Set yourself up for self discipline

Do you think that your ability to self discipline yourself is always up to just you? Maybe it is, but the results of following experiment may surprise you.
Researches from University of Southern California university did a following experiment. They took a big group of people to the cinema and gave them two types of popcorn. One came in huge pot, more than you can eat, but it was fresh. The other one set was even bigger, more than you can ever eat, and on top of that the popcorn was stale. Half of people randomly received the first bag and other half the second one. After the movie was over, not surprisingly, no one ate all the popcorn. And if it wasn’t free some people would definitely demand their money back.
But one very interesting thing happened. The people who received the bigger bag ate 50% more of the popcorn on average than people who received the small one! The conclusion we can take from that is that you are not totally in control of your actions but your environment plays a big role. Of course people would not admit that. After the experiment people were asked if the size of their bag could possibly influence how much they ate. Everybody denied saying they know what they are doing and slammed off such suggestions as ridiculous.
Now that we know environment has a big effect on us, should we cry and whine about it and blame it for our failures? Some sure do that, but actually we should get excited about it. If things in our environment have such a big effect on us, that means we can set up our environment in a way that will bring success! Our willpower might be limited but while we have it we can use it to set up the path and if we did it smart enough we should then continue almost on auto pilot.
For example. Lets say you wanted to start eating healthier and lose some weight. You might be successful with sticking to a diet for some days then you will slowly fall back to your old ways. Why does this happen? You exhausted your self discipline and your environment makes it easy to start eating unhealthy again. For example, you come to the kitchen, open the cabinet and see a bar of chocolate there. You say to yourself “I already had a salad 2 days ago” and eat the chocolate bar. And next thing you know, you have eat a whole pack of them.
Fridge full of beer
Fridge full of beer - maybe not the best way to set up your environment if you want to drink less

But how can you set up your environment to succeed in this example? Few suggestions:

  • Toss all your unhealthy food away.
  • Go to store and buy some healthy food.
  • Prepare your meals in advance for the whole week and put them in the fridge.
Now when you come to the fridge you wont have anything else to choose from but your healthy meals. And you only need to use the self discipline once a week to prepare the meals. Self discipline may be limited so use it wisely. You might set up emails every week in addition to really strengthen the new behavior. Use whatever you can in your environment to set yourself up for success. Use your self discipline in small bursts to set up the environment and your chances of success will skyrocket.
More examples
  • Daily remainders (you can use Habitforge )
  • Keep your gear in visible place.
  • Tell your friends about it so they will nag you, if you don’t do it.
  • Make a bet you will do it. You might even do something as extreme as selling your car if you can go to your work with bike or on foot instead.
Early rising:
  • Get a really LOUD alarm clock and put it out of your reach so you can’t hit the snooze button when it goes off in the morning.
  • Set up an alarm that reminds you to go to sleep too.
Working on your internet business:
  • Make a new Habitforge reminder.
  • Tell friends about it.
  • Put a big sign of your desktop that reminds your about it.
  • Make your business site your home page in your web browser.
I hope you’re starting to see a pattern here. We must set up our environment in a way that will:
  1. Remind us of what we what to achieve constantly.
  2. Make it easier to do what we want, than what we are currently doing and want to change.
I hope this article will inspire you to change something in your environment today. It only takes a little bit of self discipline 🙂

Creating a new habit and improving self discipline with Habitforge

Self discipline is basically a collection of good habits, that we stick to on a regular basis. One way improve it is to gradually create a new habits that improve our life for the better. The problem with habits is that you can’t create them overnight. According to research, it takes about 3 weeks or 21 days to create a new lasting habit. It’s easy to do something new for a couple of days, but can you stick to it for 3 weeks?

This is where comes it. Its a very simple site that allows you create new habits by sending you reminders after each day, asking you about your progress. After you sign up you can start creating new habit right away with a very simple process. First you have to choose a new habit. Let’s say you’re are not eating breakfast and you want to improve your eating habits by having a healthy breakfast every day. When you create a new habit at habitforge you have to complete the following question that you will be asked every day:  Were you successful yesterday at___________________. So in our case that would be “Were you successful yesterday at having a healthy breakfast”. And that’s all there is to it! You are done and after the day is over, you will be sent that question to your email address and can answer either Yes or No. If you answer Yes you had a successful day, but if you answer No, then you have to start all over again! The habit is only considered created after you do it for 21 consecutive days. If you manage 20 days but fail the last day you will have to start all over again, so that will give you extra motivation to really stick to it!

