.
So while losing sleep is not an indication of self-discipline, rising early is. Truly, I feel more in charge on days when I am up earlier to commence my tasks – particularly on days when I have a lot to do
Note: Rising early would only make sense in this context if you make the best out of it – not when you’re loafing around, you might as well just stay in bed and sleep. In addition, you could have specific days when you allow yourself sleep in for example on weekends or when you are on a vacation.
Eating healthy and exercising
We all know this but… sigh. Are your favourite foods unhealthy? Do you binge eat or do you literally do more than yourself simply because you are at an all-you-can-eat-occasion? *Rolls eyes*. Asides from it being a reflection of good manners, good eating habits reflect self-discipline. I also admire fitness enthusiasts especially those who have consistent exercise routines. Unfortunately, I am not one of them just yet. Not that I do not work out, but you know those of us that do not have real exercise routines but then the once in three weeks that we manage to work out, we do it to the extreme and almost quench there!
Reading mentally stimulates us and it is a great habit to ingrain. Scheduled reading – actually setting time apart to read could help us to be more conscious and disciplined, not to talk about how vast it makes us. *Reading here refers to helpful books and materials.
Does this sound weird? Maybe. Earlier, I talked about how self-discipline is about denying yourself of certain wants. Although food is generally classified as a need not a want, this does not mean that the human body cannot go on without it for a while. Fasting (of food and any other thing you deem fit) brings your body under control.
All that being said, self-discipline is not a day’s journey, it takes time to achieve – as do all good things. Consistency and persistence are pivotal elements to getting it right. The end – the goal, never a sprint but a marathon.
In what other ways do you practise self-discipline and what are the challenges you have come across in doing these?
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