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How to Immediately Increase Your Self Discipline

How to Immediately Increase Your Self Discipline

After delivering a keynote speaking presentation last week a man comes up to me and asks, “Rory what could I do immediately to increase my self-discipline?”

It’s a good question, and the best answer is pretty simple but before I share the answer with you it’s valuable to understand the context of the answer.

I think this particular man, and most people in general who might ask this question, are looking for a permanent solution.

They’re looking for something they can do once that will permanently improve their self-discipline.

But that is the wrong way of thinking about it.

Success in anything is almost never the result of doing things right one time.

Success is the byproduct of doing things right consistently over periods of time.

And you will never really be successful until you actually understand that.

But that doesn’t mean the answer isn’t powerful. The answer is powerful because it’s the same answer in every situation.

So in that way it is something you can learn to do once, and then if you can get yourself to repeat that one habit consistently over time, it will bring you the success you’re looking for.

(Which, by the way, is why our core business at Southwestern Consulting is 1 on 1 coaching because we know what people really need help with is not learning one time what they need to do but rather they need help with the accountability of actually getting themselves to do the thing consistently over a long period of time.)

So back to the issue at hand. How do you immediately increase your self-discipline?

Simple: you think longer term.

Anytime you evaluate a decision in the context of what feels good here and now, you’re going to always gravitate towards doing the easiest thing.

But anytime you evaluate a decision in the context of what is going to make tomorrow better, easier, and more fruitful then you’re willingness to endure sacrifice increases.

We often think that we don’t have “enough” discipline but that is inaccurate.

We have plenty of self discipline.

It’s just that self discipline becomes dormant in the absence of a dream.

So it’s not really a matter of increasing your self discipline as much as it’s a matter of activating it.

It’s already there.

As you get clear on what you want in the future, your energy activates for what you can endure right now.

If you’re not thinking about the impacts on your future, you default to what creates the best situation right now – which is usually indulgence.

It’s not a matter of how much willpower you have.

It’s a matter of how long is your perspective.

So the permanent solution that is immediately available to you for increasing your self discipline  is to think longer term.

But you can’t just do it once. You have to do that every time you’re confronted with a decision about whether or not to be disciplined.

Which is why we at Southwestern say “success is never owned; it is only rented – and the rent is due every day.”

The Marshmallow Test – The Payoff of Delayed Gratification

THE PAYOFF OF DELAYED GRATIFICATION

If you’ve never heard of the marshmallow test, it’s worth knowing about.

From Wikipedia:

The Stanford marshmallow experiment was a series of studies on delayed gratification in the late 1960s and early 1970s led by psychologist Walter Mischel, then a professor at Stanford University. In these studies, a child was offered a choice between one small reward (a marshmallow) provided immediately or two small rewards (i.e., a larger later reward) if they waited for a short period, approximately 15 minutes, during which the tester left the room and then returned.

In follow-up studies, years later, the researchers found that those children who were able to wait longer for the preferred rewards tended to have better life outcomes, as measured by SAT scores, educational attainment, body mass index (BMI), and other life measures.

It’s a simple choice in this experiment, “one marshmallow now or two later?”

That is a variation of the same choice that each of us make every single day when it comes to a multitude of decisions in our lives.

Indulge in the thing right in front of us or make a disciplined choice now and receive more blessings later on?

In Take the Stairs we called this dynamic the Paradox Principle of Sacrifice.

Which simply stated is this: Easy short term choices lead to difficult long term consequences.

Meanwhile, difficult short term choices lead to better long term consequences.

That’s the payoff of self-discipline.

And self-control is the brother of self-discipline.

If self-discipline is doing things you know you should be doing even when you don’t feel like doing them.

Then self-control is not doing things you know you shouldn’t be doing.

But both of them have the same result: long term rewards.

Long term gain.

Long term satisfaction.

Long term happiness.

Doing the right thing in the short term is what creates the better life in the long run.

