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6 Ways to Master Self Control | How to Be More DISCIPLINED

Hey, what is goin' on guys? So today we are gonna be covering six important strategies for improving your level of self-discipline. Now before we get into the nitty-gritty, I do wanna take a brief moment to define what exactly self-discipline is, because when I asked you guys to tell me about your problems with discipline on Twitter the other day, I got a lot of answers, ranging from motivation to distractions to cell phone addiction, all kinds of things in between. And while all these answers are legitimate problems, I don't think that all of them fit neatly into the category of self-discipline. Where they do fit is in the broader category of behavior change, and that is the big goal for most of us, we wanna change our behaviors to be more aligned with our goals and our long-term desires. And when it comes to that general mission to change your behaviors, I see four main areas that we need to focus on, one of which is the cultivation of self-discipline, which we're gonna tackle in this post, but also the building of new habits, which can make that behavior automatic, the customization of our environment, which can remove roadblocks and help us resist temptations by basically removing them, and of course, the consumption of as much Brawndo as possible, since it is the thirst mutilator. But, as you may have guessed, this post is only about that first area, self-discipline. And where I wanna start is by asking and answering two questions.

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Number one, what exactly is self-discipline? And number two, how does it differ from motivation? Because I think a lot of people get these two terms confused. To start, I wanna share a quote from the writer Samuel Thomas Davies because it actually answers both those questions in a pretty tidy way. "Self-discipline is about leaning into resistance, taking action in spite of how you feel, living life by design, not by default. But, most importantly, it's acting in accordance with your thoughts, not your feelings." Put another way, motivation is your overall level of desire to do something, whereas discipline is your ability to do it regardless of how you feel. And for any of you who've ever woken up thinking, I don't feel like it, which is all of you, myself included, you can see now how important self-discipline is. It's building that baseline that allows you to act in accordance with your long-term goals, no matter how motivated you feel. So, with that being said, let's cover six important strategies for building your self-discipline. And we're gonna start with one that doesn't seem very tangible or actionable at first, but stick with me here, because this is a mindset shift that I've found more helpful than any other self-improvement technique I've tried in recent memory.

FOCUS ON IDENTITY

To put it simply, when you're trying to change your behavior forget about the goal you're trying to achieve, the external outcome, and instead focus on the change in identity you want to happen. This is a concept that I first read about in James Clear's book, Atomic Habits, which I highly recommend, by the way. And there's this passage near the beginning of the book that really encapsulates it well. So I'm just gonna read it to you here. 

Imagine two people resisting a cigarette. When offered a smoke, the first person says, "No thanks, I'm trying to quit." It sounds like a reasonable response, but this person still believes they are a smoker who's trying to be something else. They are hoping that their behavior will change while carrying around the same beliefs. The second person declines by saying, "No thanks, I'm not a smoker." It's a small difference, but the statement signals a shift in identity. Smoking was a part of their former life, not their current one. They no longer identify as someone who smokes. 

So, the general idea here is that once you've embraced a change in your identity, you're gonna find yourself acting in alignment with that change. And if you're wondering why exactly this happens, the third chapter of Robert Cialdini's book Influence, The Psychology of Persuasion, has a great explanation for it. Essentially, humans feel this natural compulsion to act consistently with their past decisions. As he writes in the book, "Once we have made a choice or taken a stand, we will encounter personal and interpersonal pressures to behave consistently with that commitment." Those pressures will cause us to respond in ways that justify our earlier decision. And shifting my mindset in this way has been incredibly helpful in the past couple of months. And the first way that I implemented it was by starting to think of myself as an athlete. Now, I've always been a pretty active person, and I've had a laundry list of athletic goals on my website for quite a long time now. But I never really took the leap and started thinking of myself as an athlete. And there were some imposter syndrome reasons for this. But, after reading that passage in the book, I decided to take the leap and start thinking of myself as an athlete, not just as somebody who does active things. And that shift in mindset has done wonders for my levels of self-discipline in many different areas, from going to the gym more consistently, to training harder while I'm there, to even improving my diet, which has been a lot better than it used to be over the past couple of months. So, seriously, if you take nothing else from this post, I'm puttin' this first for a reason, start thinking about behavior change in terms of the identity that you want to embody rather than the goals that you want to achieve. 

CREATE REMINDERS

All right, strategy number two is to frequently remind yourself of why you're being disciplined in the first place. At the end of the day, we have to have a strong why for our actions if we want to do them consistently. And every time I think about this concept, I'm reminded of a story about the actor, Jim Carrey, and it goes like this. After he had arrived in Hollywood and he was still kind of an impoverished actor, one day he took out a napkin and drew himself a check made out to himself for $10 million and postdated for 10 years in the future. And then he put that check in his wallet so that every time he'd bring out his wallet, he could see it and remind himself of why he was working so hard, what he was working towards

And this is something that you might find very helpful to do as well. Try writing down your goal or the identity you wanna assume and put it maybe on a sticky note next to your desk or by your computer so you can see it every single day and know that this is why I'm building my self-discipline, this is the reason for all the work I'm putting in.

