Benefits: Redefine what it means to develop self-discipline.
So That You Can: Gain the self-discipline you need to live with intention every day.
Go From Inspiration to Action With the Worksheet Below!
Gain the Awareness You Need to Develop Self-Discipline
We, as a society, lack self-discipline. Wouldn’t you agree? It’s pretty hard to argue against this statement, right?
And, wouldn’t you also agree that we need to develop self-discipline if we hope to live the fulfilling life we were meant to live; if we hope to live with intention; and if we hope to become the best version of ourselves?
Yet, even reading the words, “You need to develop self-discipline” can be quite confronting. As I write them, I can feel my muscles tense, and I find myself holding my breath (which is one of the odd things my body does when I’m really focused or nervous). But why?
Maybe it’s because we know that developing self-discipline is going to be difficult and painful, and we tend to avoid pain at all costs. Maybe it’s because we don’t believe in ourselves enough or don’t think we’re worth the effort it’s going to take. Or, maybe it’s because we don’t have a good understanding of what it means to develop self-discipline.
So, we’re going to work on gaining this understanding today by discussing:
- What self-discipline is,
- What it is not, and
- The addiction you have that makes developing self-discipline nearly impossible. (An addiction you probably don’t even realize that you have it.)
It’s going to be a fun ride, so let’s get into it. (Yes, I realize that my definition of “fun” is a bit different than most ?.)
My Understanding of Self-Discipline Has Changed
That’s what I love about writing these essays; I’m learning right along with you.
Originally, I’d planned to promote the idea of being proactive, rather than reactive, in this essay. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately because it’s become pretty apparent to me that this split — between reactive and proactive people — is yet another way we have found to divide ourselves.
I’m writing this as we near the end of a presidential election cycle, so it’s hard to escape the bombardment of political ads everywhere. And I’ve noticed that these political campaigns are either geared at reactive people — by focusing on fear and scarcity — or proactive people — by focusing on hope and unity. And, with this realization, I became curious . . .
Curious to learn more about what drives reactive behavior because, surely, if we know that, we can work toward becoming proactive. And being proactive is exponentially better than being reactive, right?
Wrong! Yes, I was wrong, once again. ? I found out that being proactive isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, but we’ll discuss that in a bit. First . . .
Don't Have Time To Read the Full Post?
Click on the Envelope to Email It To Yourself for Later!
Self-Discipline is Not Synonymous With Being Proactive
. . . even though I thought it was.
Let’s consider the definition of self-discipline, from Oxford Languages:
[Self-discipline is] the ability to control one’s feelings and overcome one’s weaknesses; the ability to pursue what one thinks is right despite temptations to abandon it.
Let’s face it, you can be proactive and still struggle to control your feelings and overcome your weaknesses. How do I know? Because I’ve been proactive my whole life, but I’ve only become self-disciplined in recent years by adopting an intentional living lifestyle. And this definition of self-discipline actually reminds me of the definition of intentional living.
According to Wikipedia, intentional living is:
. . . any lifestyle based on an individual or group’s conscious attempts to live according to their values and beliefs.
Now, let’s combine these definitions into a Deliberate Thinker’s definition of self-discipline:
The daily practice of consciously considering your thoughts, feelings, and actions so that they do not stand in the way of your continual pursuit to live according to your values and beliefs.
Wow! That’s pretty powerful if I do say so myself. ?
Then What The Heck Does It Mean to Be Proactive?
Generally speaking, being proactive means that you:
- Are always willing to learn and develop yourself rather than thinking you know all you need to know.
- Are always looking for opportunities to improve any project you undertake rather than simply doing what you’ve been told to do.
- Embrace change rather than settle into a “safe” routine.
These are all characteristics that will help you become self-disciplined — help you “consciously consider your thoughts, feelings, and actions.” They are all traits of a strong, Deliberate Thinker. But, of course, there’s more to the story.
The Fatal Flaw of Being Proactive
Being proactive also means that you:
- Are super organized,
- Are a fantastic planner, and
- Have a knack for projecting yourself into the future to anticipate problems before they arise.
And within these traits lies the fatal flaw of being proactive — rigidity. This flaw could sabotage your efforts to develop self-discipline.
Recall the last phrase in the Oxford Languages definition of self-discipline, “the ability to pursue what one thinks is right despite temptations to abandon it.” And what greater temptation could there be than a well thought out plan that has anticipated all potential problems?