Habitforge also offers additional options for advanced users. You can write some personal motivation details when creating a habit. That includes what are the negative and positive consequences for creating this habit. You will be reminded of that in your daily emails. You can also create a public link that will enable your friends to see the habit that you are creating. That will create some peer pressure to further enable you to create a new habit successfully and improve. Another option is to choose just some days of the week in which you will monition success, as with some habits not all days might be relevant. For example you decide to start exercising 4 days per week.

Try today. It’s totally free and worth giving a shot if it can potentially create new positive habits for your life and improve self discipline.


Pillars of self discipline

According to personal development author and blogger Steve Pavlina there are five pillars of self discipline:

  • Acceptance
  • Willpower
  • Hard work
  • Industry
  • Persistence

Let’s take a look at each of those five.

Acceptance means that you look at your life and asses where are you standing right now in regards to self discipline. It’s best to look at each area of our life separately as we might actually be quite disciplined in some areas and less in others. Identify your weakest areas and your strongest one. How disciplined are you in your dieting? Do you keep your desk and work environment clean and neat? Do you get adequate exercise? Do you work all the time you are at work? Are you educating yourself in your field?
We can only improve once we know where we stand now. Until we accept we lack self discipline in some areas, its hard to move forward. Once we understand where we are, we can make a proper plan to improve our self discipline for each area of our life.

Willpower allows us to break through our comfort zone and make gradual improvement in our life necessary to change it for the better. The problem with willpower is that we only have a limited amount of it. You might have experienced that yourself when you went on a diet. You managed to stick with it a few days then you went back to eating the old ways. Your willpower has worn off. That’s why it’s important to use our willpower strategically. Willpower is like a spearhead of self discipline. Its very powerful but we only have a limited amount of it. That’s why its important to set our environment in a way that requires the least amount of willpower.
If you want to go on a diet, throw all your junk food out of your fridge so you don’t have to waste your willpower to resist eating that cupcake. Prepare healthy means in advance for the whole week. That way it will be easy to diet as you will open the fridge with the right meals already waiting there for you. You will only use willpower to prepare the meals and make decision to go on a diet.
It’s also smart not to overwhelm yourself with too many habit changes at once. Take it one habit at the time. Don’t try to stop smoking, get fit, improve your education, cut down on TV from your life all at once. It will be too hard. Take it one habit at the time and use your willpower strategically.

Hard work
You must realize that there is no way around hard if you want to be successful in life. You might get lucky once in a while but for lasting success hard work is mandatory. Hard work is a work that challenges you, both physically and mentally. Hard work makes you grow, as you constantly push to the limits and expand yourself. Develop hard work and you will greatly improve your self discipline too.
With hard work you take a drivers seat in your life instead of being a passive observer and go wherever life takes you by itself. You might be fine with just going with the flow, but you might not be fine with where that takes you eventually, like ending up broke or sick. Everything in life requires hard work from being in shape, to being educated, happy in relationship and running a successful business. When you have a purpose in life hard work is easier, if you have a strong enough why, you will manage to push through any obstacle.

Industry means putting in the hours. Doing the work that needs to be done. Its not the same as hard work. Hard work is doing the work that is challenging, but you can be industrious doing the easy work too. For example, if you want to go on a diet you have to prepare the healthy food. That’s not particularly challenging once you know how to it but it takes time and people will often just eat a snack bar because its easy. Industry will get the job done but it won’t tell you what you have to do. That’s why its important to be clear about where you are now and where do you want to go.

Persistence is when you get tired of doing the hard work but you keep working hard anyway. That can only be achieved, if you have a clear purpose. Hard work is how you achieve your goals. Purpose is why do you want to achieve them and with perseverance you get there if you have a clear vision. That doesn’t mean you have to be stubborn and stick to your goals for decades. Be smart, people change their goals too, but when you have a clear vision and plan how to get there you must keep pushing hard.
Persistence will create its own positive cycle. When you work hard on your goals you start to see results. Those results will give you more motivation to keep working hard to create more results that will give you even more motivation.