EMBRACE THE SUCK

All right, strategy number three is to find ways to embrace discomfort and embrace the resistance you feel towards doing something that takes hard work or that's unpleasant. Just like going to an actual gym and lifting weights makes you better at lifting weights in the future, and able to lift more weight the next time you go in, every time you embrace discomfort, you're essentially doing a rep of the exercise that is self-discipline because it is a skill that can be learned, it is a muscle that can be built over time. This is why I'm such a proponent of taking cold showers because a cold shower is something that most people don't want to do. It's not very comfortable standing under that stream of ice-cold water, and that's the point. Every morning that you get into the shower and you choose to turn that handle to cold instead of hot, you are embracing discomfort, you're leaning into the resistance, and that makes you better at doing so in the future regardless of what the task is. 

So, as you go through your daily life, find ways to embrace discomfort. It could be cold showers, it could be signing up for a 6:00 a.m. ROTC fitness class, it could be taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Basically, whenever your brain throws up that I don't feel like it excuses, that is an opportunity to build that self-discipline muscle, and you should take it.

TARGET THE FUNDAMENTALS

Okay, we are on to item number four of our list, which is to target the fundamentals first, and by the fundamentals I mean the biological necessities of life, your sleep, your nutrition, and your exercise habits. These are all crucial to pay attention to because the part of your brain that handles executive functioning, the part that regulates your desires and your impulses, requires a lot of energy and regular rest to function at peak levels. Always remember that you are first and foremost a collection of biological systems, all of which require the right inputs if you wanna get the best outputs out of them. And, I know, it's easy to picture the brain as separate from all of this, as existing in this metaphysical realm where the only needed fuel sources are motivation, and determination, and wholesome memes. But, the brain needs rest, and it needs exercise, and it needs the right balance of nutrients just as the rest of your body does. So, if you're sleep-deprived, which, judging from the number of views on this post, you probably are or you haven't gotten enough exercise regularly, or your diet is crap, that is where you should focus your discipline first.

PRACTICE ZAZEN

And that brings us to our fifth item on the list and it pains me to say this one because I personally hate doing it but, you may wanna try meditation. And the reason you might wanna do this is that meditation has been shown scientifically to help people improve their levels of self-discipline. In fact, a 2013 study at Stanford University showed that people who went through compassion training, which was a specific meditation program, were better able to regulate their emotions afterward. And this is crucial for remaining disciplined and being able to make rational decisions. Now, an easy way to get started would be by using guided meditation, which you can use through apps like Headspace and Calm, or through many free videos here on YouTube. But the form of meditation that I've always practiced, which I think is better for the development of self-discipline specifically, is a form of what is called zazen meditation, where I simply sit and concentrate on my breath with my eyes closed. And when my attention is inevitably pulled away by a random thought, I work to notice that and let that thought go, and then bring my attention back to my breath. And doing this over the long term has helped with both self-discipline and concentration. And like I said, I am not a huge fan of meditation, it's probably the self-development practice that I hate doing the most, but the benefits of doing so are undeniable. 

BUILD SOME HABITS

And that brings us to our final item on the list, which is to practice building new habits. Now like I said earlier, building new habits is kind of a separate discipline in the overall pursuit of changing your behavior. But, the initial stages of building a new habit often require self-discipline, because the behavior isn't automatic yet. So, this can be a great way to, not only establish a new habit but become more disciplined in the process. Now, I've got an entire post on building new habits coming up for you guys in the next couple of weeks, but until then, remember that for whatever habit you choose to build, start small, track your progress, maybe use an app like Habitica, or Strides, which is my current favorite one, or HabitBull on Android. Celebrate your wins, and also remember to not focus too much on purity, on perfect streaks. Instead, focus on making sure that your trend is going in an overall positive direction. And remember that as it is doing that, and as that behavior is becoming more automatic, your self-discipline is improving in the process. 

Now, if you've already taken care of those health fundamentals we talked about earlier, and you're looking for a new habit to sink your teeth into and to get this process started with, then one that I might suggest would be taking on an independent learning project and putting some daily effort into learning something new. Perhaps, if you have the same interests that I do in the area of computer science and algorithms, not only are these two topics incredibly fascinating but if you happen to be the kind of person who wants to be a web developer someday or wants to be a programmer, then learning these computer science fundamentals can really give you a leg up on the competition. And, if you're looking for a good place to get started, then you should check out the computer science courses over on Brilliant. Brilliant is a fantastic learning platform for anyone wanting to learn math, science, and yes, computer science, much more effectively and much faster than they normally would. This is because Brilliant takes an incredibly active approach to learning. Instead of just passively delivering material like in a lecture, they immediately throw you into challenging problems that keep your interest high and give you something to apply your current skill set to right from the get-go. Now, with this approach, you are going to get stuck sometimes. Like I got stuck with the sorting algorithms part in their computer science algorithms course. But, when you find yourself in that stuck situation, they do have this incredibly detailed wiki where you can go look at example problems and detailed explanations of all the concepts within their courses. And once you've done that, you can then go back to those problems armed with new knowledge and solve them. And the best part is, while you're doing this, while you're solving these problems, in their computer science courses or maybe in their calculus course or their course on classical physics, you're not just getting better at solving problems within that one topical area that you're focused on, you're becoming a better problem solver in general. 

I wanna give a big thanks to Brilliant as always for sponsoring this post and being a huge supporter of my website, and thank you so much for reading as well. If you enjoyed this video, give it a thumbs up, I definitely, get subscribed so you don't miss out on new posts when they come out every single week, Last but not least, you can follow me over on Instagram. 

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