I am a dancer and entrepreneur who has become increasingly dedicated to getting ahead in this world.
Our avoidance is caused by stress, not laziness. Therefore, we don’t need willpower. We need to reduce the stress we associate with what we are trying to accomplish.
It’s not about how smart you are, but whether you are willing to do what it takes to achieve your goals.
You know those people who get up at 5 am everyday and workout, never drink or eat junk food, and insist on getting all their work done before having any fun? Ya, those super lame, uptight people. Turns out, they are healthier, wealthier and HAPPIER than the rest of us indulgent procrastinators. (Cheung et al.)
Several studies on procrastination and self-control have shown that those who choose long-term results over immediate gratification are most likely to succeed. (Beutel et al.) Self-discipline is a better predictor of success than IQ, (Duckworth et al.) proving that it’s not about how smart you are, but whether you are willing to do what it takes to achieve your goals.
So, what is stopping you? You know what you should do, but you don’t do it. Turns out the main reason that we avoid doing the things we know will make us happier in the long run is stress. We are built to avoid danger and conserve energy. Anything that makes us even the slightest bit uncomfortable, we will naturally try to avoid. (Robbins)
Why is it that certain people don’t seem to have this problem? I used to imagine that highly successful people just didn’t find these things uncomfortable; that it’s easier for certain people. It turns out, this is not the case. So how do people get past this discomfort and become more disciplined?
The key to self-discipline is to make it easier.
About a year ago, I began listening to audio-books on how to become successful and have been implementing what I learned into my life. I now get up at 6 am everyday, even though I work form home. I started a small business despite being terrified of putting myself out there. I attended the hardest fitness class I have ever been to and have returned every week since, and my house is cleaner then ever.
Through my research and personal experience, I have found the key to self-discipline is to make it easier. If our avoidance is caused by stress and not laziness, then we don’t need will power. We need to reduce the stress we associate with what we are trying to accomplish. Here are 5 techniques to make self-discipline easier.
Most of the time, all we need to do is get started, and once we’ve begun, we realize “Hey! This isn’t so bad!”
Chunking just means breaking down what you are trying to accomplish into smaller tasks. (Eder) We often avoid tasks because they seem too big and overwhelming. By chunking you break things down into small easy to manage steps. Here are some examples:
- My bathroom really needs cleaning, but I don’t feel like it. Instead of trying to convince myself to clean the whole bathroom, I decide to clean just the tub. I know it wont take long and it doesn’t take much convincing to get me started.
- You know you should be eating better but junk food is just so good. Rather than thinking about completely changing your diet, decided on one small thing you could do to improve it, such as, eating one serving of vegetables with every meal.
- You need to complete a boring project for work or school. Instead of focusing on all the research and writing that needs to be done, choose a time frame that sounds easy, for example, 20 minutes. Then decide you will work on it for just 20 minutes.
Make the first step as small as it needs to be for you to get yourself to do it. Most of the time, all we need to do is get started, and once we’ve begun, we realize “Hey! This isn’t so bad!” and accomplish much more than we originally intended. If you do stop after step one, at least you’re are one step closer to your goal and you can decide on a nice small step two tomorrow.
The 5-Second Rule
The 5-Second rule is a phrase coined by Mel Robbins. She’s actually written an entire book on why and how it works and how to implement it. The rule is best described by the Nike slogan, Just Do It. Do it without thinking about. Yes, we were built to avoid things that make us uncomfortable, but the decision ultimately comes from our brain, which, fortunately, needs a little time to process. About 5 seconds, according to Mel. This means you have 5 seconds to shut off your brain and start something uncomfortable before you start talking yourself out of it. I find the 5-second rule the perfect alternative to chunking for those things that can’t be broken into steps.
- I know I should go to my fitness class, but I’m tired. I could just focus on the first step and put on my workout clothes, but I know that unless I follow through and actually go to the class, I won’t be any closer to my fitness goals, so instead, I use the 5-second rule. I set an alarm on my phone reminding me it’s time to get ready for my class. When it goes off, I count “5-4-3-2-1” in my head and I go get ready and go to the gym without thinking about if I feel like going or not.
- You want to reach out to someone who could potentially change the future of your career, but you’re nervous. Instead of debating if it’s really a good idea, making a list of pros and cons, pondering all the things they might say, count “5-4-3-2-1” and do it.
Watch a 22-minute video of Mel Robbins talking about the 5-second rule and how it transformed her life.
The only way to break a habit, is to replace it with a new one.
Focus on What You Want
As opposed to focusing on what you don’t want. Did you ever notice how much easier it is to add new habits into your life than remove old ones? According to Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, it is next to impossible to get rid of an old habit. The only way to break a habit is to replace it with a new one. If you are struggling to find enough willpower to not do something, you may have better luck if you concentrate your efforts on what you should be doing instead.
Years ago, I wanted to lose my love handles. I was very determined and spent all day thinking about not eating, eating less and all the junk foods that I wasn’t going to eating anymore. Constantly thinking about eating made me hungrier. Constantly thinking about junk food made me crave junk food. I ended up eating more!
I finally changed my approach and started focusing on everything else I would be doing in the day besides eating and when I got hungry, I thought about the things I was going to eat, the vegetables and protein that would keep me full. When I thought about my love handles, I started thinking about how I needed to eat less again, so instead I thought about how I would look once my diet improved. I successfully changed my diet and, yes, lost the love handles.
You’ll have a hard time finding any self-help coach that won’t tell you that controlling your thoughts is extremely important. You always end up with more of what you think about, so think about what you want more of. (Hill)
Most of our day, over 90%, is controlled by our subconscious mind.
Don’t feel like accomplishing anything? Lean back . . . close your eyes . . . and just . . . relax . . .
