How to Cultivate Discipline in Your Life + Do ANYTHING
Discipline is one of those words that kinda makes us feel weird, right? Like, you’re being disciplined for doing something wrong, or it makes you feel like your life is too structured.
Well, I’m here today to change the way you think about discipline in your own life. If you can cultivate a sense of it in your daily life, I’m telling you, you can literally do ANYTHING.
Discipline is essentially having self-control and, lemme tell ya, I am all about having control in my life. Personally, I think many people like to think things are out of their control. How much money you make, your living conditions, your relationships, how you feel about people, how you react to bad AND good situations, how clean your home is, reaching your potential, traveling to every damn country in the world — these are all within your control. BUT, you have to be able to harness discipline in order to actually experience them.
Discipline is more than being rigid about certain things in your life, it’s about understanding that you have control over the outcome of certain things BECAUSE you are consistently working at them. For example, if you are disciplined about tracking every single dollar you spend and earn, you’ll know exactly how much you can save every month and how long it will take you to save for a downpayment on a home. If you tracked every single dollar like that, would you then be surprised 2 years later when you magically had enough money to put a downpayment on a home? No! That’s the power of discipline — knowing the outcome.
Here’s another example. Imagine you tracked your calories to put yourself in a calorie deficit every day for 6 months, with the goal of losing fat. Would you be surprised after 6 months when you reached that goal? You’d be a fool if you did!
Let’s talk about the actual process of cultivating discipline
I have been working on this for literally years, but more intentionally in the past 2 years or so. Here are a few of the concrete things I have focused on to do so.
set them goals, girlfriend
Setting the goal is the beginning of getting anything you want, but the discipline is all that mundane day-to-day stuff you do to actually achieve anything.
If you need to make a daily goal, weekly goal or monthly goal (or all of the above!) then do it. Sometimes I have ONE daily goal and sometimes I have 3 weekly goals. Let’s say I have one weekly goal of releasing a single podcast episode by the end of the week.
I’ll WRITE IT DOWN (v important and we’ll come back to that) and then underneath that goal, I’ll write something I need to do everyday of the week to get that episode done. It would look something like this:
End Of Week Goal: Release new episode on Sunday
Monday: brainstorm topic
Tuesday: do rough outline
Wednesday: complete final draft
Thursday: record episode
Friday: edit episode
Saturday: upload to platform and write descriptions + links
Sunday: release + promo
Now, that’s a shitload of stuff to do throughout the week to just get that single goal accomplished, right?! If I don’t write it down, have daily tasks to complete and be disciplined each day, guess what? There’s no episode getting released on Sunday.
Writing these things down and knowing what you need to focus on each day, week, or month is the perfect way to stay disciplined throughout the week.
I cannot tell you how much of a difference it has made to actually think about what I want to accomplish AND write it down.
make your bed, everyday
I am all about doing the small things right. That means, I do things like make my bed, everyday. Sometimes at 3AM before I leave for work and it sucks every time — it’s never a task you WANT to do.
But, if you can be disciplined about the first task of the morning, you start the day with a win. You KNOW if you make that bed, you will have accomplished exactly what you intended to do, all you had to do was make an effort. Each task for the rest of the day after that moment is precisely the same.
train yourself to be a morning person
I wrote an entire blog post about how I have become a morning person, and how you can, too. You can read it HERE.
Basically, the gist is this: one of the hardest things to do is wake up earlier than you absolutely need to. No one wants to wake up at 4 in the morning and work out (maybe some people do, but those people are no one I know), but the difference is training yourself to do uncomfortable things.
Being disciplined is doing things because you want a certain outcome so badly, you are willing to work at it tirelessly and, especially, when you don’t feel like it. Once you can cultivate that mindset, I promise you, there is no stopping you.
If you can get your ass out of a warm bed on a cold morning and go work on your computer to build that business you’ve always wanted BEFORE you go to your 9-5, you can legitimately do anything. Anything!
commit to something
This falls under the same roof as goal-setting. I think many of us have some sort of commitment-phobia, because it means you’ve got skin in the game once you commit to something. It’s the feeling of telling your friends you’ll go out on Friday night and then Friday night finally rolls around and you realize that you in fact, do not want to go out but you’ve already committed.
A HUGE part of this is writing shit down. Commit to doing something or accomplishing a goal and fucking write it down and put it somewhere you’ll see it every single day. Here’s a personal example: I have my 6 month goals written down on a piece of paper in my bathroom — it’s the first place I go in the morning and as I’m standing there brushing my teeth, I can reflect on that goal and quickly remind myself why I’m up so god damned early and to keep after it.
Here are a few tips for writing goals down:
Be as specific as possible
Instead of, “I want to buy a home in the future,” try this instead, “I want to save 30% of a downpayment for a home by November 2020.” Much more specific and clear, right?! This way you have a time-frame to stick to and a percentage for a savings goal.
