I have learned that in order to get any significant things done, I need to be able to practice a little discipline. However, it is never easy for me. It is true that it leads to rewards, however, unfortunately it is not my natural instinct to develop a daily practice and then engage in it consistently. Sticking to the rules, doing only what I know I should do, avoiding things that could potentially sabotage my efforts, these things take commitment and dedication that I sometimes do not want to practice.
However, the times in my life that I have put in the extra effort and practiced a little self discipline, I was able to stick to my gym schedule and my yoga practice for over a year. It was also self discipline that allowed me to add another facilitation contract to my schedule when I already had a full time job as a trainer, facilitator and coach. When I decided to start this blog I had to be willing to write on a schedule to make it happen five days a week.
The challenge for me is realising that it does not come easily. It does not feel natural and most times I am not looking forward to it. However, I do it. For anyone who is familiar with the Myers-Briggs type indicator, I am a perceiver type. What that means for me is that I prefer to adapt to situations as they occur. I like to be free to deal with whatever comes along. It also means that my natural preference is to get excited about completing a task at the beginning but then lose interest somewhere in the middle. I then usually get motivated again closer to the deadline and use adrenaline to complete as required. Using self discipline however, enables me to keep going on a more consistent basis rather than waiting to feel the motivation to get things done.
So my advice to anyone who is trying to do more or accomplish a goal that you have set for yourself, try a little discipline.
- Identify the tasks that do not require your full attention, so that you can do them almost on autopilot.
- Identify specific times to complete your tasks and slot them in your schedule. There was a time when I committed to working 12 hours a day in my office, just so I could meet a project deadline. Knowing that it was not going to last forever, helped me to put out the effort when I had to do it. For each day, I allocated my time to accomplish the various things that I needed to get done, whether it was preparation for meetings, preparation for presentations, meetings, phone calls, teleconferences, programme development, etc.
- Get an accountability partner. Having someone else who will check in on you to see that you are doing what you said you would do when you said, is useful in helping you stay on track.
- If your project or tasks do not have deadlines, set some up with colleagues and stick to them. It is fairly easy to blow off something when it’s just you that you are letting down. When there’s someone else involved, the stakes are usually higher and we often give more effort to meet the goal as we have promised.
Discipline means that you are going to do something, whether you feel like it or not, just because you are supposed to do it. Recognizing therefore, that there are going to be times when you just do not want to do what you should, is also important. You need to prepare yourself for that.
For a long time, I just could not understand why there were some people who could stick to a schedule, or always be on time or early for a meeting, or consistently go the gym every day, or stick to a diet plan. I thought that these people were just given some magical ability that I did not have. It wasn’t until I realised that there are actually people out there in the world who do these things whether they enjoy them or not, that I was able to understand what self discipline was all about.
You can hate exercising and do it anyway. You can be tired and falling asleep but choose to stay up because you have to write that blog post as you promised you would. You can be hungry and choose not to eat something that you know is bad for you while you wait to get what is better. You can choose to get up at 5:30 am every morning not because you love the early morning light, but because you know it’s the only time that allows you to get your morning routine done in time to leave home at a decent hour. It’s not easy but every time you do it, you are building the discipline muscle in your mind.
So as you move forward, you can relax and acknowledge that you are not alone in your struggle to do something that you hate. There are a lot of us out here who feel that way. We just decided to do it anyway. You can too.
Marjorie Wharton is a trainer, facilitator and coach who works with individuals and organizations to help them improve their performance. She is based at the Sagicor Cave Hill School of Business in Barbados. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. For more of her writing visit https://marjoriewharton.live