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Last Updated on March 2, 2021

How to Build Self Discipline to Excel in Life

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How to Build Self Discipline to Excel in Life

Is there a goal you want to accomplish, but you just can’t seem to follow through? Maybe you know exactly what you need to do, but just can’t seem to do it? Perhaps you’re frustrated because your lack of self-discipline is affecting your confidence, career trajectory, health, weight or relationships?

If you’re ambitious and ready to take your life to the next level but just need a little more support in the follow-through, keep reading.

What Is Self-Discipline?

Self-discipline is defined as:

“the ability to control yourself and to make yourself work hard or behave in a particular way without needing anyone else to tell you what to do.”

It’s about self-control, self-regulation, willpower, resolve, determination and drive. It’s how you get yourself to do what needs to be done to move forward and excel in life.

“Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishments.” — Jim Rohn

    The Importance of Self-Discipline

    Fitness experts, success coaches, doctors and personal development gurus all stress the importance of self-discipline. It’s a critical factor whether you want to lose weight, eat better, exercise more, spend less, be more productive, procrastinate less, get promoted, be more positive, better manage emotions or improve relationships.

    Studies show that those with higher levels of self-control have “…higher self‐esteem, less binge eating and alcohol abuse, better relationships and interpersonal skills, and more optimal emotional responses.”[1] Others show that those with self-discipline are more content, satisfied and happy.

    As a coach, I see great people come up against challenges with self-discipline daily.

    Take Cameron for example. Cameron was overweight, suffering from health-related issues and desperate to get back into shape. She wanted to start walking and stretching daily but was having trouble following through. Her lack of discipline with exercise was spilling over into all areas of her life and she was feeling defeated.

    Or Stuart. Stuart was an artist with a part-time job to pay the bills. He wanted to spend at least three hours a day on his craft so he could build his portfolio and start making a living through his art. As motivated and excited as he seemed on the surface, he was finding it challenging to do so.

    Then there’s Arden. An entrepreneur who wanted to take her business to the next level. She was struggling to stay disciplined and follow through on the paperwork and operational tasks that needed to be done to keep her business going.

    I’ve been there too.

    I like to think of myself as a fairly disciplined person. I was raised by entrepreneurs who valued hard work and taught us to keep our commitments and follow-through. Since we were young, my grandfather, a successful CEO, instilled the principle of DWYSYWD in our entire family. Backwards or forwards, it means the same thing… Do What You Say You Will Do. I was a competitive athlete, and self-discipline was ingrained into my mindset and habits. I credit this trait for much of my success.

      But that doesn’t mean I’m immune to the distractions, temptations and vices were all faced with daily. There have been times in my life when I, like my clients, have struggled to stay the course and follow-through. Take last month. An opportunity I was deeply excited about and had worked endlessly on for many months fell through. I was disappointed and found myself unmotivated and distracted.

      I work from home and normally able to stay hyper focused. However, I found myself sitting down to work only to be distracted – scrolling through social media, making another trip to the fridge, taking the dog for a hike or a ‘quick’ break to sit on the couch to watch TV.

      I knew what I needed to do, but was really struggling. So I tapped into my arsenal of strategies: the tried-and-true principles I’ve used with my clients and myself (including Cameron, Stuart and Arden).

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      How to Be Disciplined for Good

      Here are 10 strategies to build and maintain self-discipline:

      1. Get Motivated

      Ever notice when you’re excited about something, or have a significant or compelling goal you’re setting out to achieve, you don’t need discipline?

      Let’s say you have your wedding or high school reunion coming up and you want to lose weight to look great and fit into a killer dress. Waking up in the morning for a run and skipping dessert just got easier, didn’t it?

      Or let’s say your dream job just opened up at work. Getting to work early, staying late and keeping on task doesn’t seem so difficult anymore, does it?

      “Motivation” comes from the root word “motive.” It’s why you are doing something. The reason and underlying drive behind it. Leadership expert Simon Sinek talks about the power of why. Knowing your “why” provides a compelling intrinsic motivation. It fuels the fire and you’re much likely to stay focused.

