Self-Discipline: The deciding factor between failure and success
If you’re human, like me, you’ve probably experienced some success in previous years but also some setbacks. These days, you can find tons of books, podcasts, and videos on how to become more successful in pretty much any aspect of life. I’ve read and listened to a fair share of them and found most of them very inspirational. For a while. And then… well… then life happened, and I got sidetracked somehow.
See, the problem with these motivational resources is, that theoretically they give you great tools to improve your productivity and focus, but one thing they can’t do for you is: to actually DO IT! Whatever it is that you’re trying to accomplish, YOU have to put in the work. YOU have to make sacrifices. YOU have to show up day in and day out. YOU have to dig deep and find the motivation on hard days. YOU have to consistently remind yourself why you’re doing this. YOU are in charge, and that’s where self-discipline comes into play. When you have a handle on self-discipline, you stay motivated and are more likely to achieve success.
Self-discipline is the ability to regulate your emotions, thoughts, and behaviors when faced with temptations and impulses. It basically means you are able to control your urge to do something for short-term pleasure, and instead do what needs to be done to achieve a certain long-term goal. This applies to many areas of our lives: finances, work, relationships, fitness, and nutrition. For me specifically, I can tell you exactly when my self-discipline is tested the most. I love chocolate. A lot! For that reason, I rarely keep lots of chocolate at home, because it would just vanish within hours. So, every time I go grocery shopping, I have an internal fight with myself. Especially when something chocolaty is on sale. I mean, how can you pass that up! Well… You can. I can! Because I know too much chocolate does not support my health goals. Therefore, I choose short term discomfort (walking away from chocolate and not satisfying my sweet tooth) for long term goals (feeling powerful and good about myself).
Improving your self-discipline
(Un)fortunately, we aren’t born with self-discipline; it is a learned behavior and has to be practiced daily. There are a few strategies you can try to help you choose what you want most over what you want now.
Set clear goals and know the reason behind these goals. Write them down and put them where you can see them every day.
Then write down an action plan of how to achieve them step by step. Breaking your goal into small steps, instead of trying to change everything at once, can feel less intimidating and promote motivation.
Remove temptations and distractions. Out of sight, out of mind. For me, this would be hiding or giving away any chocolate I have on hand. :-)
Practice daily diligence. This could mean something simple as writing down what you plan on eating each day.
Get an accountability partner. Ask friends to join your quest to better health or ask them to at least remind you of your goals, whenever they see you taking actions that are not moving you towards them.
Eat regularly and well balanced. Studies have shown that low blood sugar can weaken a person’s decision making skills. When you’re hungry, your ability to concentrate suffers as your brain is not functioning to its highest potential, which can lead you to have a weakened sense of self control in all areas of life.
Schedule breaks for yourself. Self-discipline does not mean you restrict yourself from every single pleasure. In fact, giving yourself zero wiggle room often results in the opposite of what we aim for: failures, disappointments, and falling back into your old ways.
Forgive yourself and move on. If you stumble, which would be completely normal, find the root cause, determine what you can do to prevent this from happening again and then simply move on. Don’t let yourself get wrapped up in guilt, anger, or frustration, because these emotions will only drag you further down the rabbit hole and slow your progress.
Benefits of self-discipline
No pain no gain, right?! ;-) Self-discipline is not easy to come by for many of us. However, small steps towards improving your self-discipline can go a long way and turn into a spiral of positive reactions in your life such as:
Decreasing anxiety. When you are in control of how you (re)act, you are less likely to feel anxious. The self-disciplined do not allow their choices to be dictated by impulses or feelings. Instead, they make informed, rational decisions on a daily basis without feeling overly stressed or upset.
Increasing your ability to achieve your long-term goals. With fewer distractions and self-imposed setbacks, having self-discipline allows you to achieve more of your goals. It also means getting to them faster than if you allowed yourself to get distracted.
Becoming more resilient. As your self-discipline grows, your ability to resist temptation increases. This in turn makes you more resilient as you navigate different circumstances in life.
Feeling happier. When you are on the path to achieving your goals, you feel happier because you are making progress. Self-discipline is the bridge between goals defined and goals accomplished.
When it comes to self-discipline, it's all about making the commitment to improving AND picking yourself back up when you slip. Be honest and patient with yourself: With time, effort, and consistency, you'll be making great strides, thanks to your improved self-discipline, towards accomplishing your goals.
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