Discipline is the key to success. But who says it needs to be painful?
We all know that discipline is the key to success. You do the right things consistently and you will end up in the right place.
And we all know the right things. If I work out, I’ll be fit, strong and healthy, and yes probably happy. If I save my money, I’ll have it when I need it, I’ll be able to invest, I’ll be able to retire early, and yes, I’ll probably be happy knowing I’m secure. If I write everyday … well you get the idea.
Force yourself to do the right things and you get success.
But do we always do it?
Because it’s hard.
I don’t know about you, but for me the sound of discipline has never been a pleasant one. It conjures images of pain, deprivation and missing out. The whole thing just sounds painful.
But what if there was a way to develop the habit of discipline so it wasn’t so painful?
We’d all do it. Wouldn’t we?
Well that’s what I did. I learned to make discipline attractive, and now I do it naturally.
How to Make Discipline Fun
Ok, so I’m not going to pretend I’m some awesome discipline guru. In the beginning I was completely undisciplined. My discipline came from my father. He was a soldier, so morning routines, respect, responsibility and all that were drilled into me. And that gave me the idea that discipline was pain.
So, when I got the chance to be free, I was driving straight to freedom and as far away as I could get from discipline.
But now I’m back. I live a very disciplined life. But that doesn’t mean I live a strict, joyless existence. Far from it. I am disciplined to do the things that make me happy and make me successful.
And that’s were you start. Start by being disciplined to do the things you love and just build from there.
To help you get to this happy position, here’s some of the quick tips and tricks I used to make discipline fun.
Discipline of Love
When you do what you love, you feel good. But how often do you do what you love? I know I, and many others, are so busy that we do what we have to do, then we get tired and stressed and we just do what comes to us, or we just tune out.
I fell into this rut. But then my son was born. And I was working double time, feeling stressed, and to top it off he was crying and being grumpy. But then a flash of inspiration shot through my head. I started to sing. I hadn’t sung in years. I used to sing all the time – drunken with my brother, with mates, in the car on the way to work. Over time, somehow I fell out of the habit.
But here I was singing for my son. I felt great and it calmed him down. And then that became a routine. Then I started to make a routine of putting on my old favorite tunes for him to listen to in the afternoon.
As a result, I found my afternoons became happy, singing, rocking, and smiling and laughing with my son.
That started my discipline of listening to great music every day.
The music put me in such a great state and I was shocked I hadn’t been doing this all the time. However, I got sucked back into stressful live and I caught myself going days without listening to music. And so I got disciplined. I forced myself to make a time to listen to music every day. And now, every day, I force myself to follow the same routine everyday. And as a result, I have that regular burst of goodness that puts me in a great state.
This creates a positive feedback loop. You force yourself to do something that makes you feel great. Then you do feel great and you’re dying to do it again. And then you remember to do it again. Then it becomes an automatic routine.
The trick: Start discipline by doing the things that make you feel great. Then force yourself to be disciplined about it. You will start to feel great and that’s what starts the habit of discipline.
Plan with excitement
Then take that idea and be disciplined to plan for good feelings.
So, as I started to get into the habit of forcing myself to do the things I loved, I started to plan and schedule more things that would make me feel good.
Like scheduling in time with my wife.
With both of us working fulltime and caring for a baby, we found we hardly ever took time to enjoy our time. We would rush around like crazy and then when work was done and the boy was sleeping we’d fall in a heap, or dive for the escape of TV or social media, or reading, or whatever.
And then it got to a point where we realized we weren’t feeling as connected as we used to. And the answer was obvious. We had to make time together a must. Not just time, but quality time, fun time, enjoyable time, loving time.
Planning Enjoyable Time
So, we would sit down and go through the schedule. We decided, Thursday night we’d order something really yummy – cut out the cooking and cleaning and enjoy our food together. Something we did before life became a whirlwind. Then we decided that once the boy was asleep, we’d have some alone time, but then we’d have some TV time together every night on the couch. And then every Sunday we locked in a relaxing stroll to go get bubble tea.
Long story short, we got into the habit of planning times of joy through the week. Then we would ‘force’ ourselves to follow through with the plan. That became a habit.
So now the habit of planning for good feelings has helped me to build that ability to be disciplined. Discipline, which now I can extend to the good feeling of going to the gym, or of finishing a piece of writing, or having a clean house, or saving a few thousand dollars a month.
Tie the feeling to the action and the discipline becomes natural.
Trick yourself into discipline
Now sometimes it’s hard to use the positive feeling approach to being disciplined.
Usually when it comes to temptation.
For example, I found it almost impossible to stop drinking.
The drinking was bad for me. Not like I had a problem, but I knew I couldn’t just stop drinking. I’d get to the weekend and I had to drink. I knew it was poison. I knew I felt better being fit and healthy and super clean. But every Friday I would be on the way to the pub.
