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  • April L. Price, Shepherd University

What People Don't Tell You About Self-Discipline

According to Merriam-Webster, self-discipline is defined as “correction or regulation of oneself for the sake of improvement.”

Self-discipline is the ability to control and motivate ourselves, stay on track and do what is right... For the sake of improvement, right?

If we’re honest, not everyone has or mastered this ability. There are moments we find ourselves knee-deep in the second season of The Office, while there is a laundry list of To-Dos.

But what happens if we don’t know how to motivate ourselves? Before one can build a strong sense of self-discipline, we must address three things.

1) Your mental ability to do it; I don’t mean book smarts here, more so our self-esteem and honest thoughts. If you believe you can’t do it and if you tell yourself you can’t do it, more times than not, you will not do it. Thoughts of uncertainty and failure can deter the most confident of people from traversing unknown territory. Instead, we should try seeing each failure as just another step on the road to progress. Once a reporter asked Thomas Edison, “How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?” Edison replied, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”

2) Placing yourself in a box- Everyone has traits, styles, and tastes to identify themselves. As soon as we face something that’s “not quite me,” we build a wall or come to a hard stop. We ask ourselves, “What is the point?” There’s a difference between pursuing something you think will not yield results and trying something that will challenge you—the key to this finding others like you doing those things. If you’re an introvert, but your job requires you to network, seek other introverts to network successfully. The goal isn’t to be like this person, but to learn ways to accomplish your goals from someone in a similar boat.

3) Not wanting to do it, but considering you should. This is the bane for everyone who’s failing with following through with tasks that require self-discipline. Let’s use budgeting as an example. You find that snacking is your biggest expense, so you make your snack. Noon hits, and you realized you forgot to pack your homemade trail mix with your lunch. Now you have two choices: buckle down, push through with just your turkey sandwich, or go to the vending machine and buy a $2.50 candy bar for later. Most of us would like to say, “I’ll just eat my sandwich and push through.” But in reality, we realize we don’t have our usual 2:30 pm pick-me-up, forgetting was a sign from the universe, and $2.50 isn’t that much, anyway. This is the main reason why most people don’t accomplish what they wish to and why we revert to square one. We tend to our instant gratifications instead of saving up for that dream car or new house.

Straying from our goals seem not to have an impact until we realize we have gone nowhere, yet again. You can’t be self-disciplined if you don’t have a definite purpose to be so. Besides, purpose without motivation is the same as having a car without gas. And gas isn’t free. You can’t just wake up one day and expect to feel a sense of motivation.

Self-discipline is not something we have from birth. It’s not something you suddenly have one day or something that you keep forever once you have it. Self-discipline is something that you must practice every single day. It is one thing to tell someone to have “some self-discipline,” but finding a sense of motives to help you get there is what people don’t tell you.

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