We often think of these things as “sacrifices” but they aren’t sacrifices.

A sacrifice is giving something up that you never get back.

Good decisions aren’t sacrifices at all.

Good decisions are short term down payments on rich future blessings.

Of course, this idea is nothing new.

Hebrews 12:11 said it this way 2000 years ago:

“No discipline seems pleasant at the time. Yet it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

Think about that: “a harvest of righteousness and peace…”

Isn’t that what you want?

A harvest of righteousness and peace.

An abundance of blessings, good fortune, and calm faith.

A life filled with joy and free from stress.

Those things are available for your future.

They are available by the choices you make today.

They are available by doing the things now that you know you should be doing even when you don’t feel like doing them.

And by not doing things you know you shouldn’t be doing.

They are available through a little self-discipline and self-control expanded consistently.

In every area of your life, sow today for your harvest tomorrow.

2 Part Universal Success Formula

success

Hard work is not the key to success; it’s merely the price of admission.

For the ultra successful, hard work is a given.

Hard work is the expectation.

Hard work is a mandatory pre requisite for success.

But hard work alone doesn’t guarantee success.

Because you can be working hard at the wrong things and it won’t produce the fruit you’re looking for.

For example, we meet many people who say “I don’t need coaching because I have 20 years of sales experience.”

But the unfortunate truth many times is not that the person has 20 years of sales experience.

Rather they have 1 year of sales experience that they’ve repeated 20 times.

Because they never took the time to get classically trained on the art of communication, the psychology of influence and the skills of helping other people make decisions.

Which is why learning and education matters.

You have to also learn the skills of your trade.

You have to also “sharpen your saw”

You have to also increase your knowledge base.

Which is all a part of working smart.

But working smart alone is also not the sole key to success.

Because if you only work smart but you don’t work hard then you’ll never reach all that is possible for you.

You’ll never become all that your capable of.

So some people say it’s all about hard work.

Others say it’s all about smart work.

But at Southwestern Consulting we believe that it’s not about hard work or smart work; it’s about both.

Don’t be the educated derelict who never takes action and doesn’t execute on doing the work it takes to be successful.

And also don’t be the person who takes one year of experience and repeats it over and over again making the same mistakes.

Be forward thinking.

Be continually learning.

Be pacesetting.

Be top achieving.

Be hard working and smart working.

7 Critical Components of a Powerful Morning Routine 

morning

One of the most important habits of developing consistent high performance in your life is to put your self-esteem into your work habits rather than your production.

The reason is because we want our confidence tied to things that we can control rather than things we can’t.

Production often fluctuates up and down but our effort, work ethic, and intensity needs to always be consistent.

The decision to embrace this philosophy can be something that you demonstrate in the first few moments of every day.

I first learned the power of a morning routine from my time in college working in The Southwestern Advantage summer program.

They taught us to have and focus on a “mini-victories list” every single morning.

To this day, I follow a regimented routine every single morning that includes many of those original habits I developed selling door to door in the summer:

 

Gratitude – The very first thing I do when the alarm goes off is immediately start saying “thank you”. I thank God for as many specific blessings as I can possibly come up with in those first few moments. In addition to being a powerful way to start the day, it also keeps my mind from being occupied with negative thoughts about how tired I might be or what I have to do that day.

 

Scripture – For me it is a very intentional choice that the first input into my brain each day be scripture. Not email. Not Twitter. Not news. Scripture. Not only does it help charge my soul for the day, it is also an external representation of an internal decision to prioritize my spiritual walk and relationship with God above all else. After reading scripture I pray. It’s an important discipline. (Tip: Timothy Keller’s book Prayer taught me to focus on reading each individual word slowly and one at a time instead of speeding through sentences.)

 

Affirmations – Over the years I have amassed several lists of different affirmations. Some speak to the person I want to be, some speak to the company we want Southwestern Consulting to be, and some are very specific to reprogramming my brain about certain fears, current limiting beliefs that I have or new habits I’m focused on developing. I read those next.

