This is a guest post by John, a digital nomad and freelance writer.
We all recognize the pattern.
You want to be healthier and feel better about yourself, so you make a grand plan about what to eat and how to exercise.
You absolutely nail it day after day, and after a week you’re feeling pretty proud of yourself.
Then there’s an off day, but never mind that; but then if you skip one day, why not skip two? Before you know it, you’ve decided the whole endeavor was unrealistic to start with, and you call the whole thing off.
What is missing from this scenario that could instead have driven you to success? Self-discipline!
Good intentions mean little if you don’t have the staying power to see them through. Luckily, while some people are born with steely resolve, the rest of us can catch up using proven techniques to improve our self-discipline.
For a start, there’s timing.
Rather than having the vague idea that things are going to get better, set a precise moment – the start of the week is good – to mark the beginning of your new regimen.
This has actually been shown to work!
Write out a plan of your goals and deadlines, but also include solutions so you have something to fall back on when your resolve is challenged.
For example, you might make a rule that whenever someone offers you a drink, you will ask for water.
Plan to get a good night’s sleep, too.
For most of us, that could be anywhere between seven and nine hours. When you’re short on sleep, you prefrontal cortex struggles to work at its full capacity – and that’s the part of your brain that deals with self-control.
You can make things easier on yourself by pairing the stuff you don’t want to do with things that you enjoy.
Save your favorite podcast for the gym, and you’re more likely to get into the habit of going.
Go running with a friend, and you combine socializing with good, healthy torture.
Which brings us to the idea of the company you keep. It can make a big difference.
If your friends and family are reliable and like to look out for you, ask them to keep an eye on your habits.
If your roommate tells you to stop biting your fingernails five times a day, one week later you’re likely to find you’ve quit the habit.
In general, think about hanging out with more disciplined people than yourself.
People with self-control can set a very good example to you. It’s all about regularity – and if you see your friends and colleagues standing firm on their own resolutions and reminding you of yours each day, you’re sure to develop better habits.
That said, don’t allow yourself to be bullied into setting goals or intentions with which you’re not comfortable.
Willpower stretches a lot further when it’s focused on your own desires and not those of other people.
How about some chemical factors?
Here’s a ‘do’: when your resolve feels low, try making a drink of hot water with lemon and honey. Low glucose levels are associated with low willpower. Sometimes all it needs is an energy rush to get you back on track.
And here’s a ‘don’t’: alcohol.
How many good intentions have you seen eroded away by that particular drug? With a couple of drinks in you, you tend to stop reflecting on the consequences of your actions. Eating that dessert after dinner doesn’t seem like such a big deal if you’re a little giddy on wine: but tomorrow, you’ll regret it.
This great new guide on self-discipline improvement gathers these ideas and more into one easy-to-follow plan.
Get a pencil and paper and think about how to figure each approach into your new regime, and you’ll be ready to break that pattern and achieve the improvements for which you strive.
What about you? How do you improve your self-discipline, and which of the ideas above appeal to you the most?