In high school, I was really good at gaming the system. I wouldn’t call it cheating; actually, it was something far worse.
At least with cheating there’s a certain stigma that goes along with it. You always run the risk of getting caught or having to live with the guilt of knowing you were breaking the rules.
You see, I had an uncanny knack for doing well with little or no effort. What’s wrong with that? Well, like most blessings, I took it way too far. I mastered the art of skating by, doing the least amount possible to achieve what most would consider success.
Cheating Yourself: The Gravest of all Cheats
What I didn’t see at the time, but I do now, is that I was cheating myself out of some really powerful lessons. Most people don’t see what I did as unethical, but if I’m not becoming the type of man the world needs me to become I’m robbing the world of that gift.
Think about someone who’s written a book that profoundly changed your life. What if they hadn’t chased that dream; what if they didn’t do everything they could to be the best darn writer they could be?
Think about the surgeon who performed on someone you really care about. What if they hadn’t poured their entire selves into becoming an excellent doctor; what if they were just mediocre?
In high school, I was too caught up in myself to see that what I did was important to the world around me. I wish I had the discipline to push myself to explore, grow, and find satisfaction in hard work. That’s what I missed out on, and now I’m on a journey to restore that discipline in my life and enjoy the many benefits that come with it.
Simple, Persistent, Habits = Major Changes
Lucky for us, discipline is a virtue that is easily developed by persistent, conscious habit. It’s something you can work on, improve, and see results almost immediately.
The real change, however, happens when discipline becomes second nature, without thinking about it you’ll become a person of action, someone who sees a project out to it’s finish and doesn’t complain about every bump or rut along the way.
6 Easy Ways to Grow Discipline
1. Forge a habit of steel. Like anything worthwhile, discipline won’t happen overnight. For me, it’s taken persistence for several weeks before I noticed real changes. The key is to keep the word “discipline” in your thoughts all day, so you can fight the urge to slack off when you should be working. Try leaving yourself inspirational quotes in obvious places like the bathroom mirror or refrigerator door.
2. Reward yourself for taking action. Maybe there’s a book you’ve been itching to read, promise yourself an hour of peaceful, uninterrupted reading once you finish washing all the dishes in the sink and clean the upstairs toilet. Maybe your weakness is chocolate cake, or movies, or a hot shower, or fossil collections. Whatever it is, use it to keep you going when stuff needs to get done.
3. Jump start your motivation. I’ve found that sometimes all it takes to get motivated is an activating strategy. Clean one room of the house, that’s it. Often you’ll find its easy to keep going. Run 1 lap around the block, and then stop. You’ll probably want to go on. One activating strategy that works for me is getting up early. It really kick starts my day and sets me in a disciplined, focused mindset right from the start.
4. Use an M.I.T. list. Here’s a real simple way to stay disciplined: each night before you go to bed, write down the 3 most important tasks for the next day. Those M.I.T’s are things that need to get done before you’re allowed to go to sleep the next night. No excuses (unless they’re really, really good.)
5. Find ways to enjoy every task. Why is it is so easy for me to stay disciplined with my writing for this blog, but so hard for me to stay on top of my school work? Easy – it’s a matter of enjoyment. So, my advice is to find some way to enjoy EVERYTHING you do. Cleaning dishes – relax, turn on music, enjoy the simple rhythms. Mowing grass – take in the smells. Homework assignments – get creative, stretch yourself, develop new skills. Almost everything is matter of perspective.
6. Focus on the person you’re becoming. Discipline matters because there are always things that need to get done. We can crawl into tiny holes and cower in fear or we can embrace life for what it is, take charge of the responsibilities we have, find ways to enjoy them, and grow into the type of people that know how to take action.
Discipline isn’t just about working hard for the sake of getting things done. There are real powerful benefits in it for you. That’s where the “live happier” part comes in.
7 Awesome Benefits of a Disciplined Life
1. Less stress. You don’t have to worry about missed deadlines, piled up chores, and long to-do lists because you’ve taken care of everything in a timely manner.
2. Sense of accomplishment. I’ll be honest, a hard day’s work is so rewarding. I love looking back on a productive day to see that I’ve made good use of the precious time I’ve been given.
3. Create time for stuff you really enjoy. Not everything we have to do is fun. That’s OK, these experiences can still be rewarding and help us develop into better people. Discipline helps you to stay on top of the things that need to be done to make time for the stuff that really makes you come alive.
4. Make a difference. The encouraging note that doesn’t get written can’t change someone’s day. Good intentions aren’t enough, discipline lets us take our ideas and put them into action.
5. Build trust… with others and with yourself. You become the type of person people can count on. More importantly, you know you can count on yourself when it matters. That self-confidence can take you great places.
6. Less clutter. Distractions are everywhere, and they keep you from doing the stuff that really matters. And they leave you drained as your attention is diverted into a thousand different directions. Discipline helps you stay focused on what you’re doing – right now, in the present.
7. More happiness. When you’re staying on top of the things that need to get done and utilizing your energy towards creating something valuable, you have a better sense of control in your life. The satisfaction that comes from living a balanced, purposeful life leads to a deep, steady stream of happiness.
James has come to writing and blog writing in particular, late in life. When not working as a systems analyst for an American Telco, he spends his time honing his writing skills on our blog and commuting between Houston and Dar es Salam to the family home in Mikocheni.