      You can learn more about the power of why in his TedTalk video:

      Bottom Line: Tap into your WHY. What is your underlying reason, motivation or purpose to be disciplined? If you aren’t sure about your why, join the free Fast-Track Class – Activate Your Motivation. In this focused session, you will learn how to dig deep into your inner drive so you can always stick to your purpose and passion to stay motivated. Join the free class here.

      2. Remove Temptations

      Research has proven that our environment affects our choices. Take for example one study done at Cornell University.[2][3] The study found that:

      “Women who kept soft drinks on their counter weighed 24 to 26 pounds more than those who didn’t and those who kept a box of cereal on the counter weighed on average 20 more pounds than those who didn’t.”

      And those who kept fruit on their counter weighed an average of 13 pounds less!

      If you want to eat better, put the junk foods out of sight. Better yet, don’t bring them into the house, office, car or arms-length in the first place.

      If you want to finish that big project for work, secure a conference room, turn off instant messenger, close down notifications for social media and put your phone in the other room.

      If you work from home and are easily distracted, go somewhere to focus. Right now, I’m writing from a café down the street for this exact reason. I didn’t try to fight against the temptations in my environment; I just removed myself.

      Bottom Line: Your environment can be stronger than your willpower. Ensure it is conducive to the goals you’re trying to accomplish; don’t put yourself in situations that are tempting or distracting.

        3. Create a Goal, Challenge or Deadline

        Many years back, my husband was working on his first screenplay. It was a daunting task that he knew would take a lot of time. Many of his film school buddies were overwhelmed by this project and were having a hard time making progress. As was he. Until he created a compelling goal, challenge and deadline.

        His specific goal was to have the screenplay done by the end of the month. This was a huge challenge as it was a lot of work in a short period of time. He then created a deadline and sent out an email to all his friends and let them know we would be having a celebratory dinner and to mark their calendars. He upped the stakes by declaring that if he hadn’t finished his screenplay by the dinner date, he would buy everyone’s dinner. This was a big challenge, as we definitely didn’t have the money to pay for dinner for 15 of our closest friends!

        There’s a reason why every influencer or blogger out there has created a 5,10 or 30-day challenge. To support you! Just search “challenge’ for what you’re looking for and I’m sure you’ll be able to find something. I’ve seen people shift their entire lifestyle, eating habits and motivation by joining these challenges – and they’ve worked for me too!

        Bottom Line: Define your specific goal or vision, make it challenging, give yourself a deadline, and get moving. Need a little bit of help? Grab The Dreamer’s Guide To Taking Actions And Reaching Your Goals. It’s a free guide that can help you to set and reach your goals effectively. Get the free guide here.

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        4. Phone a Friend

        It’s always helpful to have an accountability partner. Why do you think so many people hire trainers to stay on top of their fitness goals, coaches to achieve their personal or professional goals, or join a club or group such as Weight Watchers?

        “When you are accountable to someone or a group of people for doing what you said you would do, you can easily get stuff done because you engage the power of social expectations.”[4]

        Bottom Line: Commit to someone other than yourself. Find a gym partner. Hire a coach to keep you on track and honest. Post commitments to social networks so you’re on the hook.

        5. Start Small

        How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!

          Change is hard and our brains are wired to return to what feels comfortable and predictable. Therefore, big changes can be really hard. But if you start slow, you can build momentum without getting overwhelmed.

          If you want to start walking 30 minutes a day, five days a week, start with five minutes a day. If you feel like continuing after five minutes, go for it! If you want to start eating better, identify one change you can make in your diet. Often when our mind thinks it’s going to be easy, it allows us to get started…and then you can use that momentum to keep going.

          Bottom Line: Get started. It doesn’t matter how small the action is as long as you’re going in the right direction. Small changes eventually lead to big results. Remember, action inspires further action and momentum creates more momentum.