Take a look at these five pillars in your own life and identify which one is the weakest. Then work on improving it. Slowly, one step at the time:)

3 Simple Self Discipline Tips To Beat Procrastination

Sometimes little changes can have big impact on your life. In today’s article I will present you 3 simple techniques that will improve your self discipline. Those 3 are:

  • 10 Minute rule
  • 3 Magic questions
  • Ultimate goal VS immediate desire

10 Minute rule
The basic idea is: If you have to complete some task decide that you will work on it just for 10 minutes to see how it goes. You can stop or continue after that, but you will commit yourself to the task for 10 minutes. After the 10 minutes have passed you will usually find out that you actually want to keep working on the task. You will notice you are already producing results and the law of inertia will keep you going. Once you get started its easy to keep going.
For procrastinator the hardest part is to get started on the task and the “10 minute rule” will help you vastly with that. You won’t be overwhelmed with the enormous task on your plate anymore, you only have to work on it for 10 minutes. Sometimes that might even be enough to get the whole thing done! People who procrastinate can sometimes spend five hours to procrastinate on a task and in the end it turns out it only takes 10 minutes to complete it.
The 10 minute rule will help you get started and usually you’ll find out that you are still working on the task when the initial 10 minutes have elapsed. According to studies it takes about 10 minutes to get absorbed in the task you are doing. What if you stop after 10 minutes? That’s fine, you completed the first part now you can move to another. Take another 10 minutes and see what you can do now! Rome was not built in one day. You can only eat an elephant one bite at the time. Consider 10 minutes as one bite and slowly you will get even the biggest, most overwhelming task (your elephant) done that way.


3 Magic questions
The second technique to improve your self discipline is called “3 magic questions”. Every time you catch yourself procrastinating ask yourself these 3 questions:

  1. Where am I now and what am I doing?
  2. What do I want to do?
  3. How will I feel when I do it?

The point of this exercise is to change your focus from your current distraction to the task you want to get done. And one way to change your focus is to ask yourself the right questions.
With first question you will become aware what you are doing right now, that you are procrastinating, not getting anything done and you will feel bad about yourself.
Example: Where am I now and what am I doing? I’m behind my computer surfing the web, looking at lolcats funny pictures.

Next you will focus on what you want to get done. Think about every detail, get yourself into the state of doing it.
Example: What do I want to do? I want to finish writing new article on my blog and publish it.

With the last question think about all the positive results you will get from accomplishing your tasks. They might not be immediate, but make them seem like you already have them. See what you will see when you get it done, and try feel physically in your body as if you would already finish your task.
Example: How will I feel when I do it? I will feel great, i will get the job done and get the valuable information I’m putting to this article to my readers.

Ultimate goal VS immediate desire
When we procrastinate we are usually in inner conflict between the ultimate goal that we want to achieve by completing our task and the immediate desire that we can get right now. For example, you want to exercise, but you are procrastinating to get to the gym. The ultimate goal is to lose 10 pounds. The immediate desire is to watch youtube videos and browse facebook while eating a cupcake. What you have to do here is to switch your immediate desire with ultimate goal. You have to make your ultimate goal your immediate desire. You do that by changing your focus to the positive results you will get by completing your task. They might not be instant but you have to ask yourself: “At this point would I rather be slim, fit and healthy or would I rather see another funny video on youtube?” This way you make your ultimate goal more real. Ask more questions about how completing your goal will positively affect your life and you will get more and more compelled to do it now. Make your ultimate goal seem like instant gratification.

These 3 simple techniques will greatly improve your self discipline. Try it next time you catch yourself procrastinating!

Self discipline, delayed gratification and marshmallows

Some decades ago a group of psychologists from Stanford University conducted an intriguing experiment regarding self discipline. They gathered a random group of children and assigned them a simple task. They presented them a marshmallow and they had a simple choice. Either they could eat it right away OR they could wait for fifteen minutes and they would get two of them! Most of the children could not wait 15 minutes. Even though they would get two marshmallows instead of just one. Some tried to resist in agony before giving in. But a few of them waited the whole fifteen minutes. The interesting part is, those that waited turned out the be the most successful in life. Can we get some self discipline how to out of marshmallows?