Goals – I’ve always then spent a few minutes reviewing my short and long term goals. What has been very powerful for me in the last couple years is that I read my wife’s goals first. And when I know of them, I read specific goals of my business partners as well before I read mine. This is another discipline that I practice to try and cultivate more selflessness in my life. It’s important because I’m embarrassed and ashamed to admit that absent an intentional decision to think about other people, I unfortunately naturally default to thinking mostly of just myself.

Schedule – I spend a few moments reviewing my schedule and making sure I’m consciously aware of everything that is supposed to happen that day. A great piece of advice that I’ve been trying to practice that I learned from profiling a Multiplier for the Procrastinate on Purpose book is to “throw everything off my calendar and make it fight to earn its way back on.”

Exercise – This is another habit I learned directly from Southwestern, which is to do something physical first thing in the morning every single day! Even if it’s only a few push-ups, sit-ups, or weightless squats, it’s a major victory to do even some small physical activity. And you should never underestimate the power of consistency in your life; literally a few minutes of exercise every day does wonders for helping you maintain your physical state.

Vitamins – Taking vitamins and veggies is not something I particularly enjoy; but I do it every single day. Because staying healthy requires discipline and it’s a choice I want to consistently make first thing in the morning. My body is something I choose to protect and preserve and supplements are an important part of the routine. As mama always said “enjoying it isn’t a requirement of doing it.”

Making it through this entire list (including a 20 min workout routine) takes me about 45 minutes.

(In full disclosure, there is one other step to this routine that I’ve been doing the last couple years that I left out since it’s not ubiquitous to everyone: I also write 1 little inspirational social media post each day on Instagram that I also share to Facebook and Twitter. It takes about 7 minutes a day but I find that writing a little each day adds up tremendously over time. Those little thoughts often later get expanded into blog posts, which then many blog posts get put together to become a book, which is then made into keynotes, virtual trainings , and coaching modules.

Part of the power of this routine is programming your brain for success each day.

Another part of the power of this routine is preparing yourself to have a positive attitude each day.

But perhaps the most powerful part of this routine is that it helps you start “winning” right away.

Because all of these things are things that you can control.

And all of these things are mini-victories.

They are demonstrations of discipline that happen every morning.

They are resolutions that I will not let my life happen by accident but by design.

I will not be confused about where I’m going; I will be clear.

And I will not lose to the natural voices of fatigue, negativity, and distraction in my head; I will silence them.

This process helps remind me of how much I’ve been given, why my life counts, and who I am focused on serving.

You don’t have to follow this exact process, but I would highly recommend that you and your coach create some process – and that you follow it relentlessly.

Because success is never owned; it’s only rented – and the rent is due every day.

Why Cheat Days Never Work and How to Create Real Change

cheat-day

“Cheat days” don’t work.

Because “cheat days” fly directly in the face of what actually creates sustainable behavior change.

The concept of a “cheat day” is that you “reward” yourself for one day as the result of “depriving” yourself for all the other days.

But cheat days don’t reward you; they ruin you.

Not only is it just a waste to undo all of your progress you’ve made the rest of the time, the worst part is the thinking behind a cheat day is completely destructive.

You can’t create sustainable self discipline and behavioral change through the strategy of self-denial.

Self-denial doesn’t tackle the root of the problem.

Self-denial is convincing yourself to use willpower to give up something that you have convinced yourself that you really want.

There are 2 problems with that strategy:

  1. At some point your will power is likely to run out because you’ll be tired, or sick, or convince yourself that you’ve done something that makes you “deserve” the thing you’re trying to keep yourself from.
  2. As long as you’re convinced you really want it, you’re brain will constantly unconsciously be looking for ways for you to get it – even if you are consciously trying to avoid it.

So how do you create real, meaningful, sustainable and lasting behavior change?

It’s simple.

You don’t “deny” yourself.