          “They journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” – Lao Tzu

          6. The Carrot or The Stick

          We’re all motivated in different ways. Are you compelled by the satisfaction of a reward or the risk of punishment? Or both?

            The Carrot. What reward can you give yourself for being disciplined?

            My daughter is eight and in third grade. She was struggling with doing homework and staying focused. We tried a forceful approach, which didn’t work. We tried to set challenges, like getting it done in 20 minutes. Nope. She was distracted and frustrated.

            However, she is highly motivated by rewards, so we created a ‘homework treasure box’. If she stays focused and does her homework every day for the entire week, she gets to pick a prize.

            Bingo. No more tears, no more late homework, no more fights. That treasure box has changed her attitude and her ability to stay disciplined. Phew.

            “Discipline = Freedom” — Jocko Willink

            The stick.

            Maybe you’re more motivated by the risk of not following through or staying disciplined? In my daughter’s case, this would have been taking away privileges (like playdates) if she didn’t do her homework. That would have completely backfired and thrown her into a tailspin. But for many, it can be very effective.

            For example, if you’re trying to lose weight, you might not be motivated by fitting into a smaller size of clothing, but you may be motivated by the risks of not losing the weight. Knowing that poor health can lead to heart disease, a potential heart attack and early death might be the spark that ignites your fire.

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            If this sounds like you, identify the worst-case scenario. If you don’t’ stay disciplined, what is the negative result in your life? Fear can be a powerful motivator.

            Bottom Line: Identify if you’re motivated by risk or reward and put it into place.

            7. Stop Going Against the Grain

            Perhaps you’re trying to be disciplined about something that simply doesn’t work for how you’re wired. For example, if you always wait until the last minute to study or complete that big project, why are you forcing yourself to try and get it done weeks in advance? You’re likely better off to just set aside time right before the deadline.

            Remember Arden? She was trying to force herself to do the paperwork and operational components of her business that she was not wired to do. Then, she was beating herself up for not staying disciplined which wasn’t productive or helpful.

            Once we took the pressure off that she wasn’t a failure by avoiding those tasks, she gave herself permission to hire someone to help her out. She then had the freedom to grow her business and make sales, which was her strength.

            If you’re finding it hard to stay disciplined, step back and see if it’s important that you do the thing you’re procrastinating on or finding hard to follow-through with. Maybe you can hire someone else who’s much better at it.

            Months behind on your accounting? Find someone to do the books. Years behind getting your family photos organized? Seek a company (or friend) that enjoys that kind of project. Drowning in piles of laundry? Drop it off at a laundry service or pay your kid to do it. Frustrated you don’t have the meal plan organized and dinner on the table every night? Find a meal planner app, order in or use a meal prep service.

            Bottom Line: Stop trying to do it all yourself especially when it’s like swimming upstream. Leverage the resources of others and don’t waste your self-discipline willpower on things that aren’t important to you or a good use of your time and talents.

            8. Create Habits and Rituals

            Performance Coach Jay Henderson talks about the power of creating habits and rituals:

            “Our subconscious is automated, so we only have 5% of our conscious mind to fight the subconscious habits we have built over months, years and, in some cases, a lifetime.

            In order to combat that subconscious, we must create new habits.

            For example, you want to start running but find yourself continuing to hit the snooze button. We have learned that the more specific we get, the more the mind helps us with motivation: drive, energy, enthusiasm, focus, optimism and creativity. Research shows that when a person takes the time to think through the “what, where and when” of a new task, they are 70% more likely to achieve.

            Creating hyper-specificity will do this for you. In the case of running in the morning, you can list out very specific steps to help you get up and moving.