Now I know many of you might not be seeing that as a problem, so imagine if you will it’s chocolate or TV or drugs, or whatever temptation you know you need to do without.
And so, I wanted to stop drinking, or at least drinking so much, but that wasn’t easy.
So I had to try and trick myself out of wanting it.
What I did was steer into the skid. I thought, if my brain is going to drive me there anyway, I’m not going to be able to say ‘no it’s bad’ and just quit. Believe me I tried. Instead I said, fine you can drink as much as you want Friday and that’s it. As long as you do one hundred push-ups everyday and especially just before you drink.
My brain thought, ‘awesome I get to drink’ and my muscles said, ‘ok, we can do this’. So, even if I fail, I’ll still be in a pretty good condition. But I had the feeling that once I did all those push-ups I probably wouldn’t be too keen to go out drinking heavily.
And long story short, once I tried and failed to do the 100 push-ups a day challenge I no longer felt like I wanted to go drinking like crazy.
My body was feeling good and getting strong and feeling like drinking was a step backwards.
And then when I did get the record and I did go for my Friday drink, the next day I felt like crap.
And so, one week led to two, led to three, and now I’m down to one drink a month. And feeling great.
Trick yourself into being disciplined.
Discipline of rewards with reflection
So building on this idea of tricking yourself to become disciplined is the idea of rewards with reflection.
The basic idea of, ‘if I do this, I get this’, is what I mean by rewards.
If I do 100 push-ups a day I get to go drinking.
Well, in that case the automatic reflection was that I feel awesome feeling pumped, I don’t want to ruin it by drinking.
But to take it a little further, I realized being disciplined does start to feel a bit bland.
I mean life without chocolate, carbs, beer, mindless TV, starts to feel like a grind.
Well it did for me.
So what I started to do, was to say if we’re really good all week, like we do the fitness and we save and we write, then we get to have pizza night or we go out for ice-cream.
Simple – a reward for doing good, it makes sense. But you can go further.
What really helped, was doing this with my wife, though at times it was alone, but what it was was to really saviour the reward. To reflect while you’re enjoying your reward on all the good things that allowed you to have it.
Like with my wife. We allowed ourself cider with dinner and then icecream as a reward for a great week of doing all our good stuff. And instead of just smashing it down absent mindedly, we talked about what we did and enjoyed the victory of being disciplined. We talked-up our positive future and celebrated the fact that we were doing something great that would one day pay off. And we fully congratulated each other on being smart, brave, sacrificing and so on.
It sounds like a load of wank, but when you get into the habit of celebrating your good choices and thinking positively about all the future rewards you will get, and enjoying the praise and appreciation of your partner, if possible, then it really makes you feel good.
After that you start planning for more hard work so you get to celebrate again and again and again.
Discipline of being mindful
And that brings me to the last stage. That is this idea of looking to the future and celebrating what we are doing now for a wonderful life in the future.
This is being mindful.
Being mindful means to be present in the here and now. Lots of people live distracted lives, they rush around trying to catch up on the constant stream of things to do and see. But if we are mindful we are present and aware of what we are doing and knowledgeable about what is important. Instead of rushing around doing stuff, we are planned and prepared and mindful of what needs to be done. We take care of the truly important things and we have our mind on the things that matter. We take joy in our daily jobs, we live in our good relationships, we are grateful and at one with life.
Mindful of the Future
For me, this kind of mindfulness is only possible when we are aware of the now in relation to where we want to go in the future. In the present we are mindful to live well and enjoy the moment, because we know we only have so much time left and life is too precious to throw away in stress and busy work.
But we also have great purpose in our moments because we are thoughtful of where we want to go. If we have no direction, then it’s easy to be distracted and to get caught up in work and stress. But if we have a positive future goal ahead of us, then we are always mindful not to be distracted. We are conscious about our effort and keen to deploy our time wisely in the direction of achieving our goal.
So for me, I am constantly telling myself the positive story of the wonderful life I will have in the future. Very soon my wife and I will be living financially free, enjoying family free time travelling around the world, working on our passion projects and so on. We have a very clear goal right there in the future, and we are mindful that if we want it stay a reality then we need to do certain things.
We really want that bright beautiful future, and we want to enjoy it as long as we can. So being disciplined about learning, working, saving, investing, being fit and healthy, and all the right things to do come easy.
We see what we want, we know what we need to do, and so we are pulled into doing the discipline. And everyday we get closer to that beautiful image, we feel great and we double down with even more effort.
Discipline is the key to success.
Do successful things, over and over again, and you get to rich, healthy, happy, powerful, respected, well you get the idea.
We don’t always do it because it’s hard.
But start doing these things today and you’ll start to find discipline makes you happy and then discipline becomes easy.
Good luck, much love and I wish you all the best on your journey to success.
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