Big goals require self-discipline and willpower. But no matter how much planning we do, there is always the latent possibility that an unforeseen setback will show up and throw us off.
It could be an unexpected event we couldn’t have predicted, or a personal trait or belief we ignored about ourselves. Perseverance will allow us to continue on our path, despite the presence of setbacks. Without perseverance, we would quit after the first failure.
But we are not machines, and the emotional connotations of our actions are undeniable. We cannot simply command our actions and expect our body to follow said commands.
This is the reason it is so important to build self-discipline. But when we look for a definite way to develop self-discipline, all we hear is we should take action, despite the negative emotions associated with a particular goal.
Even though such an approach might yield results for a period of time, these results don't last.
What’s the alternative, then?
Self-discipline is like weightlifting; the more we train, the stronger we become. The less we train, the weaker we become.
We all have some level of self-discipline. Even a weak person is able to lift a light object. This is similar to the way an undisciplined child is able to get through a car ride.
The levels of self-discipline among us can vary greatly.
Some people have developed a naturally high level of self-discipline as compared to others, but that doesn't mean this trait can't be taught.
1. Acknowledgment is key.
Just as with weightlifting, the only way to build self-discipline is by using progressive training.
Progressive training simply means we’ll evaluate our current level and set that as a starting point. From there, we’ll lift weights slightly above the limit of our abilities.
The basic method to build self-discipline is to tackle challenges we can successfully accomplish, but which are near our limit. This doesn’t mean trying something and failing at it every day, nor does it mean staying within your comfort zone.
We’ll gain no strength trying to lift a weight we can't budge, just like we won't gain strength lifting weights that are too light for us. We must start with weights (i.e. challenges and goals) that are within our current ability to lift, but which are near our limit.
If we tackle challenges way beyond our abilities, we’ll fail over and over again. We will feel so discouraged or disappointed that the whole process of improvement will suffer a setback.
2. Perseverance brings success.
Perseverance feeds on results.
The better and more results we are able to acknowledge, the more perseverant we’ll become. We'll be more willing to invest energy and time into any given task or goal.
Every action, even ones that lead to failure, yields results. The key point is to learn to see the positive results of such actions and take note of every single one.
The next time you fail while trying to accomplish a goal, sit down with a paper and pen and list every single thing you have learned, between the moment you decided to tackle this particular task or goal and the moment you failed.
List every single thing that comes to mind.
After you feel there is nothing more you could pour onto the paper, look at the list and write what you would make different if you had to start all over again.
Then, start again and make it better.
3. Who’s counting?
In real life, becoming great at something doesn’t happen overnight. Getting better takes time and hard, smart work. But it's easy to lose motivation without perspective.
The best way to get an accurate perspective in relation to our dreams and goals is by tracking our results consistently. If we do so, we will soon find that, even when we are not yet where we want to be, we have improved immensely as compared to yesterday.
We don’t have to get from zero to 100 in 30 days.
So start walking toward your dreams and goals, even if it's just a little bit every day. But count your results.
Take note of every improvement you make along the way, no matter how insignificant it seems right now. The “little” improvements now will lead to big improvements in the future.
Assess your success not by comparing now to tomorrow, but by comparing now to yesterday.