When most people see the word Self-Discipline, they think of willpower, self-control, and self-restraint. If you’ve ever aimed to be self-disciplined about something, you likely obsessed over each action and decision, attacking the goal with vigor, zeal, and excitement. For example: You may have had a goal to eat better and lose weight. In the outset, you were counting calories, reading every nutrition label, and working out multiple times a week. After a while, you may have seen yourself losing momentum and not as productive as you hoped.
Adopt a System Mentality
This experience is common when the approach to achieve a goal is active control. Traditionally with self-discipline, all of the pressure and focus is on the person to execute. However, it is important to focus on the ultimate goal of self-discipline, which is to establish a mindset and actions that are turned toward and in alignment with your desired outcome. An effective way of achieving this goal is to adopt a system mentality.
A system mentality is following a series of predefined steps that align well with your goals and current position. The system must be easy to implement, easy to understand, appealing and easy to monitor. Using the prior example of eating better and losing weight, a system that could be created is one by which you identify exactly which meals work best for you, your budget, and your lifestyle. The meals would be easy to prepare and your grocery list would be the ingredients of these meals. You would ensure that the meals are highly appetizing as they would compete with old meal choices. You would also create a system for exercising, making forms of physical activity that you enjoy most as your primary options.
Every new option would need to weigh equally in appeal as the old, if not more. This would foster positive reinforcement and spark our human instinct of gravitating to things that are easy and novel.
Creating the System
Consider these questions when creating your system:
- Evaluation: Where am I now? What would I like to achieve? What resources are readily available to me? What else do I need to begin the process?
- Analysis: What behaviors or objects would I like to remove? How did those behaviors or objects make me feel? What are the replacement behaviors or objects? Will these behaviors or objects brings similar results or better? What are the easiest changes I can make that are compatible with where I am now and my available resources?
- Implementation: What days and times will I implement these changes? When will I gather the necessary resources?
- Monitoring: Are the replacement behaviors or objects yielding my desired results? Is the system in alignment with my lifestyle and budget? Am I meeting my productivity goals? What do I need to add or refine to achieve my desired results?
Any system you create will generate feedback. If you determine that the system needs to be modified, be careful to go back through your system to fix it. Identify the steps that need to change and make the necessary changes. Making these changes quickly will promote positive results and boost your confidence.
Once you’ve created your system, you must commit to using it. A recommendation is that you evaluate your sources of motivation to ensure that they would compel you to act even when your emotions urge otherwise. Write your motivators down and place them in visible places as daily reminders to be committed to your system.
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