Who hasn't experienced this: You're at a point in your life where you think you could have made significant progress. You are not as athletic or educated as you would like to be, or you are simply not mentally where you want to be.
Of course, all this can be traced back to only one person and that is ourselves. Because we haven't done any sports in the last half year, we are not as fit. Because we have not read this or that book, we are not as educated, because we keep telling ourselves that we are not enough, we are mentally weak.
So we are to blame for our situation and even though we know this, we still usually do not start to change anything about our situation.
Discipline is the key to getting to the life that we consider to be the best life for ourselves. The only catch is that we have to earn it: We have to get out of our comfort zone. We have to do what we don't want in order to get what we want.
Why discipline is good
Rarely do we achieve the goals we set for ourselves without leaving our comfort zone in some way.
Discipline is what helps us achieve our goals. In an exaggerated sense, it is the mindset that tells us "Either I reach my goal, or I perish on the way, because anything is better than staying in my current situation".
Discipline is also a huge bulwark against nihilism. In our universe, there is no direct purpose to pursue. There is no great goal to achieve. There is no omnipresent goal that can be applied to every single human being. A kind of all suffering of the existence justifying dogma that one can simply grab out of the existence and nail down.
Each individual must formulate one or more determinations for himself. The discipline to pursue these self-imposed goals gives us the strength to stand against the otherwise endless meaninglessness of existence.
Yes one day everything I have ever known will be dead, not even the planet we live on will still be alive in a few million a few billion years at most. But today I cooked my friends something delicious and they enjoyed it. I created a sense of purpose for myself. And through the discipline of getting into the kitchen and cooking something, I gave myself that sense of purpose.
The more important the goal is to us, the more effort and energy we invest in the whole endeavor. The suffering and pain we take on to achieve the goal are in direct proportion to each other.
Let's say you want to weigh a few kilograms less. This is a manageable goal. The best thing about it - even though the goal is reasonably well-defined - is that achieving it is possible via several paths.
- You can eat a little less, or eat healthier.
- You can extend your workouts
- You can still start jogging next to the workouts
Without discipline, however, nothing will come of the whole story. No matter which path we choose: to reach the goal, we have to do a little bit more. We have to go a little further out of our comfort zone.
And I know the feeling really well that you have no desire to do something - like you probably also. Before I go jogging, I stand in 95% of the cases for minutes in the room and tell myself how little desire I have and I have other things to do. Only after a few minutes, I can convince myself that these are nothing more than cheap excuses and that if I don't go jogging, I would just scroll pointlessly through my Instagram feed.
I have to be honest with myself (I have already written a detailed article on the subject of honesty, which you can find at here) and identify the excuses as such first, because everyone knows that good excuses can often be mistaken by one's own brain for valid reasons.
It becomes problematic when we do not set clear goals.
We tell each other, day in and day out, that we...
- should do a little more sports
- should take care of the application
- should eat less sweets
- should get out into nature more
- we should drink less beer
The only problem is that these are all not goals, but rather resolutions. Nothing about them is clear or fixed. However, if we turn these resolutions into goals (which can be achieved by following simple rules) we have taken a big step in the right direction.
Clear goals for the above resolutions would be:
- Exercise 3 times a week
- Monday write letter of motivation, Wednesday prepare resume, ...
- The coming week a maximum of three cookies per day
- Walk for at least 30 minutes every day
- No more after-work beers during the week
These new and clearly defined goals are much easier to stick to because they already include everything we need to do to reach them. Eating less sweets is a stretchy description, if I only eat 3/4 of a chocolate bar, that's less than I normally eat. However, it would also be less if I ate the whole bar except for a small piece. But if I say to myself that I eat a maximum of three cookies a day, then I know what I'm working with and exactly within what range I'm allowed. For example, I can have them in the afternoon with coffee or in the evening when I watch my favorite series.
Without goals, it is easy to get lost in life and not know where to go with yourself. Without the discipline to achieve these goals, we often feel ourselves to be too weak to achieve these goals - the problem is often only that we have not yet made discipline a habit.
If you are interested in how to improve your daily life then I have prepared for you here another article in which I have already dealt with this topic. However, I am sure that with the new insights on the subject of discipline and self-optimization you are already a good deal closer to your goals and dreams.
Whenever I don't feel like going jogging because it's raining a bit outside or I'm just too lazy, I have to remind myself why I set this goal in the first place.
Perhaps the biggest problem with this, however, is when you start finding excuses that call into question the reasonableness of the goal. For example, telling myself that you don't need any endurance at all in 2021 because you're no longer running after wildlife and you can get everywhere by motorized means anyway. So as the goal is undermined, the motivation to go jogging is greatly weakened and so is the discipline.
Therefore, it is very important to suppress the excuses you tell yourself as much as possible. Alternatively, you can tell yourself why it is important to go jogging.
The more often we buy the excuses we tell ourselves, the easier it is to believe them. This sounds a bit demotivating at first, but it's also the other way around. The more often we go jogging despite our oh-so-genius excuses, the easier it is for us to do so over time.
Everything we do starts somewhere and the first step is the hardest. But the longer we stay with it, the easier it becomes.
So the motto is to keep at it no matter what the cost. Even if we have no desire to go anyway and do what we have planned. Even if the weather is bad to go out and do it jogging. Even if we find ten reasons why we don't want to do it, we do it anyway.
Discipline is a narrow path from which it is easy to stray, it is difficult to follow. However, it is even harder to find it again and again. It is better to walk a little slower and not get off it, than to have to find it again after every second step.
Disciplining yourself means nothing other than controlling your own ego. Turning off the voice in your head and just doing what you set out to do.
Which, of course, conversely means that if we don't control our ego, our ego controls us.
However, it is impossible to simply set a huge list of goals and expect the ego to take it all on without any objections just by having enough discipline.
It is necessary to negotiate with the ego as if it were a friend or an employee.
This may look like the following:
- If I go jogging now, I treat myself to a coffee afterwards
- If I do sports now, I will have earned a beer afterwards
- If I write on the blog now, I may watch YouTube pointlessly afterwards
- If I do my paperwork today, I can relax in the sauna later.
You can also try to accumulate an endless mountain of goals. However, from my own experience, I assume that after the third or fourth goal achieved without reward, the ego gets in the way and you spend the rest of the day or the rest of the week just watching series or scrolling through Instagram in a daze.
So it is important that you know and understand yourself well and know how to negotiate with yourself. Without good reasons, you will not be able to develop strong discipline, and without strong discipline you will let most of your potential lie dormant instead of living a full life.
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