Monday Motivation: Learning to Master Self-Discipline

Through self-discipline comes freedom

  • Aristotle

When you take a moment to let that sink in, it really hits hard because it’s about so much more than the usual things that come to mind. When you ask someone about self-discipline, they often joke that they have no self-control (um, yeah, I said that last night as I inhaled a(nother) fried Oreo). The first thing that comes to mind is almost always eating healthy. The second is the gym. Other things that often come to mind when people hear self-discipline are the un-fun things like going to bed with a clean house, or keeping the laundry at bay, or doing anything that seems boring or unenjoyable.

And that, my friends, is the problem. Why does everyone look at self-discipline in such a negative light? It’s not negative. Self-discipline is so important because it’s the long-term way you feel; which is essentially the way you live your life. If you’re not making self-disciplined enough to make positive choices now, you’re never going to live your best life.

I’m going to use my husband as an example (love you, handsome!). Before our gym closed down due to COVID last year, my husband woke up every morning at 4:30 am and quietly got dressed and went to work out. He was home by 6:30, in the shower, eating a quick breakfast, and ready to take our oldest daughter to school by 7:15 while I simultaneously worked and got the three little ones and myself ready so I could take them to school an hour and-a-half later. He never complained. He loved it.

Then came COVID. The gym closed for about 6 weeks, but it was also right at the time change part of the year, and it’s just plain dark in the morning. He could have gotten up and gone for a long run around 7:30, but he always liked to go to the gym early so he could come home and shower before taking Addy to school so that by the time he got home, he could be at his desk by 8 freshly showered and ready to work. It was too dark for him to run in the mornings, but we are also so busy during the evenings that he wasn’t doing it then, either.

The gym opened back up, but not until much later than 5 am. It took months for them to open early enough for him to be able to go and get in a good workout and still come home and shower before needing to be at his desk by 8 am. Long story short…he’s no longer going every single morning, but he’s continuously frustrated with himself on the days he doesn’t go.

I give him a hard time about it and tease him relentlessly because I just don’t relate. I love to work out, and I always have. He does, too, but he’s more about getting the extra hour of sleep or quiet time before the kids wake up and he makes them breakfast. The difference is that working out is an integral part of my own self-discipline practice, but it isn’t his; and that’s all right.

My point is this: He’s more of a think about the moment kind of guy, and I’m more of a think about the future type. What’s that mean? Well, when he has the option to sleep in rather than head to the gym, he feels the moment and sleeps in and doesn’t think about the fact that he’s not going to be happy with himself later. When I don’t feel like working out on a particularly busy day, my mind immediately goes to, “You are going to be in such a bad mood later, and you’re going to be disappointed in yourself,” and I just workout. It’s easier for me to reconcile just doing it now than it is to be upset later.

without self-discipline, success is impossible – lou holtz

Everyone is different. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it mastering self-discipline is so much simpler than people think. Whatever it is you feel you’re unable to do or control in your life is really just a mind trick. It’s a notion that you don’t have time or you can’t, or perhaps you don’t know where to start, but it really comes down to how you’re thinking about things. Are you thinking about now or later?

Figure out your weakness

For me, my weakness often relates to a good book. When the kids are at school and I’m finished with my deadlines for the day, I want to do nothing more than grab a book, lay by the pool, and get lost in a story. But…I can’t always do that if I want to be happy with every other aspect of my life. Once you know your weakness, you can work from there. For example, my husband wants to get a little more sleep in the mornings, so he could try going to bed earlier at night and getting the extra sleep (too bad he has a very cuddly wife who wants his attention at night….sorry not sorry, babe!).

Keep track of how you feel

self-discipline is about controlling your desires and impulses while staying focused on what needs to get done to achieve your goal – adam sicinski

Start reminding yourself how you feel when you lack self-discipline. For example, if you find yourself constantly ignoring laundry and dishes and things around the house, ask yourself how you feel going to bed at night with a messy house? How do you feel waking up to a messy house? How do you feel coming home to one? I can’t sleep if there’s a mess (I think I got that from my mom growing up and it became a habit in my own life). So, if you feel overwhelmed and stressed and frustrated with that, start making some changes. Clean things up and then jot down a quick note about how good you felt going to bed with a clean house and waking up to one. Let tracking your feeling motivate you to become more self-disciplined.

Reward yourself

This is how I manage my own self-discipline virtually every single day of my life. I work for myself. I don’t have to be anywhere at any certain time (other than the school drop off line before 9:10). I could sleep late. I could be more leisurely in the mornings, but then I have to think about everything I have to do all day, and I don’t like that feeling. I prefer waking early and working, and I like to be done working before 11 am at the latest so I can work out and be finished with my entire day by noon. When I meet that goal every day, I give myself at least a half hour (longer when the other things that need doing are already done) to sit outside on the front porch or by the pool and read. I live for that kind of quiet time and that kind of peace, so it motivates me to be disciplined each day.

discipline is choosing between what you want now and what you want most – abraham lincoln

What do you love? Figure out a way to reward yourself with it on days you are disciplined enough to meet your goals and do what needs doing. Honestly, it helps so much to create positive habits.

Don’t Compare

It’s hard for some people to forgo comparison, but it’s so important you remember that it’s the thief of joy. You’ll never become more self-disciplined in your own life if you’re worried about how much more self-disciplined someone else is. You’re more likely to give up because no two people are in the same place. Remember – we are not all on the same timeline. Some people do things sooner than others, and some people take a slightly longer route before they get to a certain place. I call it the scenic route, and there’s nothing wrong with it.

only a disciplined person can control his thoughts and emotions – nitin namdeo

For example, I might be the most self-disciplined person on the planet when it comes to keeping a clean house and working out, but I cannot master the art of not biting my nails off regularly. I try so hard, and I do so well, and then I fail, and I let myself fail big, get mad at myself, and then start over. I try so hard not to have exceedingly embarrassing road rage and people rage. I cannot master that. I’ve been working on my self-discipline regarding my reactions and my patience, and I struggle. Some things are so much easier than others, and we won’t all become masters of all self-discipline in a day.

Practice makes perfect

The thing about discipline is that you have to keep practicing even when you feel you’re failing at it or you have room for improvement. It’s a habit, and habits are easily changed or lost when you don’t, well, make them a habit. Do it. Do it again. Do it again and again. Self-discipline becomes so much easier the more you practice, and you will get there.

we do today what they won’t, so tomorrow we can accomplish what they can’t – dwayne johnson

Because it’s Monday, and it is the first, and it is a new month, it seems like a perfect day to learn a little more self-discipline (like…fold the laundry and put it away when you see it finished in the dryer instead of finding an imaginary still damp item in the dryer and turning it back on to buy yourself more time before doing that…my self-discipline goal for the day). Since not one of us is perfect and perfection doesn’t exist (well, except for those fried Oreos Shawna made…), we could all use a little refresher on being more disciplined. Today’s discipline is tomorrow’s freedom, after all. And that, my friends, sounds pretty good.