The internet is full of contradictory success stories. On the one hand, you hear about a lot about college dropouts making it big only after they gave up on the rigorous college schedule. On the other, you have stories about successful businessmen and entrepreneurs working their way up from the bottom, working 20 hours a day to fulfill their goals. So, which one is it? Do you need to free yourself from the chains of strict schedules and regulations, and just do what comes natural? Or should you reach Buddhist monk levels of self-discipline?
First, let’s start by making a distinction. Self-discipline might seem like a fancy way of saying “discipline,” but we’re actually talking about two slightly different things here. Discipline is following rules and schedules imposed by others. When you’re working in a team, it certainly helps to follow the same guidelines as everyone else. Otherwise any project would just descend into utter chaos.
Being a maverick only works if you get results. Otherwise, you’re just going to hinder everyone else from doing their job. Be aware of your strengths, but also your weak points. Before making any radical decision, run it by someone you trust first. Staying true to your vision doesn’t mean you can’t listen to constructive feedback.
What about self-discipline? This should be something you end up practicing it instinctively. It will be hard at first, nobody is going to deny that. But it’s better to start developing good habits early. The more you become comfortable with bad habits, that harder it’s going to be to get rid of them in the long run. If you practice self-discipline on a daily basis, at some point it’s going to become second nature, and you’ll no longer feel like your pushing yourself to do something.
Do you need a lot of self-discipline to achieve your potential? That really depends on you. Some people are naturally inclined to complete tasks, no matter how tedious they may find them. Others need a little bit of a push to get the job done. That’s where self-discipline comes in to pick up the slack. When you’re working a job with managers, supervisors, and external deadlines looming over your head, you’re going to have to step up your game, whether you like it or not. But when it comes to personal goals, you can be just as lazy as you want to be. How many times have you decided to start working, or go on a diet, only to make up some excuse to postpone it? Since there’s nothing pushing you from the outside, you have to learn to push yourself from within.
Self-discipline isn’t just about making sets of rules. Ideally, through daily practice, you should reach a point in which these rules become habits. Good habits are essential if you want to successfully tap into your unexplored potential. And once you get comfortable applying your rules on a daily basis, you won’t even notice they’re there.
If you’re the kind of person who might need a little bit of help kick starting their self-discipline training, it might be useful to follow these tips.
Don’t jump in immediately
Start with little things, like making daily schedules and sticking to them, or forming some routines. If you go at it head on, without a clear plan in mind, you might end up tiring yourself before you’ve even started
Practice self-discipline daily, especially when you don’t feel like it
When something is fun, you don’t need to force yourself into doing it. The whole point of setting rules for yourself is to have something that pushes you to get the job done when you lack motivation.
Break down every complex process into stages
What are steps that lead up to your desired outcome? How long does each step take, realistically? What are you going to need to complete each stage? Dividing daunting tasks into manageable chunks will help you sketch out a plan before starting. That’s going to make sticking to a schedule much easier, because, first of all, you’re going to have an actual schedule.
Always keep your end goals in sight
Visualizing the desired outcome can be a powerful motivator. Whenever you feel like quitting, just remind yourself why you’re doing this. Think about that wonderful feeling of seeing your task completed.
So, the question remains, how much discipline do you really need to achieve your goals? Well, that’s actually up to you. Part of learning to discipline yourself is to know what your limits are, and how far your desire to succeed can push you. Learning these things takes plenty of practice, but, in the end, it’s all worth it. Once your internal schedules become an extension of who you are, you won’t even feel like you’re forcing yourself to do anything, it’s going to be part of your routine.
This is probably what’s so tricky about self-discipline, and why so many successful entrepreneurs seem to have a total disregard for rules. You rarely notice routines; that’s why they’re routines. You’ve probably heard of the more famous college drop-outs, like Bill Gates, or Steve Jobs, but there are plenty of others.
You might think that, as long as you have a good idea, you don’t really need anything else. But the truth is, what these people tend to have in common is the drive to achieve their goals. Their success stories might seem effortless, but that’s just because you rarely get to see all the boring work that went into reaching the top.
It was character that got us out of bed, commitment that moved us into action, and discipline that enabled us to follow through.Zig Ziglar