So you have the ambition. You have all the answers. All you lack is the discipline.
Unsurprisingly, this is a problem most people have, so don’t worry, you’re not alone.
Tell me, do you have a concrete goal? Or is it something vague like, “Rule the world”, or “get rich” or “become famous”?
Usually those who lack discipline have a habit of getting ahead of themselves and they end up having all these fantastic goals without any knowledge of how to achieve them. They have big ambitions, but no clear plans, no visible steps, and no foundation to start their life on. It’s the equivalent of standing on one side of the river and being able to see the other side, but having no method of making it across.
It’s good to have a starting point, and know what you want in the end. But the path to earning what you desire isn’t pre-made for you. It’s up to you to lay every brick and measure everything out. In your life, you’re the architect, you’re the engineer, you’re the investor, you’re everything.
So the how do you get some discipline? It’s simple: You need to know how you’re going to do something, before you set out to do it.
Step 1: Get Motivated
Make a list. And make sure you handwrite it. Two columns. Think about everything you have a problem with, all your interests and passions, and everything you have ever wanted in one column. In the other column, spend as much time as you need to come up with solutions to each issue/goal. Don’t write one side, without the other.
Spend a couple days looking at that list. Make it into a poster, use it as your phone background, it doesn’t matter as long as you make sure you see it every day until you feel something. I’m saying that incredibly vaguely because people are fueled by different emotions. For me, it was rage.
Every morning, I stared at that list of everything I’d ever wanted, every little problem that made my life miserable and I got furious. To see what my life revolved around so callously written on paper, and feeling so close yet so far, that drove me insane. My anger made my passion double, and nothing fuels discipline more than passion.
Step 2: Plan
Once you’ve gotten yourself suitably motivated to take charge of your life, don’t waste any time. Start by creating a plan. Now that you know what you want to do, figure out how to do it.
Create a timeline for the next year and then a looser version for the next ten years. It can sound daunting, but when you fall off track at some point (and I can guarantee, you will) you’re going to need something to point you in the right direction.
For your detailed, one year plan, make sure your goals are distributed into two categories: Short term and Long term.
For your short term goals, list everything you want to achieve in that year and how exactly you’re going to do it.
For example, if you want to lose weight, I don’t just want to see you write down “lose weight”. Tell me how. Tell me how much. Tell me by when. “Lose five pounds by October by going to the gym 4 days a week”, or “Cut down on eating X food so I can lose 5 pounds by October”, etc. Be specific.
For your long term goals, pick 3 things you want in general. The first thing should be something you can achieve in that year, and it should be the focus of your entire year. The second thing is something you don’t necessarily need, but it makes you happy anyways (like spending more time on a hobby, or saving money for a new designer bag, etc.). The third thing should be something that stays fairly consistent in every single ‘year-plan’ you have. Ultimately, it’s either your most important desire, or very close to it.
These long term goals will help you put together your 10 year plan, and create a better sense of direction in your life.
Step 3: Prioritize
Learn to prioritize these tasks and goals. Don’t go to sleep until you’ve felt like you’ve completed all your tasks for the day. Don’t give in to distractions and the illusion of “well-deserved fun”. Sure, going clubbing may seem fun on Saturday, but it won’t be fun on Sunday night when you’re frantically writing a paper that’s due in two hours. There’s always time for fun later, there’s always another concert and another football game and another party. But some things have a greater impact on your life than just one night of “fun”.
I’m not saying become some kind of a workaholic. There’s always a time and a place for everything. If you try to follow your plan without any distractions or any fun, you’re going to get bored and then you’re start to hate your plan and your life and then it gets messy. Avoid all that by knowing when you’ve earned a break. It’s very important to discern when you can afford to step away from work to have fun with your friends and when going out is just going to distract you from an important deadline.
Step 4: Act
Now, don’t just write these goals down and shove them in a dusty file on your desk. Keep them within arms reach. Look at them frequently. What I like to do is every morning, I write down a short term goal I have for that week/day/month and one of my long-term goals in my planner. It’s just a little reminder and keeps me focused throughout the day. I don’t feel like my day is complete or productive until I’ve had some progress on either the long term or short term goal.
Also, keep in mind that while planning is a great thing to do, don’t expect yourself to stick to every single detail of the plan. Life happens, and there are certain things you cannot control
(although it wouldn’t hurt to try). Don’t be too hard on yourself if you find yourself unable to complete one of your goals for the day/week/month. It happens to everyone, we’re all human. What you need to focus on is the big picture and move on. Don’t waste precious time wallowing in past mistakes. Time doesn’t wait for anyone, least of all for you.
Step 5: Commit
Discipline doesn’t come from just being motivated or having a plan. It comes from consistency. Form productive habits, start efficient routines, and stick to them. For example, if you want to become a writer, make sure you write something, however small it is, everyday. One sentence, one paragraph, one page, the amount doesn’t matter. It’s important to understand that something, however small, is better than nothing. This constant dedication to your work will help you move one step closer to your goals.
The more you force yourself to stay in line when faced with temptation, the easier it will be every other time you are faced with the same challenge further down the line. Everyone forms habits. Just make sure they’re the right ones and you’d be shocked at how much your life could change.
Everything you need to become disciplined is inside of you. Everyone has the willpower and motivation. It’s just some people know what to do with it.
Just remember: Get motivated. Plan. Prioritize. Act. Commit
And the world is yours.