            For example:

            • Step 1: Set the goal to get up and run at 6am.
            • Step 2: Lay out clothes the night before.
            • Step 3: Set an alarm and put it on the other side of the room. How many steps is it from the bed to the alarm?
            • Step 4: Determine to turn on the lights while walking to turn off the alarm. How many steps is it to the light and then to the alarm?
            • Step 5: Get in bed, turn off the TV, and go to sleep at 10pm with a mental vision of waking up energized to run.
            • Step 6: Walk the pre-determined number steps to the bathroom to splash water on my face.
            • Step 7: Walk the pre-determined steps to the clothes that were put out the night before, put them on and put on shoes.
            • Step 8: Walk to the kitchen.
            • Step 9: Drink a glass of water.
            • Step 11: Walk to the door using the number you’ve already counted.
            • Step 12: Warm up and start running.

            You get the point. This helps because you engage senses: mind, might and heart with clarity through specificity. Your mind, which wants to make you act like the picture you have of yourself, then delivers the energy, drive and motivation.

            Your chances of getting up and running will jump exponentially. This is because in your subconscious mind, where your habits are stored, there’s absolutely no question about what you want.

            Rituals are also important. A ritual is partly defined as a ceremony consisting of a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order. You need this amount of specificity to overcome the force of habit. Focusing and using rituals can help you completely restructure habits and behaviors to achieve more powerfully.

            9. Put the Big Rocks in First

            Legendary time management expert and author Steven Covey first introduced this concept[5] in the 80’s and it’s just as relevant if not more so today. The idea is that if you do the most important things first, you won’t get distracted by all the little items that can end up mindlessly filling your day.

            In fact, studies have shown that willpower is a limited resource.[6]

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            ”A growing body of research shows that resisting repeated temptations takes a mental toll. Some experts liken willpower to a muscle that can get fatigued from overuse.”

            I’ve seen this challenge across many executives I’ve coached and known. Many of them are so bogged down in the day to day elements of their job and the urgent distractions (Squirrel!), they don’t have the time or mental energy to spend on strategy. Unless they block out time and are intentional about how they order their priorities, willpower – and results – are compromised.

            Bottom Line: Get started early in the day and do the most important things first before you run out of mental willpower, time and energy. Bonus, getting quick wins in early leads to motivation and momentum too.

            10. Be Nice to Yourself

            Change is hard. New habits are hard. Our minds are wired for familiarity and if you’re doing something new, part of you is going to be fighting against it. You are going to face setbacks and failures. Don’t allow obstacles to cause you to give up on your bigger vision or goal.

            I see this all too often. Case in point. When I was an intrinsic health coach, one of my clients made the goal to be active five days a week. When we talked a week after she made this commitment, she was feeling bad and down on herself. Why? She said she had worked out only three days that week and was frustrated she didn’t hit her goal.

            I asked her, “How many days did you work out the week before you set this goal?”

            “Zero,” she responded.

            “And how many the week before that? “

            “None.”

            “So, is working out three times this week really a failure?” I asked.

            “No, I guess not.” I guess not?! Not only is it not a failure, it’s a HUGE win!

            Unless you’re the most self-disciplined person in the world (in which case you probably aren’t reading this article), you’re going to hit the snooze button and miss a run. You’re going to choose chips over an apple. You’re going to lose your temper instead of keeping your cool. It’s going to happen. You must forgive yourself and move forward.

            Bottom Line: It’s a waste of mental energy to spend time worrying about mistakes and setbacks. You made a mistake, it’s over. It’s a lesson. Pick yourself up, acknowledge the lesson and move on. Celebrate your wins and successes, no matter how small.

            Final Thoughts

            You’re ambitious. You’re driven. You’re ready to reach your goals. They’ll always be a reason you can’t do something. And there’s always a reason you can. You get to choose.

            So before you scroll on to the next thing, consider this question:

            Where would a little more self-discipline have the greatest impact on your life or success?

            Then identify which of the strategies above will help you get started and stay focused and what you need to do.

            It only takes one strategy. One step. One change to move forward. You have the power to be more disciplined. You got this.

            More Tips for EnhancingYour Self-Control

            Featured photo credit: Thao Le Hoang via unsplash.com

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            Reference

            More by this author

            Tracy Kennedy

            Lifehack's Personal Development Expert, a results-driven coach dedicated to helping people achieve greater levels of happiness and success.