Marshmallow kitty
Kitty drowning in marshmallows.

They practiced something called delayed gratification as opposed to instant gratification that most children chose. The ones who could not delay the gratification had problems later in life too. They earned less money, had problems with weight (that one is kinda no brainer and probably a direct result of too many marshmallows :)) and also problems with drugs and alcohol.
The moral of the story is: Delayed gratification leads to better quality of life. And delayed gratification is directly linked to will power.

As it turns out its not easy for anyone to delay gratification, its hard for everyone. But those that did wait managed to distract themselves in various ways, either by looking away, singing a song, crawling around or just covering the sweets with something so they could not see it. That’s called strategic allocation of attention. Children (or adults) can distract themselves and in that way their desire is pushed aside by something else. You can only really focus on one thing at the time and if your focus is on the marshmallows it’s going to get harder and harder to resist it. You will think about how good they taste and will be almost able to taste them in your mind. Your chances of waiting the whole 15 minutes will get slimmer every passing second. Especially if you are a 5 year old child. But its not like adults are much better. Maybe they can wait to eat a marshmallow but there are so many other forms of instant gratification that sabotage our self discipline. Average American household watches over 8 hours of TV per day. Something to think about. And lets not forget how much time we all spend browsing the web randomly. Sometimes its really hard to delay the gratification of reading a wikipedia article on that new tech gadget that just came out.

Ability to delay gratification is a crucial skill to develop self discipline. The marshmallow example might seem innocent but it can show in much more important things in life too. Would you rather spend your money now on a new fancy car that all your friends will envy or will you delay that gratification and invest in a business that will possibly bring you a fortune in the future. Would you rather watch a TV show now or delay that gratification and study for a college exam that is coming up so fast?  Would you rather eat that box of chocolate now or delay until weekend and stick to your diet that will help you lose weight and achieve optimal health.

The good news is, that even if you are mostly all about instant gratification right now, you can change! It takes practice but it can be done and it will directly improve your self discipline. The key is to start small and not overwhelm yourself. Don’t try to do it all at once but start with a simple step like  not watching that TV show first time you come home, but do 30 minutes of exercise instead. Create a routine, one at the time and before you know it, you will have a handful of routines that will positively reinforce you for the better and help you develop solid self control.

Here is some self discipline how to on practicing delayed gratification:

  • When you want to instantly buy something wait and consider alternatives. Stop and breathe before you make impulse buys. Write a note what you want to buy, it will wait. Then a week later ask yourself: “Do I still need this?”
  • Have the big picture in your mind. You may get a fancy car now but how will that help with your other expenses? You can watch TV now but what will happen when you only have one day left to write that report?
  • Start small. Develop a small habit first. For example, try 20 minutes of exercise 3 times a week instead of watching TV. Once you master that, go bigger!
  • Eat the dinner before desert – no brainer but is it REALLY always like that?
  • Work first then take time for fun. Don’t skip and work and don’t skip the fun after either!
  • Think before you act. Before you do something ask yourself: “Is this just instant gratification that doesn’t really improve my life in any way?”

In the end, let me say that sometimes instant gratification is OK! Don’t beat yourself up everytime you screw up. We only live once and its OK to just take a day off sometimes but don’t make a habit of it!
Alright, I have delayed that gratification of going out for a beer too for long now by writing this article:) Gotta go, see you soon and good luck with your self discipline!


Further reading and sources:

The blog is up!

The day has finally arrived! My blog on how to self discipline and beat procrastination is finally up. I’m gonna post various articles and insights about self discipline here while trying to get more self disciplined myself too. 

I believe that self discipline is the basic skill and the foundation of all other success in life therefore if we manage to improve it we’ll simultaneously improve in all other areas too. You can be smart, talented but if you don’t get your ass up and take some action toward achieving your goals you will not achieve anything.

I had a problem with self discipline for a while now. I set a million goals for myself about how I’m gonna eat better, work better, make some extra income, get that college degree, waste less time watching TV and browsing the web (sounds familiar?) but I always seem to lack the self discipline to consistently follow through. I made this blog to improve myself in that area and help all the readers at the same too.