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Why You Lack Discipline and How to Get It

Discipline is probably one of the most elusive virtues in human existence. We all know its incredible value and payoff, yet so often we don’t put forth much effort to attain discipline.

For years, I’ve struggled with discipline in multiple areas of my life; food, sleep, entertainment, work-focus, relationships, and more. I often find myself distracted and fleeing from discipline to pursue other easy, less-intense pleasures. 

Over the last few years, I’ve found that discipline has started to grow in my daily routine. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not full grown or even worth focusing on for more than a minute. But my discipline has grown, and I’m not surprised. Here's why.

Discipline, as it turns out, is a lot less complex than we make it out to be. If we take something unknown and try to understand it simply by thinking about it, we’ll find ourselves building up it’s complexity, making it more complex and seemingly less attainable. Think about a difficult conversation you have to have, or have had, with your boss, significant other, or friend. Leading up to the conversation, you're tense and nervous. You’re wondering how that person will react, so you think harder about every scenario, every possible outcome. You think about it so much you almost opt-out of the conversation because of the imaginary fear built up in your mind. But then…you have the conversation. And more likely than not, and to your relief, it goes a lot better than expected. 

I think we do the same thing with discipline. We overcomplicate it, make it seem big and scary, which results in us running away from it, feeling as though we’ll never attain it. 

I’ve learned that discipline isn’t a complex virtue. If you’re struggling with discipline and feel overwhelmed with it’s seemingly complex concepts, these truths are for you:

Discipline is Daily

To develop healthy discipline, you’ve got to do one thing daily. It helps if that one thing is difficult. Just like lifting weights or working on a technical skill, discipline needs honed and worked on. Daniel Goldstein proposes that we look at discipline as a muscle,  "I think self-discipline is something, it's like a muscle. The more you exercise it, the stronger it gets.” Pick one or two things that require discipline, and do them daily. For me, I flex my discipline muscle by reading 30 minutes, listening to a podcast, praying with my wife, and walking each day.

Discipline Starts Small

There’s a reason 82% of Americans drop their New Year’s resolutions by February; they’re taking on too much. Or, if discipline is a muscle, they’re lifting too much weight. That’s why it’s important to start small and build up to stronger discipline. Here’s some suggestions for starting small:

  • read a book
  • wake up 10 minutes earlier then usual
  • eat one healthy meal
  • walk for 20 minutes
  • prioritize your work day
  • do 10 pushups
  • spend time on your profession/craft
  • get 8 hours of sleep (nothing less)
  • show gratitude to one person every day

Discipline Feels Good

I’ve gotta say, I feel so much better with discipline in my life. My mind doesn’t wander to distracting things as much, I’m rarely on Facebook wasting time, and I’m doing what matters most in my life. Developing discipline is difficult, but it’s not impossible. When you’re able to develop it to the point that you see good results, you’ll feel good about yourself! And what I’ve found: it’s really hard to turn back. I’m less impulsive, more intentional, fully present, becoming a better leader, and building a better reputation for myself. 

Discipline Opens Doors

What type of doors? Here’s a few it’s opening for me: opportunities for deeper spiritual, personal and leadership growth, job opportunities, mentorship opportunities, mental and emotional freedom. I firmly believe that discipline can open the door to so much fulfillment and success in your life. It can give you and edge that no one around you has. 

What better opportunity do you have then now to develop the beautiful virtue of discipline? No one is going to do it for you, so start now, start young, and embrace the amazing opportunities in front of you!

Let’s get real: what areas of your life do you need to learn discipline, and how can you start small?