            12 Proven Ways To Increase Your Intellectual Wellness How to Build Self-Esteem: A Guide to Realize Your Hidden Power How to Build Self Discipline to Excel in Life 10 Powerful Ways to Be More Confident 10 Strategies to Keep Moving Forward When Feeling Stuck

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            Published on October 14, 2021

            How to Silence the Impostor Syndrome

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            How to Silence the Impostor Syndrome

            Do you ever worry about being exposed as a “fraud?” You’re not alone. It’s actually quite common for people to feel like imposters. In fact, approximately 70 percent of people admit to having experienced impostor syndrome[1] at some point in their lives — a Twitter poll found that 87 percent of people have experienced this.[2] Even successful and famous people like Tom Hanks, Howard Schultz, and Natalie Portman suffer from imposter syndrome.

            But, what exactly is imposter syndrome. And, more importantly, how can you silence it?

            Originally coined in 1978 by psychologists Pauline Rose Clance, Ph.D., ABPP, and Suzanne Imes, Ph.D., the term “impostor syndrome” describes symptoms that include being unable to internalize accomplishments and being afraid of being exposed as a fraud.

            The individual may also be plagued by chronic self-doubt and believe that they’re unqualified for success despite evidence to the contrary. Inadequacies, fears of failure, and disbelief that success is a matter of luck or timing are also common.

            If you don’t address this phenomenon, feeling like an impostor can prevent you from achieving ambitious goals. Moreover, those experiencing these feelings tend to over-prepare or procrastinate — which obviously hinders productivity and reaching goals. And, as if that weren’t bad enough, imposter syndrome prevents you from pursuing new challenges and opportunities.

            Do you feel like you’re suffering from impostor syndrome? If so, don’t beat yourself up. After all, there are effective ways to overcome these feelings in a healthy and proactive way.

            1. Don’t Hide It.

            “Firstly, acknowledge it,” advises Claudine Robson,[3] the Intentional Coach. “You give strength to imposter syndrome by letting it continue to peck away at your confidence unchecked.” It can only be banished if you acknowledge it as soon as possible and break the silence.

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            “Then you need to separate your feelings from facts,” Robson adds. “One thing imposter syndrome does very effectively is to mix up your perceptions of reality.”

            If you can, take a step back and look at the situation objectively. “Recognize when you should — and when you should not — feel fraudulent,” she says. Appreciate and acknowledge the task, intellect, and insight that have led to your success.

            You might even be able to take action by recognizing that the reason you feel fraudulent is that you’re new to a task. “That gives you a path forward; learning is growth, don’t deny yourself that.”

            2. Implement the STOP Technique

            In her book Cognitive Enlightenment, Melinda Fouts, Ph.D., outlines a technique to overcome imposter syndrome using what she calls the STOP technique.

            “STOP is an acronym for ‘silence the oppressive player,” Fouts explains in Forbes.[4] “You need to eradicate this tape that is playing 24/7, whether you are conscious of it or not. It plays loudest when we are tired, hungry, or feeling defeated.”

            Steps to implementing the STOP technique and rewiring your brain are as follows:

            To replace the tape of not good enough, you need a “launch sentence.” “I’m more than good enough” would is an example of a solid launch statement.

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            Put your launch sentence in prominent locations, such as your car’s dashboard or computer. How come? The reason is that as the tape plays, you won’t be able to remember your launch statement.

            Continue to say “stop” until you recall your launch sentence, says Fouts.

            Put your launch sentence into your own words and pontificate.

            While going about your daily tasks, like while driving or exercising, practice your launch sentence so you can recall it when you need it in the future.

            “I am told this sounds simple and it does,” she adds. However, this technique is challenging when your negative tape is playing. You will not want to replace the tape every day while your brain is rewiring itself. “It is these moments you can’t give up.”

