We arrive at the fourth D; the darned D-Word, Discipline! Don't you hate it? As I write this, I feel my abs clenching in a somber reminder that I didn't hit the gym like I had planned this morning. My To-do List is also staring back at me with a wry snicker, like, "Yeah. Sure, you're going to do all of this. Somewhere in the distance, all my good intentions have congregated. They're rolling on the ground laughing at me.
Yes. This is the war of Discipline. The fight to get things done. The ongoing debacle of learning how to keep promises to yourself. You know the enemy. You know her well. The enemy is not discipline. The enemy is the person in the mirror staring right back at you. Discipline is the everlasting battle pitting you against the wiliest opponent: YOU.
And YOU will not go down easy. There will be no first round knockout; no blowout in the second half. This is a daily, bloody-knuckled grind that you must fight and win each day if you are to accomplish anything worthwhile.
Everyone has a certain amount of discipline. If not, no one would ever get out of bed. The good news is that you can strengthen your discipline, and thereby exponentially improve your results. Take a moment and calculate how much time you waste in any given day or week. With a more disciplined approach, you will not only multiply productivity, you will eventually reclaim your "Me-time" through disciplined action. How does this work?
Here are my top suggestions for strengthening or developing discipline in any area of your life:
1. Get an accountability partner. Nothing significant happens in life without accountability. You either have to learn to be accountable to yourself or find someone to be accountable to. Checks and balances of some sort are built into most employment relationships. You've got a boss. You've got deadlines. That structure is missing when you're mano-a-mano with yourself. Your boss won't call up to see if you've done your push-ups or eaten your broccoli. For that, you need an accountability partner. This can be a trainer at the gym or friend who will hold your feet to the fire. Whatever the goal, make sure to build in some accountability. Once your new habit becomes a routine, your physiology will help out. But don't relax. The moment you let up, your weaker self will be right back on top of you.
2. Make it automatic. I learned this one in the area of finances from David Bach. In The Automatic Millionaire, David argues that people face financial struggle due to over-complicating simple concepts. Rather than try to figure how much, where and when to save money each month, make it automatic. Before you start spending, have the same amount withdrawn from your checking account as savings for whatever purposes you designate. This is a disciplined way of saving money. The concept can be applied to anything. It could be as simple as an alarm clock set up on the far side of your bedroom. Give this some thought. What parts of your goal or task can be automated?
3. Make it a lifestyle. Mentally, you have to decide that discipline is a way of life. You must stick with the routine that you establish until you reach the goal. When you create new goals you will need new routines and the cycle starts all over again. This never stops. Michael Phelps is the most decorated Olympian of all time. With 28 medals to his credit, he is more than a swimmer. He is a phenomenon. If you know anything about Phelps, you know that his training regimen is insane. He trains incessantly in the off-season, keeping the same schedule, rain or shine, week day or weekend, holidays, birthdays and whatever else comes along. For Phelps, discipline is not a set of rules. It is life.
4. Expect resistance. Whenever you step up to achieve your most precious goals there will be resistance. Expect it. Author Steven Pressfield calls it The Resistance with a capital R. The Resistance is that voice in your head that tries to talk you out of accomplishing things. It makes excuses for you. It rationalizes why you haven't begun the novel, started the business or stuck with your fitness plan. If excuses won't work, then it will bully you. It'll ask you questions like, "Who do you think you are writing a book?" It'll make statements like, "No one will read that anyway," and other discouraging talk. If bullying won't work it'll offer benevolent reasons like your need to spend more time at work, at home, or anywhere other than getting down to your goal.
There is no way to stop The Resistance. Like the sun, it rises each day to either cajole you, bully you or guilt you into doing nothing. By knowing it is there, you can turn it on its head. You can decide that the ugly voice talking you out of your goal is the actual catalyst to push harder. Let The Resistance make you mad. Let it fuel decisive action.
Discipline is hard.
Failing to achieve your most cherished goals is harder.