Learning Self-Discipline

by Bob Walsh

Learning self-discipline is something that everyone who really wants to succeed in life must master. It does not matter what your definition of success is – be it material, emotional, spiritual or social. If you lack the self-discipline that is necessary to overcome the obstacles that stand in your way, you simply will fail before you ever reach your goal.

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Not Feeling Like It

We all know what it feels like to not feel like doing something. Even the most driven, the most motivated, the most disciplined person on earth sometimes has this feeling. But it is important that you do not let your emotions destine your life.

It is true that emotions are crucial, they are important and make up a big part of what a happy and fulfilled life is about. But that does not mean that you should let your emotions sit in the drivers seat and take you to any place they feel like. It is important that you are able to achieve the things you want – and then, feeling good about them is something that will happen by itself, because you earned it.

Thinking that it doesn’t matter anyway

Sometimes you might simply lack the belief that what you set out to do is so difficult to achieve, or that somehow the odds are so stacked against you, that doing this little thing will not matter anyway. After all, if you want to walk from Paris to China, what difference does it make if you take one step or not?

Well, it is easy to think like that, but unless you realize that every big thing consists of a thousand small things, and that is thus the small things that matter, you will never achieve a single big thing in your life.

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Doing it later

Another strategy we often use to sabotage our own self-discipline is to procrastinate. Simply do it later, or do it “tomorrow”. But tomorrow never comes, because we keep thinking of it as “a new tomorrow” every day.

It is a moving time frame that never gets any closer. Human beings have the tendency to think that problems that are in the far future will more easily be mastered than problems that are in the now.

But why is that? Mainly because we think that by then we will be ready. But we are always ready to get started. And if we don’t get started now, we won’t be any more ready tomorrow than we are now.

There are many more ways we undermine self-discipline, but what is the point of listing them all? Instead, let us find solutions for this problem.

One thing you can do is to simply make a statement to yourself. For example, when you have to make a phone call but are putting it off all the time, then simply get in front of the mirror, look yourself into your own eyes and say out loud: “You are going to make that call now, and you won’t get anything let get in the way, nothing can stop you now.

It doesn’t matter what else you could do – you will make this call now, right now!”

Sounds silly? To me it does for sure, but if you give it a try, you will see that it works despite being silly.

And in the end, learning self-discipline is a skill that takes a lot of time to build. You will constantly have to put in effort to do it. But fortunately, there is a sneaky little shortcut: hypnosis.

Because with hypnosis you can put your efforts on steroids and reprogram your subconscious mind to keep you on track, so that you get things done.

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Discipline is basically a mental muscle that helps you to control and manage your thoughts, emotions, actions and impulses. And in fact, just like a real muscle, you can train self-discipline. And you can also tire it out by overuse, and we’ll look at that soon.

But first:

How to learn  self-discipline?

Well, by constantly engaging in acts that require self-discipline. These don’t have to be herculian tasks – in fact, doing many small things repeatedly is more effective when you want to become more disciplined.

Roy Baumeister, one of the world’s leading authorities on the subject of learning self-discipline recommends these self-discipline exercises:

  • Maintain a good posture.
    It’s very easy to habitually fall back into negative posture, and it does require some effort to maintain a good posture. Not just physical effort, but also mental effort. So constantly correcting your own posture when you deviate is a good way to train your brain for self-discipline.
  • Speak in complete sentences.
    It’s easy to talk in phrases – but speaking in complete sentences requires a certain kind of cognitive control. And as a side-effect, it can also make you more authoritative.
  • Use the computer mouse with your other hand.
    If you are right-handed, use your left hand to grab your computer mouse. This is unusual, and it requires your brain to engage in a common, everyday action in a new (and more effortful) way.

As you can see: none of these little discipline-tricks are really difficult. And many times people wonder: how is this supposed to help me build up willpower?

It’s all based on the underlying psychological principle that many repetitions are better than few, even if they are miniscule.

However, it takes a lot of time to build up willpower this way. So why not accelerate it with the help of hypnotic suggestions?

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Depleted Discipline

As mentioned previously – it’s actually possible to tire out your self-discipline by overusing it. Scientists found this out when they did experiments about willpower with students. They gave students a task that required self-restraint. For example, they put a delicious cake in front of them, and told them not to eat it. Or they showed them an emotional movie and told them to suppress their feelings while watching it.

Afterwards, these students underperformed in tasks that required self-discipline. For example, when faced with a challenging puzzle, they gave up much faster than students who did not previously engage in the discipline-depleting task.

Another thing that can drain discipline is if you’re not well. Studies showed that people have much less self-control when they are having a cold. And women have less willpower during their menstruation than on other days.

That’s one more reason why learning self-discipline is so important: because day-by-day, you do have a limited “pool” of discipline from which you can draw – but through regular reinforcement, you can make that “pool” larger, you can increase your overall discipline.

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But just in case you are still wondering whether it’s worth the effort or not… just

How important is discipline in life?

Well, let’s not talk about personal opinions. Let’s talk about science. Hard, quantifiable data. Facts.

There was a long-term study with 1,000 participants in New Zealand. In total it followed these 1,000 people over a period of 32 years.

The researchers repeatedly evaluated the self-discipline of each participant and followed their development over time.

The results?

People who had good self-discipline were more successful in pretty much every area of life: they made more money, they performed better academically, they had more stable and fulfilling relationships and friendships.

People who had low self-discipline on the other hand were four times as likely to become criminal convicts. They also were more likely to be overweight, and struggle with alcohol or drug addictions. Oftentimes they were single parents or failed otherwise to maintain lasting relationships. They made less money and had very few savings.

So if any of this matters to you: your health, your wealth or your happiness, you really have every to increase your willpower.

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There’s always a part of you that doesn’t want to be disciplined. The Germans have a great expression for it: innerer Schweinehund. Literally it means inner swine-dog. It’s an inner entity within yourself that wants to be lazy, that wants to procrastinate.

And you need a way to handle the innerer Schweinehund. It’s a tricky dog too. It won’t just tell you things like: hey, let’s do this another day! Let’s just chill a bit now. That would be too easy. It has many different tactics. Sometimes it will tell you: What’s the point? You won’t succeed anyway, it’s too much for you. You’re not good enough, so don’t make a fool out of yourself trying. Be realistic.

When you hear that inner voice telling you these things, just recognize what it’s trying to do: it’s trying to break your self-discipline. Don’t let that happen. Just being aware of the ways the inner Schweinehund sabotages you can help you to be more self-disciplined.

Self-discipline isn’t something that you have or not have, it’s something that you make or not make! If you think you don’t have enough self-discipline, change your thinking first: instead of saying “I don’t have enough self-discipline” ask “How can I act more self-disciplined?”

If you often have a problem with “postponing” tasks, then you might want to do something to overcome procrastination.

Many people wonder what the meaning of life is, what the purpose of life is. Well, one might argue that on an individual level it differs, but on a general level, life is about mastering life. And to master life you need to learn self-discipline.

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