Saturday, March 8, 2008

How To Build Iron Self Discipline

Motivation is great but discipline is better. The Daily Discipline is a process I created to help me achieve some big goals and to also keep me doing the little things consistently that keeps my life and my family's life running smoothly.

The process I use is not rocket science and to some will be common sense and for others a bit weird. I believe in systems so I created a master system to control, as much as possible, every aspect of my life.

I am 38 years old and have spent my life looking for the answer. How to live an exciting, purposeful life filled with wealth, health and happiness. It is only now that I believe that I have found that answer. Now I need to use it. I need to get down to action because therein lies my problem.

I have been a planner for decades. I have created plans to achieve dozens of goals. The plans were brilliant but I never took action and therefore they were worthless. Planning without action is a complete waste of time.

The only time I ever made progress on my goals was when I was motivated. Those rare days when I had energy and a desire to make progress. The motivation fueled the action but only until the motivation, the feeling, wore off. I would then quit my goal and by the time I was motivated again I would have to start over only to repeat the "temporary progress-to-failure" pattern.

Sometimes I thought the answer was to keep myself motivated, but how could I do that? I thought about it one day (when I was feeling energetic) and asked myself what things motivated me? I came up with watching certain inspiring movies like Rocky, if I wanted to work out, or The Secret of my Success if I wanted to work on my success goals. I could also listen to certain audio books on goals and achievement that would get me pumped up. So there it was! My answer - I would simply listen to motivating audio books or watch inspiring movies when I needed to be motivated. That would certainly work right? Wrong.

The problem was I didn't have the motivation to watch the movies or listen to the audio books - unmotivated is unmotivated! What to do? Another day when I was energetic I again pondered the problem. Why can't I be disciplined enough to stay motivated? That's when the word discipline hit me.

My problem wasn't about staying motivated it was about being disciplined enough to do the things I needed to do to achieve my goals when I wasn't motivated. I needed discipline!

So, I started to study discipline on the web. I searched and searched until I formulated what I believed was the Best of the Breed explanation on discipline and how to build it.

Building discipline is like building strength through weight lifting or building endurance through long distance running. You must exercise your discipline to make it stronger. Neglecting this exercise will make you a weak-willed, often tempted quitter! Ouch! That's harsh, but true.

Anyone starting a weight lifting program doesn't begin by piling 400 pounds onto the bench press. That's a good way to kill yourself. The secret to weight training is progression. By starting small and adding weight over time, you gradually build up your muscle strength.

For example. You might start by pressing 100 pounds eight times and that's all you can do. On your next workout you press 100 pounds nine times. The next time it's ten times and then eleven and then twelve. After you reach twelve repetitions you increase the weight to 105 pounds. Your first attempt at this weight yields only eight repetitions. You're back to square one and your repeat the process until you can do the 105 pounds twelve times. Then you raise the weight to 110 pounds then 115, 120, 125 and so on....

After four or five years of consistently doing this, you might be pressing that 400 pounds we mentioned earlier. My brother and many of his friends accomplished this goal back in their high school and college football days!

Now for an example in progressive exercise of your discipline. Let's say that you get up at 7:00 AM every day. You actually get out of bed at 7:18 after hitting snooze twice - yeah, we've all been there. The problem is you're always feeling rushed in the morning getting ready for work. You would like to have time for a workout and a good breakfast but you just can't seem to wake up in time.

The next day you set the clock for 5:00 AM. You wake up at 7:37 because when the alarm went off, you turned it off without even remembering doing so! You scramble out of bed half groggy rushing to get ready to get to work without being late. You've just tried to lift 400 pounds right from the start. Not fun.

Here's how to do it progressively:

For one day resolve to do something simple. How about giving yourself an extra 10 minutes to get ready? You know that the snooze button is a deeply embedded habit right now and you're not even going to mess with it. So you set your clock to 6:50 AM. You know you'll hit snooze twice which means you'll be getting up at 7:08 AM, ten minutes earlier than before.

Everything happens as planned. That was easy! It was barely a change from you're normal routine. Should you try for twenty minutes? No. You should see if you can do it again. Can you do it for two days in a row? Three? Can you get up 10 minutes earlier every day for seven days in a row? If you can, you're now ready to increase the weight.

Now repeat the process except move the time up by ten minutes. You're now setting the alarm for 6:40 AM, you're hitting snooze twice and actually getting up at 6:58 AM. It should be easier on day 1 this time than on day 1 the first time. If you blow it, don't go back to setting the clock for 6:50 AM, you've already mastered that time. Your goal is to hit one day in a row (smirk) at the 6:40 AM setting, then two, then three until you reach seven days in a row. Then move it up by ten minutes again.

This example may seem a little silly, but remember you're not just trying to get up at 6:40 AM. You're really exercising your discipline. After a while you'll be getting up at 5:00 AM without even hitting the snooze bar once. You're pride will take over and you will not want to drop back into your old habits. You should do this every day including the days that you're off of work. You'll thank yourself for this habit when you discover how much time you have every day to get things done. When you've reached the ultimate goal, getting up at 5:00 AM, you should make sure you can do the goal for 30 days, not just seven. What do you do after 30 days?

Your goal is now a habit and with each new good habit you form, you lift your discipline level up a notch. You are now a more disciplined person than you were 30 days ago. What you need to do now is start over with a new habit. How about that morning workout? Using progression, it will be all too easy

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