Set a day to check in on your progress
Listen, all of us are short on time, but make the fucking time to check in on yourself — that’s how you know you’re either killing it or could work harder. Even if it’s once a week, like, every Wednesday before bed, set aside 20 minutes to see how you’re doing and re-evaluate.
Make them a stretch, but realistic
I ain’t ya mother and I’m not going to tell you you can, “shoot for the stars, honey,” but make those goals a BIG stretch. You want it to challenge you and make you work hard for it, but, I find, if it’s too big, you can become discouraged by it as you work for it. It is perfectly okay to write down some long-term goals that make you want to throw up because they are scary big, but also be sure to write down short-term, challenging goals that will help you get to that big, scary one. I don’t blame ya for dreaming big (I’m right there with you), but make sure to align those small goals with realism.
Hold yourself accountable
Okay, this one I have SO much trouble with and I am constantly working at it. Humans can rationalize just about anything — it’s the reason we feel we deserve to splurge on a little shopping trip, or the fact that we walked a mile more than usual today, so that burger with extra cheese is basically cancelled out, right?!
I legitimately did this today: I KNEW I had over-spent at the grocery store and gone over my budget for the week. I keep track of every dollar I spend and earn on my phone using the app, Every Dollar. But, when I do something dumb like over-spend at the grocery store on stupid impulse purchase and like, four different kinds of cheeses, I will put off logging that money into my budgeting app. Why? I honestly haven’t figured it out yet. I think it’s my way of pretending like I am still on budget for the month? Our because I know it will throw off all of my budgeting for month and I’ll have to adjust.
BUT, eventually I’ll do it; I’ll log the over-spent money and adjust my budgeting to even out those impulse purchases. The key, I think, is to be aware of these roundabout things we all try to do to pretend like we are still on track with whatever our goals are. To hold yourself accountable and actually type in that over-spending forces you to take a look at your actions and re-evaluate. For me, it’s about allocating a cheese budget and sticking to it.
Having discipline is one piece to the puzzle, but holding yourself accountable is the other piece.
That’s why you’ll see people try to tackle huge goals together. When you have someone to help hold you accountable, to check in on your progress and re-evaluate what is working and what isn’t, you are more likely to succeed. If you can make yourself your own accountability partner, even better!
But, what do you do when you don’t want to do anything?
I find myself in this position weekly. Things to do, goals to hit and a fucking Netflix queue loaded up with stuff I would rather be watching. So, what do you do when you are lacking motivation? I try to do some of these when I find myself in that position:
Take a day off
We all work hard and there’s a fine line between pushing yourself to your potential and challenging yourself and burn-out. If you go too far over that line, you’ll find yourself in a rut for what could be days, weeks, and months. Only you can find and know your boundaries. Even when you have a to-do list a mile long, take that WHOLE day off when you need to. Go do something you love; take a hike, go swimming, pet a bunch of dogs, draw, read, knit a scarf, do whatever you enjoy doing to refresh yourself. To me, burnout is a lot like being sick. You either immediately take 2-3 days off of work as soon as you start feeling ill and you’re over the illness, or, you try and push through it and go to work and keep up with everything and you end up sick for an entire month.
Remind yourself of your progress
This is why writing down your goals is so important. When you are lacking motivation and you’re finding it hard to be disciplined, you can reflect on your past progress and see how far you’ve come in pursuit of what you want to accomplish. If you can take a few moments and remind yourself of how well you’re really doing and WHY you’re doing it, it can be a great motivator.
I love working at home. I can wear my jammies and make myself endless cups of coffee and snacks, but also, the TV is there and my cozy bed. Sometimes I get a ton done while working at my house and other days I clean out my entire closet and re-arrange the living room and do laundry and re-watch The Sopranos for the third time, ya know? On those days, I have to force myself out of my jammies and into my work attire (leggings and a loose dress) and head to my favorite local coffee shop. I have spent an entire day trying to get one task done while working from home and forced myself to go somewhere else to work and finished that same task in less than an hour. A change of environment can make all the difference in the world.
Discipline is the one thing you can cultivate to virtually ensure you succeed at something. Start by doing the small things right, like making your bed everyday, or making your lunch for a whole week to work on your savings goals and move on from there. Don’t expect to be a master of everything overnight — the secret is just to start, and to be consistent.
You will fail along the way, multiple times. You’ll over-spend on your budget, you’ll launch a product that doesn’t do as well as you’d hoped, you’ll eat an entire fucking pizza because you just kinda felt like it. Keeping your overall, long-term goals in mind and holding yourself accountable are the only ways to overcome those speed bumps along the way. Just because you ate 8 pieces of pizza doesn’t mean your goal of getting healthy are shot to hell now. One hot day doesn’t make a summer, ya know?
tell me: What do you do to maintain a level of discipline in your life and how has it helped you?
let’s chat in the comments below!
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