Updated: Sep 30
The word ‘discipline’ can often get a bad rap. It’s easy to view discipline as punishment or something that is forced on us by an external force. These views are powerful and affect the way we think of self-discipline, like it is something unpleasant that we need to force ourselves to do.
Definitions of discipline feed into this view. They talk about punishment or penalizing to enforce obedience. But what if we looked at discipline differently? Self-discipline is not a negative thing or punishment, rather it is something we can achieve to improve our life.
The reason to have self-discipline in our life is for a short- and long-term gain. So rather than view it as taking something away, we can see it as giving us something we truly want. Any meaningful goal takes time and effort. This can be difficult when we live in an instant gratification society. There are so many things we can have instantly. By contrast, self-discipline requires us to build our mental muscles for patience and delayed gratification.
When we learn the skill of self-discipline, we can gain freedom. Self-discipline and freedom may seem like complete opposites, but self-discipline is the way to freedom. Achieving an important goal is a reward. We may think that discipline and reward don’t go together either. But the real reward is adding value to our life through accomplishing something that is important. We need discipline to do that. Change doesn’t happen automatically.
Self-discipline is showing up for yourself and doing the work to create a better life. This will increase the quality of your life.
One aspect of discipline that may seem counterintuitive is doing the things you like. This does not mean doing things the way you’ve always done them. Rather, look at your life and the things you enjoy doing. Which of those things add to the quality of your life? Developing goals and habits around things that add quality to your life and you enjoy doing is an easy way to achieve self-discipline.
One of the biggest mental tools for developing self-discipline is to not wait for the right mood to do something. Instead, think about what you value. What is already important to you? Don’t think about how you feel about an activity, instead, focus on the value it will add to your life. A good example is exercising. You may not feel like going to the gym or going for a walk, but you value your health. Here, self-discipline is about focusing on the value we put on staying healthy rather than the momentary feeling we have about exercising.
Another way to work towards more self-discipline is to adjust your environmental. Do you need to remove junk food or turn off social media to achieve goals of better eating and more focus? Would you be more likely to exercise regularly if you set out your exercise clothes before going to bed? These are just a few ways you can change your environment to achieve your goals and build new habits.
True self love is showing up for yourself. Loving ourselves means being able to trust ourselves. It may be easier to keep promises we make to others but break the promises we make to ourselves. However, keeping the promises we make to ourselves is important too. If we want to achieve our goals, but don’t show up to do the work, it’s difficult to trust and, therefore, love ourselves.
Using the tools of self-discipline will help us care for ourselves and achieve what we want in life.