It’s easy to abandon your intuition, and the pursuit of what you think is right, when you have a plan sitting in front of you that serves as your justification for doing so. The plan can make you feel safe. It can make you feel like you’re in control. It can make you dig your heels in and say, “This is what I decided to do, and this is what I’m going to do,” regardless of any other information that has come to light.
The moral of the story, to be truly proactive and self-disciplined, you cannot be rigid. You have to be aware of your thoughts and feelings so that you can determine if your “planned” action is still the “right” one. And in order to gain this awareness, you will have to face your addiction . . .
The Addiction Plaguing the Nation
Yes, I like to make things sound more dramatic than they are. That’s one of the fun parts of being a writer, but what we’re about to talk about is a serious problem.
This serious problem goes by a name we all know too well — stress. Yes, you are probably addicted to stress, and you are going to have to acknowledge this if you truly want to develop self-discipline.
According to neuroscientist, Dr. Joe Dispenza, stress is a state of mental or emotional strain or tension that occurs when we can’t predict a future outcome, can’t control a situation, or when we perceive a threat.
This definition makes sense, right? It’s relatable. But think about this . . . isn’t stress really the opposite of self-discipline. Because if we were self-disciplined, we would be able to control our feelings and overcome our weaknesses. We would not experience stress unless we were in actual and immediate danger.
But that’s not how most of our minds work, and that’s how we end up being addicted to stress.
How and Why Would We Be Addicted to Stress?
Stress occurs when we are overly focused on the outside world — our bodies, our environment, and time. We inevitably find ourselves trying to gain control and make the unknown known. And we narrow the focus of our attention so much that we end up in a constant state of stress because, of course, we can’t make all of the unknowns known.
Our stress responses create chemicals — cortisol, adrenaline, and norepinephrine — that we can actually become addicted to. As described by Dispenza:
We become so conditioned to these chemicals that, like a drug addict, we need the bad job, we need the poor relationship, we need a difficult situation in our life to keep getting that rush of adrenaline, to keep getting that rush of energy.
The result? Our brains are driven into a highly analytical state. In this state, we will not be able to consciously consider our thoughts, feelings, and actions. Which means that we will not be able to pursue what we think is right despite temptations to abandon it. Or, in other words, we will not be able to develop self-discipline.
Learning all there is to know about stress and how to manage it are beyond the scope of this essay. For now, let’s just acknowledge our addition. Then, we will start to notice when our stress responses are kicking in and standing in the way of our self-discipline.
First, don’t try to convince yourself that you’re self-disciplined just because you’re proactive like I did. Now that I’ve tied all of these thoughts together, I can see that sometimes being proactive is really a stress response. In both cases, you’re trying to predict and control a future event. Hmmm . . . that’s pretty deep, right? ?
Next, remember that self-discipline is really about limiting outside distractions and doing what you know is right in the moment. It’s not about forcing yourself to do something when it doesn’t seem right for you. For example, a lot of people swear by getting up at 5:00 in the morning (there’s actually a book called The 5 AM Club). But maybe getting up at 5 AM just doesn’t work for you. That’s not a sign that you have no self-discipline, and it doesn’t mean that you should force yourself to do it.
That being said, you do need to be self-aware enough to know when you should push yourself to do something that is right for you, even though you don’t want to. That’s true self-discipline.
Finally, be sure to take advantage of the worksheet I put together for you that will empower you to consider your thoughts and feelings so that you can take self-disciplined actions.
Click here for more posts with a “life-changing habits” theme.
If you’re ready to Stop Settling & Start Living! check out our home page to learn more about what The Expectation Gaps has to offer.
And until next time . . . STAY CURIOUS!
Only Have 1 Minute
Sources & Inspiration
Proactive vs Reactive | Be Proactive, posted to YouTube by Time Management and Productivity on 7.23.16
How Do You Deal With Unconscious People?, posted to YouTube by Eckhart Tolle on 2.19.16
Staying Conscious in the Face of Adversity | A Special Message From Eckhart Tolle, posted to YouTube by Eckhart Tolle on 3.21.20
Living in SURVIVAL vs. Living in CREATION – Dr. Joe Dispenza, posted to YouTube by After Skool on 9.29.20
Higher Consciousness, posted to YouTube by The School of Life on 5.11.15
Adrenaline, Cortisol, Norepinephrine: The Three Major Stress Hormones, Explained, Sarah Klein, HuffPost Wellness, 4.19.13
PRINTABLE WORKSHEET - Note: You will first have to download the PDF before you can print it.
FILLABLE WORKSHEET - Note: You will first have to download the PDF before you can add text. You will also need Adobe Acrobat on your device.