There is an implicit narrative about self-discipline in pretty much everything I’ve written about in these posts. With the turn of the year and with at least a couple of lbs of spare Christmas pudding hanging around my midriff, now seems a good time to be thinking about discipline and its role in chasing our goals and improving at the things we care about.
Self-Discipline is a facet of conscientiousness that describes how we control and direct our impulses, an element of personality that we all share. Self-Discipline expresses our ability to persist with difficult or unpleasant tasks and might also be described as will power. As elements of our personality these traits are stable and at least in part genetically inherited. As an individual you will likely have average self-discipline, as I do. A smaller proportion of us will score high or low (see end note). These predispositions partially pre-determine how self-disciplined our behaviours actually are but significant amounts of our personality are malleable and adaptive to our sense of personal identity and how we choose to frame and tell our own story – to ourselves more importantly than anyone else. Like most things relating to performance, having a better understanding of the underlying mechanisms at play allows us to maximize how we apply our will power and develop greater self-discipline.
Personally I only have an average amount of will power – the good news is that’s plenty. It was enough to get me through P- Company, pass SAS selection and build a business. On the flip side I will frequently procrastinate, lie in, cut corners and eat more cake than anyone should – but sometimes I choose not to accept that. Over the years I’ve figured out a number of things that let me tilt the table in my favour. When I focus and apply these as a system I maximize the odds of being successful. Here’s what I’ve learnt:
1. Don’t be a victim. Remember that line about your identity and the story you tell yourself about yourself? That’s a choice. Too often we take the easy road, play the victim and blame others or other things for our circumstances. We have to start with the truth. As a child I was constantly being disciplined, when I joined the Army nothing much changed – I was constantly being disciplined. But somewhere along that road something does have to change, you have to take responsibility for yourself. It’s nobody else’s responsibility it’s nobody else’s fault, stop blaming and complaining. Look in the mirror and own your own reflection. If you want to make a change then own it.
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