Why do many of us struggle with self-discipline and will power? Many people don't realize that self-discipline is a learned skill and can be developed at any point in life. Having will power and determination helps in everyday activities such as completing tasks at work and arriving on time to appointments and has long term benefits like saving money or taking care of our health. Although typically we learn this skill during childhood, sometimes our parents don't equip us with this ability. Maybe we weren't encouraged or guided to have discipline growing up and didn't receive effective counsel on our efforts. Or maybe we weren't held accountable for our choices in order to learn from our mistakes. Although all children need praise and encouragement, in some cases parents give their children empty praise (which they have not earned) and the children are never challenged or pushed to do better. Sometimes children grow up with parents who themselves don't have will power or a strong work ethic and that can influence their own self-discipline. If we weren't encouraged to set goals for ourselves or weren't given responsibilities growing up, we may not have experienced a sense of mastery. Anxieties, fears and insecurities can also prevent us from developing greater confidence, ambition, and drive. Regardless of the reasons for struggling with this issue, we need to focus on the fact that it's never too late to change.
Like most new skills, learning self-discipline is difficult. We can't expect to change overnight, but with perseverance and consistency change is possible. Just as an athlete benefits from physical therapy to get back in the game, we can benefit from changing our thoughts and actions to gain self-discipline. So what do we need to do differently? To start with, we need to acknowledge our shortcomings without beating up on ourselves, but with an intention to make a change. There is no benefit in blaming yourself or your parents; that will just slow down the change process. Some of us struggle with procrastination which can also impact self-discipline, but it too is a learned behavior that can be unlearned or modified. Ultimately changing both our thoughts and actions can prove to be a valuable and life-changing endeavor, but there is nothing easy about this process.
Making a change in life requires a game plan, and acquiring self-discipline is no different. We need to set specific goals for ourselves that are attainable, realistic, and measurable. Beginning with small steps helps us build confidence and mastery. It is also important to track and monitor our progress. Work on eliminating defeating, negative, and critical thoughts and replace them with encouraging, positive, and compassionate thoughts. Recognize that setbacks occur and failure happens, but don't allow it to completely get you off track. Forgive yourself and redirect your efforts. Look at what might have diverted your progress, restart the process and return to your positive path. Sometimes it helps to visualize what success looks like and have a reward system upon achieving certain milestones. Lastly, share your goals and objectives with others and select someone to hold you accountable and support you through this process of change. We can build grit and determination when we learn and adopt new thoughts and behaviors. Make a decision now to learn or improve your self discipline. You will see tangible benefits quickly!