Self-hypnosis is a method of slowing down your brain waves in order to plant information in your subconscious mind. (Dispenza) I learned this incredible technique from Joe Dispenza’s book Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself, and I have been blown away by the results.
Dr. Dispenza is a neuroscientist and explains the science of why and how this works in great detail in his books. According to Joe, most of our day, over 90%, is controlled by our subconscious mind. Yes, we are awake, but we are not really thinking about what we are doing. We’re thinking about the past or the future. We are so rarely mindful of what we are actually doing at the present moment.
What if you could plant an idea in your subconscious mind so that the things you do without thinking, are the things you know you should do. You might need to apply some of the techniques above in order to get yourself to do this, because the effects are not immediate, but overtime, this is one of the most powerful ways to become more disciplined.
When we fall asleep, our brainwaves slow down and we have an opportunity to implant information. In self-hypnosis, you focus your thoughts in a way that relaxes you to the point where you could fall asleep. By remaining seated and focusing on your thoughts, you manage to stay barely conscious, in a half-asleep half-awake state.
Now you can visualize yourself doing the things you want to do and not feeling the stress, fear, discomfort, etc. that you normally associate with it. You can visualize the outcomes of doing these things, achieving your goals, and the positive emotions you associate with that. (Dispenza)
- I have always hated making phone calls. I would get stressed about calling the salon to make an appointment, let alone an important business call. I started using guides on YouTube to enter a hypnotic state and then visualized myself picking up the phone and making calls without a care in the world. I envisioned getting tons of new customers and feeling so happy and proud of myself, and things started to change. I would still get nervous, start thinking, “maybe if I google their name, I’ll find an email address and won’t have to call,” but next thing you know, I was sitting there, phone in hand, MAKING THE CALL! I wasn’t thinking about it. I was just doing it.
- You want to start making some extra money on the side, possibly even enough to eventually quit your day job. You have a plan, but every day, by the time you get home from work, you’re tired and don’t feel like doing anything. Instead of wasting another night, you get in a comfortable seated position, put on some headphones, guide yourself into low-frequency brainwave state and then envision coming home from work and immediately getting started. You envision getting things done and making serious progress. You envision the money arriving and that moment when you quit your job. You do this every night for 6 weeks, and one day, you come home, just knowing that this is happening, and you start immediately, without thinking about it. You just do it.
Consider a great free guide on YouTube to help you achieve this state of mind. Once you get used to it, you can drop the guide, listen to some relaxing music and guide yourself.
Once you discover your limiting beliefs, it’s easy to see, they are not based in reality what-so-ever.
Believe in Yourself
It sounds cheesy, but you’re not going to make an honest effort it you don’t believe you are capable of what you are trying to do. As I mentioned above, your subconscious is controlling 90% of your life. If deep down you don’t believe you can do it, you never will.
Take some time to think about it how you really feel about what you want to do. Going back to your childhood is often an effective way of uncovering your own limiting beliefs (Sincero). Our brainwaves move at a slower frequency when we are very young, and everything goes directly into our subconscious (Dispenza).
Think about the examples you were shown, the things your parents or guardians said to you or in front of you. What impression were you given of what is possible for you? Once you discover these beliefs, it’s easy to see that they are not based in reality what-so-ever, have a laugh at yourself and approach your goals with a new attitude.
You are trying to be more disciplined with your diet. You read that eating healthier could clear up your acne. You feel super motivated at times, but always seem to give up and give in to cravings. You decide to take some time alone and think about your beliefs around acne and dieting.
You remember your parents making fun of people who followed strict diets and how the doctor told your older sibling her only options were medication and washing her face more often. You realize that deep down, you don’t believe the diet will work. You have done a lot of research and know consciously that there is a lot of evidence that it will work. You laugh off your silly belief and decide to give the diet an honest effort.
You Are a Badass is a great book written by Jen Sincero that first opened my eyes to subconscious fears and beliefs. Tony Robbins is another amazing life coach who helps people to discover and overcome their limiting beliefs. He has several books on Audible, a movie on Netflix and a massive annual conference where he helps thousands of people change their lives.
There are a ton of great self-help books out there that can help you better understand and master these techniques. Instead of finding the will power to sit down and read them, get the audio-books. Play them in your car, or listen while you are cooking, cleaning or doing some other mindless task.
Remember success and happiness are not going to fall into your lap. They require self-discipline, but that doesn’t have to suck as much as you might think. Instead of trying to increase your will power, reduce the amount of will power required, and you will be more likely to succeed.
- Beutel, Manfred E. et al. "Procrastination, Distress and Life Satisfaction across the Age Range – A German Representative Community Study." NCBI, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4752450/
- Cheung Tracy T. L. et al. "Why are people with high self-control happier? The effect of trait self-control on happiness as mediated by regulatory focus." NCBI, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5626575/
- Dispenza, Dr. Joe. "Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself." Author's Republic, 2012.
- Duckworth, Angela L. et al. "The Science and Practice of Self-Control." NCBI, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5626575/
- Duhigg, Charles. "The Power of Habit." Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2014.
- Eder, Paula. "Find Time to Chunk Your Tasks and Stop Procrastinating Today!." Finding Time, https://thetimefinder.com/find-time-to-chunk-your-tasks-and-stop-procrastinating-today/.
- Hill, Napoleon. "Think and Grow Rich." Tarcher Perigee, 1937.
- Robbins, Mel. "The 5-Second Rule." Mel Robbins Productions Inc., 2017.
- Sincero, Jen. "You are a Badass." Running Press Adult, 2013.
© 2018 K Loranne
Katie on January 27, 2019:
I think this is great, so much of life is how you approach it.