            3. Distinguish Humility and Fear

            When it comes to hard work and accomplishments, there’s humility, and then there’s fear. In other words, having a high level of competence can lead one to discount its value occasionally. However, as Carl Richards wrote in an article for the New York Times,[5] “After spending a lot of time fine-tuning our ability, isn’t it sort of the point for our skill to look and feel natural?”

            The problem is that we feel unworthy from time to time. But, as Seth Godin explained in a blog post,[6] “When you feel unworthy, any kind response, positive feedback or reward feels like a trick, a scam, the luck of the draw.”

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            Feeling worthy without feeling entitled is possible. And, finding the right balance between them is critical for overcoming impostor syndrome. “Humility and worthiness have nothing at all to do with defending our territory,” Godin continues. “We don’t have to feel like a fraud to also be gracious, open, or humble.”

            4. Keep a “Brag Sheet”

            When you were sending out college applications, did you build yourself a “brag sheet?” If not, here’s a clean description from Shawna Newman,[7] “A brag sheet is very similar to a student resume – it highlights your accomplishments, key experiences, leadership skills, and employment throughout your secondary education.” In short, “it’s a quick reference guide with all the details and achievements for someone trying to get to know you better.”

            While it may be awkward at first, you can apply the same concept when coping with imposter syndrome. Just compose a list of your accomplishments, activities, skills. That’s it. Just remember Godin’s advice and also be humble and gracious.

            As an added perk, besides being an effective way to talk myself up, I’ve also found that this has helped me stop comparing myself to others. Instead of harping about other people’s milestones, I’m honing in on what I’ve done.

            5. Celebrate Wins, Period

            Speaking of accomplishments, they shouldn’t be categorized as small or big. After all, you feel as if you don’t belong when you have imposter syndrome. So, the more you celebrate your wins, the more confident you’ll become.

            Furthermore, accept compliments without qualifying them and practice listening to praise every day. Finally, become kinder to yourself by saying at least one kind thing to yourself daily. And, give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back.

            6. Assemble a Legion of Superheroes

            “You know how corporations have a board of directors to — in theory — make them stronger, maintain checks and balances, leverage resources, and help advance the organization’s vision?” asks inspirational speaker, speaking coach, and creative consultant Tania Katan.[8] “Why not assemble your own board of directors to leverage resources to help make your career stronger, keep you in check and balanced, and advance your vision?”

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            “My friend Alison Wade, president of conferences, training, and consulting at Techwell, calls her personal board of directors her “front-row” — those are the people she invites to sit spitting distance from the stage, cheer her on, challenge her, and review her performance,” Katan writes.

            As for Katan, she calls hers a “legion of superheroes.” The reason? “I dig the idea of joining forces to do good in the corporate galaxy.”

            It’s important to have a diverse group of individuals who will defend you. Ideally, they should be varied in all dimensions, such as cultural background, way of thinking, and skills.

            Katan recommends that you meet together frequently, whether if that’s once a week or every quarter. “Share your experiences, fears, creative ideas, aspirations,” she adds. “Celebrate each other’s accomplishments.” You also need to both support and challenge each other. “Discover what you are capable of doing when you combine your powers.”

            7. Visualize Success

            Follow the example of a professional athlete by imagining yourself crushing that presentation or project. You’ll enjoy the relief from performance-related stress. And, more importantly, it can help you avoid focusing on the worst-case scenario.

            Final Words of Advice

            While there’s no single formula to cure imposter syndrome, the tips listed above are a start. After all, your success depends on your ability to fight the negative effects of it. For example, feeling unworthy over time can lead to crippling anxiety and depression if left untreated.

            If you’ve tried the above, then make sure that you speak to someone about what you’re experiencing, whether it’s a mentor, peer group, or licensed professional. And, above all else, there’s a place at the table for everyone — no matter what your inner voice is telling you.

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            How to Silence the Impostor Syndrome was originally published on Calendar by John Rampton.

            Featured photo credit: Laurenz Kleinheider via unsplash.com

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