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Self Discipline Can Be Developed

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There’s a common misconception that your amount of self discipline is a trait you are born with and can’t be developed. Try telling that to the military which repeatedly turns fresh recruits into strong soldiers.

Sure genetics are a factor, but self discipline is more a result of influence and circumstance than genes. I personally know a set of identical twins who have radically different levels of self discipline. One is hard working family man who gets up every day and goes to work and also keeps his yard well groomed. The other can’t keep a job and routinely blows off work and family.

The first step to developing self discipline is to be honest with yourself and taking complete responsibility for your behavior. There may be many external factors that have had a negative impact on your self discipline, but you can decide to take action now to build self discipline.

Create a list the behaviors you would like to develop. For example, if you have a habit of being late for work, you might want to add “Get to work on time everyday”.

When you have your list, pick the behavior you would like to develop first. It is important to pick  a behavior that is not dependent on another behavior you need to develop. You can’t decide to go running everyday at 6AM if you currently have a problem with getting up before 8 AM. I’m not saying you can strive to do both, but your immediate focus should be on getting up early.

The next step is to track your compliance to the new behavior or habit. You can mark it down on a calendar, smart phone or online log. Whatever tool you use, make sure you are consistent and track whether or not you did what you are tracking. The goal is to try to have as many successful consecutive days as you can.

How many days it will take to develop the habit varies from person to person and habit to habit. There’s this belief that it take 21 days to form a new habit but in truth it can vary from 10 day to a year or more. In general, the easier it is to perform the habit action, the shorter the time it takes to develop the habit. Deciding to eat an apple everyday is going to take less time to make a habit than it would be to run a mile everyday.

When I first started trying to develop the habit of exercising everyday, I failed repeatedly for a couple of months before I was able to consistently exercise every day. Even then, it was still an act of will to keep doing it. It took me 6 months before it became a habit. Now I would find it uncomfortable to miss a workout.

I’ve read a few great books about how to form habits. My favorite is the Habit Factor because it is concise and easy to follow. There is even a companion app you can install on your smart phone to help you track your habit streaks. I highly recommend using a habit tracking app even if you track your habits on a more general purpose application. For some, paper and pencil is the best approach – it’s up to you.



Written by Tim ThinkAuthor

March 28, 2014 at 8:11 am