What does it take to be successful? How can you separate yourself from the pack? What are you willing to sacrifice to achieve your goals? There are many answers to these questions, but without self-discipline, your journey will be filled with more roadblocks and setbacks than anticipated. By practicing self-discipline, we gain a giant advantage when faced with difficult times. Where one person may give up and submit to life’s temptations, you will stay true to your path and reach your destination with ease. Self-discipline is defined as the ability to pursue one’s desires despite temptations to abandon those ideals. You are going to be tempted along your journey with things that cause you immediate gratification. For example, if you are on a nutrition plan, counting your calories, and one night you come home to your favorite meal and dessert sitting on your counter. It is not a part of the nutrition plan, but how can you resist? Or your business is growing, and the cash flow is constant, so you decide to spoil yourself by purchasing two brand new luxury vehicles. Then two weeks later, the cash flow comes to a halt, and you do not have any emergency funds because they are now sitting in your driveway. Giving into these temptations can derail you from your goals and will undoubtedly require more time and effort to get back on track. In the short term, submitting to temptations may seem to have an immediate positive impact, but once that euphoria fades away, you are left with disappointment and regret because you allowed yourself to succumb to the urges. On the other side, while resisting temptation can prove difficult, it shows a sign of strength that you were able to overcome these challenges and stick to your plan, which provides you with a sense of accomplishment before you achieve your goals, making reaching the final destination that much more satisfying. Not only does self-discipline increase your chances of reaching success, but it also improves life satisfaction. According to the Journal of Personality, people with high levels of self-control are in general happier than those without. Furthermore, they found that children who showed higher levels of self-discipline were more likely later in life to be adults with greater health and wealth. You can experience greater happiness and positive feelings because you consistently reach your goals in a timely manner and show signs of strength that ultimately lead to wanting to experience positivity more often. I never truly understood the value of being disciplined or having self-control. For as long as I could remember, I would always succumb to life’s temptations because I knew how satisfying they could be. I can remember being full after family dinners, and still, my parents would put their leftovers on my plate for me to eat because they knew if they did, I would finish them, and that would be less clutter in the refrigerator. I never said no, I never told myself I was too full to eat because I knew how good the food was going to taste. I wanted immediate satisfaction. As I progressed through junior high and high school, this did not stop. What changed, however, was my response once that immediate satisfaction faded away. I would experience doubt, regret and disgust; this is when I started to feel self-conscious about my body. I felt my fellow students thought I was fat. I thought I was fat. But I never wanted to say no to the immediate satisfaction that food provided me. Going through this in high school was extremely difficult because I started to think in the long-term: Will someone love me? Will I be happy? It made it difficult to fully enjoy high school because these thoughts were always in the back of my mind. When I was 22 years old and working at a health club, I was 240 pounds with 35% body fat. One of our trainers approached me and wanted to provide me with a meal plan that he was going to implement with all of his clients. I remember the talk we had before getting started. We spoke about the details of the plan. I could eat whatever I wanted as long as I stayed within my macro-nutrient numbers, but most importantly, we talked about how self-control really is what makes plans like this work. I took it to heart, and within four months, I was down to 195 pounds and 13% body fat. I specifically remember a time when I was at home with a few friends, and they decided to order two large pizzas and an order of garlic bread. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. I chose to eat a salad. I think that was perhaps the hardest thing I ever had to do up to that point in my life. Everything inside of me was shouting to “Just have one slice,” and I kept responding “No.” As uncomfortable as it was, and as much as I wanted to say “Yes”, I stayed true to my path and it worked out fantastically for me. If you do not know where you are going, then it is easier to get sidetracked. Therefore, you must first develop a clear vision of what you want to accomplish. Setting goals can direct attention, increase persistence, mobilize effort and help you employ strategies to reach those goals. When a person has set their mind on achieving an objective, their effort is directed toward accomplishing it, and that person is more likely to continue working toward their target, even when faced with challenging events, such as temptations. Your goals should be specific, realistic and time-sensitive to instill a sense of urgency. Your self-talk is an important key if you are going to resist life’s temptations. Your mind is going to tell you things like “it is going to taste delicious” or “it will be so much easier” or “just do it later” and you are going to need to have an action plan to fight these urges. One thing you can do is ask yourself the question: How will this help me reach my goals? You will find that this simple question can increase your self-discipline. Again, resisting temptations may be difficult and uncomfortable, but you will avoid feelings of guilt, regret and doubt, and move further down the path of accomplishing the goals you’ve set. You can also incorporate more directive “self-talk” statements which help many people in self-motivation and discipline. For example, if your goal is to wake up at 5 a.m. every day and workout, your self-talk statement might look like “just get up and do it” as opposed to “come on you can do it.” Everyone is different; there is not a one-size-fits-all mentality, so you must adjust these statements to what coincides with your personality. Testing out the style and strength of self-talk statements creates a path for them to become both habitual and successful. The term self-discipline might tend to give off the wrong impression. On the surface, being self-disciplined sounds uncomfortable. As a concept, it seems like it involves a high level of resistance and incorporates a narrow-minded perspective. Nothing could be further from the truth. Being self-disciplined shows a sign of strength; being able to handle the temptations that life throws at you, but making the choice to continue down your path to what you want to achieve. Sure, enjoy life’s temptations, but do so when you have achieved your goals, this way you can reward yourself with those temptations. Achieve your goals and take control of your life by practicing self-discipline. And remember, practice makes perfect.
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