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Now that you have a SMART goal, how your self-discipline will help you is clear. You’ll need to complete your weekly training plan in order to meet your goal. Your self-discipline will be needed every time your schedule says you need to run, yet you are tired, or sore, or the weather’s bad, or the TV is interesting.
Visualize Your Goals
One reason why humans struggle with self-discipline is because we tend to put a greater value on present enjoyment than on future accomplishments. So, we might wish to be fitter and healthier in three months, but then skip a run because it’s raining and the couch is comfy.
One way to overcome this tendency is to clearly visualize the joy of reaching your goals. For example, when you sit down to study Spanish, summon a vision of sitting in a bar in Spain, talking and laughing with the locals. When it’s cold and you don’t want to go to the gym, imagine the thrill of crossing the finish line of your race. When you struggle to concentrate on your presentation, imagine how good it will feel to watch your client sign the contract.
Whatever your goal is, the more clearly you can imagine how good it will feel to achieve it, the more you can bring your future joy into the present. This will make the hard work feel much easier.
Identify Weaknesses and Remove Temptations
Legend has it that French writer Victor Hugo was guilty of procrastinating while writing. When his publisher demanded he finish his long-overdue novel, he hit upon a unique method of forcing himself to work: he locked away his good clothes and wrapped himself up in just a grey knitted shawl.
Unwilling to let others see him in that state, he had no choice but to sit at his desk and get to work. As a result, he managed to write The Hunchback of Notre Dame in just a few months. Whether true or not, this story illustrates an excellent method of strengthening your self-discipline – namely, avoiding temptation.
Many people imagine that self-discipline involves looking temptation squarely in the eye and saying no. However, temptation is, well, tempting. People with self-discipline aren’t able to resist temptation with super-human strength. Instead, studies show that people who show the greatest levels of self-control have the fewest episodes of temptation. In other words, they organize their life so that they avoid running into temptations that might disrupt their goals.
For example, if Bob is trying to improve his diet, he might walk around the block to avoid passing his favorite bakery. If Jane knows that she’ll lose hours to scrolling on social media if she picks up her phone at work, she’ll lock her phone in a drawer when she gets to the office.
There are many ways to arrange your life in order to avoid temptation and encourage good behavior. To do this for yourself, first think of your goal. Then, identify two or three reasons why it’s hard to achieve. Next, brainstorm ways to help reduce temptation and avoid distraction, so you can focus on achieving your goal. Here are some examples:
If you want to cut down on social media use, install software on your computer that blocks access to particular sites during work hours, and delete social media apps on your phone.
If you want to eat better, clean your cupboards of unhealthy foods, and buy only the groceries on your eating plan.
If you struggle to stop hitting the snooze button, move your alarm clock across the room so you have to get up to turn it off.
If it’s too tempting to play games when you should be studying, lend your gaming console to a friend until exam period is over.
Reduce Decision Fatigue with Smart Habits
What do Mark Zuckerberg, Barack Obama and musician Adele have in common? The answer is, they all wear the same thing every day. Whether it’s Zuckerberg’s grey t-shirt, Obama’s suits, or Adele’s black dress, having a grab-and-go uniform means that’s one less decision that they each have to make each day. That’s important because studies show that making decisions is exhausting.
Just as there are only so many bicep curls a person can do, even the most self-disciplined person only has so much willpower each day. Making choices all day long slowly drains that willpower and after a while, decision fatigue sets in. Once we’ve exhausted our self-control for the day, we start making poor choices.
So, what’s the cure for decision fatigue? It’s to establish good habits. Once a behavior becomes habitual, we are no longer making a conscious decision to do it; we just do it automatically.
For example, do you make a conscious decision to brush your teeth each night? Or, do you just shuffle to the bathroom and start polishing those pearly whites on autopilot? If it’s the latter, thank your parents. At some point in your childhood, they instilled that habit in you, and now you don’t have to think about brushing your teeth. You just do it.
The more we can build habits that help make healthy behaviors automatic and streamline the number of decisions we make each day, the more willpower we conserve for when we really need it. For example:
Establish a uniform. You don’t need to wear just a grey t-shirt every day, but do try paring down your wardrobe choices to just a few outfits. You can also apply the same logic to other parts of your day: have a “usual” lunch order, a favorite parking spot, and so on. The fewer small choices you need to make, the more energy you have for the important stuff.
Obey your schedule. Sit down once a week and schedule all of your most important tasks, whether at work or home. Then, you don’t have to debate when to go to the gym, study for your test, or call your least-favorite client. Just do the next thing on the calendar.
Piggyback on existing habits. When trying to establish a new habit, it’s easier to build on something you already do than to start from scratch. For example, you probably brush your teeth every day without fail. So, if you need to start taking daily medication, put your pills right next to your toothbrush, and take them every day before you brush. Soon, taking your pills will be a habit.Other Details
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- Year Released/Circulated: 2021
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