You “re-program” yourself.

You have to convince yourself that you don’t really want it… now or ever.

You have to change the way you think about the thing that you currently want.

You have to literally form new neural pathways in your brain that tell you what to think (and feel) whenever you think about that thing.

The number one first step to doing that is to change your self talk about that thing.

You stop saying “if I’m good about not having ___ now, then I can indulge and have it later.”

You start saying “I don’t even like _____ because it has ______ and _____ negative affects on my life.”

You retrain your brain. You use what we at Southwestern would refer to as “Self-Talk.”

You keep repeating it over and over until one day you “actually” really don’t want the thing that you used to.

Similar to forming a new path in the wild woods, it’s hard and slow at first, but the more you work at it, the more clearly the path forms. Until one day the new path becomes so ingrained and automatic that you forget the old path was ever even there.

Is this hard? Yes.

Does this take work? Yes.

Does it require intention? Yes.

But so does exercising short term will power.

The only difference is that this is actually sustainable for the long run.

This strategy will actually change your life.

Because it starts by changing the way you think about a thing, but that then quickly adapts to influencing your actual physiological attraction to the thing.

The first time I said I no longer liked fast food, it seemed like a terrible thing to say! I didn’t believe it. I knew I was “lying” to myself.

But your brain is a funny thing in that it doesn’t believe what is true or false; your brain simply believes whatever you tell it most often.

So after you say it over and over again you eventually start to believe it. Until one day, your desire for that thing has truly disappeared.

That’s when everything changes.

Because you don’t have to “deny” yourself anything anymore. Because at that point you really don’t want it! You don’t spend any time thinking about having it. You don’t feel like you’re missing out on it. And you really, truly, are more aware of the negative impacts of the thing than you are about whatever short term part you used to like about it.

Plus, while it’s nearly impossible to deny yourself of something that you know you really want; it’s nearly inevitable that you’ll automatically stay away from things you really don’t want.

The thing doesn’t change. It’s your mindset about the thing that changes. And once your mind about the thing changes, you’ll see that your body’s response to the thing will also change.

And trying to temporarily increase your willpower will never be as effective as permanently changing your taste buds.

So don’t deny yourself and find yourself in a constant never ending battle to find willpower.

Instead, reprogram yourself to make a permanent and proactive change into becoming the person you truly want to deign yourself to be.

Change your thinking about something and you will change your life.

How to Let Go of Feeling “Busy”

busy

“I’m SO busy.”

You hear it all the time.

In fact we hear it so much, we should all just assume that everyone is that way and we can all stop saying it.

Because there is a maximum level of busy.

There are only 168 hours in a week, and if every single hour is planned and occupied, then you’ve reached the maximum level of busy.

However, there is no maximum capacity to your mental toughness.

There is no maximum capacity to your peace of mind.

There is no maximum capacity for your ability to handle stress.

Which means that the mental capacity of what you can handle should far exceed the physical and finite time constraints of what you have available in your calendar.

Multipliers seem to have figured out that carrying stress isn’t a necessary prerequisite of having success.

Anxiety isn’t an automatic byproduct of achievement.

And busy isn’t a mandatory requirement of building greatness.

You don’t have to be stressed.

You don’t have to feel anxiety.

You don’t have to feel busy.

Those are all choices that you allow yourself to make.

Those are all emotions that you allow yourself to feel.

But you are bigger than your problems.

You are tougher than your challenges.

And you are stronger than your challenges.

So you can let those feelings die because they aren’t serving you.

You can stop telling yourself that “you’re so busy” because it’s not new information to you that your calendar is full.

And you can stop telling everyone how busy you are so that maybe we all can stop this invisible competition about who has the most going on.

Instead, all of us can move on to getting things done powerfully, productively, and peacefully.

All the while knowing that if we’re working as hard as we can, doing the best we know how to do with what we’ve been given, then no one – including ourselves – can ask us to do anything more.