How can we learn discipline
Learning discipline: the most important skill on the way to success
Have you ever noticed that it is not necessarily the smartest, most competent, or most talented people who become very successful? There is one factor that is often much more crucial: discipline.
This was already proven by the famous marshmallow test by the psychologist Walter Mischel in the 1960s and 1970s. In the experiment, researchers gave marshmallows to four-year-old children. However, they told them that if they didn't eat the marshmallows right away, they would get a second bag, but wait. Some children succeeded in the so-called delayed reward, while others did not.
These children were met again 13 years later. Those who managed impulse control by the age of four were more determined, more socially competent, and did better in school. They were even less likely to be addicted to drugs. However, these children were no more intelligent.
With this experiment, Walter Mischel succeeded in proving that self-control, patience and tolerance for frustration are more important than intelligence for success.
The reason for this is that success comes at a price. It costs deprivation, perseverance, free time, often money, patience, courage and much more. Discipline helps pay that price.
Let's be honest: Without discipline, nobody would regularly do without, work hard and go beyond their limits, even though they do not see results immediately (i.e. without direct rewards). But it works with self-control, patience and perseverance, in short with discipline.
To learn discipline: 1. Do not be tempted
Already in the Lord's Prayer it says "Lead us not into temptation". So the problem with willpower seems to be an ancient one. We now also know that willpower is finite and depends on external factors. For example, a low blood sugar level lowers our willpower.
It takes energy to consciously resist. And at some point it is used up. So if you really want to be disciplined, you have to change your circumstances so that it is easy to stay disciplined. It is easy to fall into the misconception that disciplined people are better at resisting temptation. That's not true. Disciplined people only consistently avoid temptation.
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If you have a firm desire to lose weight, don't fill the storage cupboards with sweets. If you want to concentrate on your work, you can mute your cell phone (and preferably put it far away). If you want to go to sport after work, you don't go home beforehand, but go straight to the gym.
Everyone knows it: Once your butt has touched the couch, it is extremely difficult to get up again and torment yourself to exercise. The less temptation you are exposed to, the easier it is to stay disciplined.
Learning discipline: 2. Get into uncomfortable situations
Practice makes perfect - this also applies when it comes to discipline. The only reason most people are not disciplined is that they never put themselves in situations where they could be disciplined. They prefer to stay in comfortable, simple situations. What would require discipline is postponed or immediately canceled.
It is also understandable: our brain avoids everything outside of the familiar because it cannot assess new things so well. It could be dangerous so avoid it. The brain does not care that times have changed and that we are exposed to far less dangers than before.
Avoidance and procrastination mean that the mountain of obstacles will eventually be so large that it seems insurmountable. Even the most disciplined person would have problems with it.
So the solution is simple: Don't let it get that far and voluntarily get into uncomfortable situations. This is the only way to learn discipline.
Sometimes it is difficult to see that we are running away from an uncomfortable situation. An indication: when everyone else is not in the mood for a task. Then it's probably an inconvenient thing to do. Just do it. You will be amazed to find that in the end it is not as challenging as you thought. You will probably even emerge stronger from the situation.
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Learning discipline: 3. Work with your preferences, not against them
There are those people who get up at 5:30 in the morning, do sports, have a healthy breakfast and, in principle, have already lived half a day before the rest of the world even woke up. We admire these people for their discipline. But if you talk to them, you quickly realize: They enjoy it. They don't torment themselves in the morning, they enjoy it. They found a routine that feels good to them and that's why they stick to it.
In our society we always equate discipline with willpower, but that's just not true. In fact, we only follow certain routines in a disciplined manner if we either enjoy them or if we have a profound reason for them.
For example, you go to work in a disciplined manner every morning. Do you always feel like it? No, but it pays your bills. So you are still motivated to go to work. Some people even hate their job and still go there every day. That is discipline.
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Remember your youth. Have you been to the dance club before and did this exercise several times a week? If so, then you did it because you enjoy dancing. On the other hand, 30 minutes on the treadmill will not irritate you. So you don't go to the gym thinking this is due to a lack of discipline. Then you make yourself ready for the fact that you no longer have willpower. This cycle has to stop.
You are disciplined, you used to go to dance training in a very disciplined manner. Both situations have to do with you, both are sports. The only difference is that you enjoy dancing and not going to the gym.
Use your preferences to your advantage. There's no point in trying compulsively to take over other people's routines. Instead, you need to find a routine that feels good to you. Then the discipline and perseverance follow on their own.
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Learning discipline: 4. Find a reason
We already touched on it earlier: We stay disciplined when we enjoy something or when something is particularly important. Your job is very important in your life, so you go there every day whether you like it or not. You can achieve the same discipline in other things even if you don't enjoy them. You just have to find a good reason to do these things.
If you stop going to work, you will lose your job and consequently you will no longer receive a salary. It would have a direct impact on your whole life. This motivates most people so much that they wake up early every day and go to work - even if they hate their work.
It doesn't have to be that dramatic. Maybe you just want to be able to go jogging several times a week. You don't hate it, but it still costs you to overcome. In order for you to jog regularly in the long run, you have to find something that motivates you. That must be significant. Five pounds less on the scales isn't enough to turn you into a jogger.
Go deep inside and research what might be the reason you want to jog. Find something that will make a difference in your life.
This is why longtime smokers can suddenly quit smoking when their doctor tells them they have to. You may have tried to quit ten times before. They also always know that it is unhealthy. But one visit to the doctor and suddenly it is no longer a problem never to touch a cigarette again.
If you want to bring more discipline into an area of your life, you have to find a damn good reason for it and then suddenly it works.
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Learn discipline: 5. Remember why you are disciplined
Even if you basically enjoy it and you have a good reason for it, there will be days when you don't feel like it. Then it doesn't matter what it's about. But it is important that you still do your usual action. This may not be the most productive day or workout, but it is the sum of such actions that makes a real difference. A mega workout doesn't make us fitter, but a lot of workouts (even not so effective) do.
On days like this, you need to remind yourself of your motivation. What are you doing this for? Be honest with yourself.
When you know for a fact that you don't feel like it, but that you will feel better after you exercise, it will be easier to stay disciplined.
If you want to learn discipline, you also have to learn to motivate yourself. In everyday life we fall into our usual routine and only see the to-dos, but no longer the meaning behind them. Remind yourself of this when you feel like you are failing to stay disciplined. Picture how you achieved your goal. Picture how your life will change then.
Also very effective: Remind yourself that you have already changed. It can help immensely if you see yourself in a different light. You are now simply someone who likes to exercise or who likes to get up early (of course only if that's true).
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Furthermore: If you've had a bit of a setback and skipped training or indulged in an extra cheat day, consider this a wonderful opportunity to learn. Find out why you couldn't stay disciplined.
Maybe you can still tweak your routine or your motivation a little. Maybe your other habits are also the problem, such as not getting enough sleep.
A setback doesn't tell you anything about you. You are neither lazy nor lacking willpower or discipline. Defeat is part of success, like amen is part of the church. Make yourself aware of this, learn from the setback for the future and continue on your way to more discipline.
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