Why Self-Discipline is so Difficult

Think about all the times you said things like “I need to drink more water”, or “I need to do more reading.” While these issues can feel more like mild irritations than wider life issues most of the time, they’re all reflective of one thing: your self-discipline. Essentially, it’s the continuation of good, healthy habits that ultimately improve your life. Put it this way, when life is running smoothly: work is flowing, you’re not making silly mistakes and you feel positive within yourself and your relationships – everything is the culmination of self-discipline.

Each time you put yourself in a position to win, you’re profiting from all of the previous times you’ve shown a sense of self-discipline. Without that trait, it’s easy to slip up and break a disciplined streak. The only person who can hold you accountable is you, potentially causing self-deprecation to creep in too. It’s important not to let that happen.

Why Self Discipline is So Difficult

Self-discipline is like any muscle in your body – with enough training, you can grow and improve it. Primarily, this revolves around heightened self-awareness, starting with knowing why it’s so important and how it can affect your life.

You Can’t Always Rely on Your Environment

Let’s say you’re trying to complete an online course. You set everything up to maximise productivity – a Pomodoro app, relaxing music, no distractions and a belly full of food. You start, but you can hear noise from next door, or perhaps a roommate has turned the PlayStation on down the hall. All of a sudden, your environment has changed and there are things out of your control. These changes can become distractions which can derail any work rate, no matter how prepared you are.

Scenarios like this are precisely why you can’t purely rely on your environment. Of course, you can completely recluse yourself, but for those living in cities and even housing estates, distractions aren’t hard to come by. Self-discipline is the bouncer to your mind. It’s the force that allows you to keep plugging forward, day by day. A disciplined mind will learn to view the distractions for what they are – mere obstacles in the way of that drug-like feeling of accomplishment (no matter how small).

A disciplined mind is a prepared one, there’s no doubt about that. In the example just mentioned, you can prepare for distractions easily if you know what grabs your attention. But it should be noted that discipline doesn’t only lie in how you set up your environment. It also lies in how you react. Do you follow your wavering attention or bring it back in line? Knowing the answer is the first step in this process.

Discipline will teach you how vital your environment is to success, so it will do everything to set up and maintain a harmonious, success-inducing place to habit.

Things Don’t Happen Overnight

When you’re next having a pensive moment of self-reflection and decide you’re unhappy with where your life is heading, remember this phrase:

“When in doubt, zoom out.”

Its original meaning comes from analysing stock markets. The idea is that, even if your portfolio or the value of the company you’ve invested in is down, you’ll do well to zoom out. The situation may look bad in the present moment, but overall, the value will be much higher than ten years ago, for example. We can transfer a similar policy to everyday life, as progress is not on a constant upward trajectory. It’s not all one-way traffic, there are ups and downs in every stage of life, but if you pull back and look at things from a more overall standpoint, you’ll likely see the progress you’ve made. There’s a reason we often look back on old versions of ourselves and wonder, “what was I thinking?!

This goes to show that sustained progress – success – does not happen overnight. In fact, ‘overnight successes’ are mislabelled, they are the product of years, perhaps even decades of effort, practice, and patience. It takes time to be successful, let us not forget.

That being said, you might end up being successful at something you have no interest in at the minute. Take Vera Wang, one of the world’s most famous designers. She didn’t enter the fashion industry until she was 40 years old, as she was a journalist and figure skater beforehand. It highlights just how little we know about our future and that success isn’t an immediate guarantee.

All of this showcases just how vital self-discipline is in the search for success. For starters, discipline is knowing that the effort you put in now will be rewarded at a later date. Immediate gratification is unsustainable, especially for motivation – something we’ll get into shortly. It’s the long-term gain that must stand out in a disciplined mind, whether that’s as you expected or something completely different.

Success is built in the day-to-day resilience that comes with self-discipline.

Motivation Fades

Building on from the last point, it’s important to note motivation’s role in maintaining a disciplined mind and life. Motivation isn’t sustainable if you wait for it to hit. Instead, you must take action – the rest will follow. Once you’ve started something, it’s difficult to stop.

As this article just mentioned, you must understand the value of immediate and delayed gratification. Here are some examples to help explain:

Immediate gratification: Putting off a cumbersome piece of work to play a video game. Here, you’re choosing your short-term, present self. The work is seen as negative, and the video game is positive. It feels great at that moment and can often feel like putting yourself first.

Delayed gratification: Choosing to complete the work instead of playing the video game, for example. Here, you’re choosing your long-term, future self on a number of levels. For starters, by doing the work at that moment, you’re clearing room for your future self, making any other work less daunting and putting yourself in control of your schedule. Then you’ve got the bonus of freeing up time to purposefully play the video game rather than doing it instead of something more important.

You’re putting in the work now, delaying the gratification for undoubtedly more substantial rewards in the future. Keeping discipline is about consistently reminding yourself of what it’s all for – that glowing, achievable future success.

Adult Life Doesn’t Have the Stabilisers On

Let’s be honest, most of adult life is about making it up as you go along. “Fake it until you make it” if you will. As a child and young adult, you have life’s stabilisers firmly attached. Mistakes can be rectified and consequences aren’t as severe. Adulthood takes those stabilisers off and thrusts you towards the instability of independence, making everything a bit too real at times.

When you break it down, you’re responsible for how successful you are or will become. Building that success must come from within because relying on others for your progress and overall life quality is an unsustainable and largely unattainable way of living.

As we’ve touched on a few times, having a disciplined mind helps provide guidance when you least expect it but need it the most. If someone else lets you down, it’s the discipline which will keep you going.

Besides, it’s okay to admit that adult life is scary. You can do everything right but still be dealt a poor hand, but self-discipline is the one thing you can hold on to and use as a pillar for progress.

Even Reading This Article Takes Self-Discipline

This is not the shortest article in the world. If you’ve got to this point and listened to everything I’ve said, then you should pat yourself on the back. Merely reading an article to its end shows a certain level of discipline already.

This article has discussed how vital self-discipline is for achieving success. However, regardless of how successful you are trying to be in whatever way, self-discipline is a tool to help you feel safe because when your back is up against the wall, there’s security in knowing you have the equipment necessary to navigate the choppy seas and get back on track. Moreover, the comfort in knowing how maintained self-discipline keeps life going in a normal manner is security in itself. After all, humans need the discipline to keep everything trundling along nicely.

So, whether you commit to exercising three days a week or simply turn down the allure of a distraction, know that you’re experiencing the benefits of self-discipline.

It affects everything we do.

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