Why discipline is important from an early age
Have you ever lived with a teenager and tried to introduce discipline into their life? You encourage the teenager to make their bed, but end up in a debate about why this is necessary. “I’m only going to sleep in it and mess it all up again tonight, so what’s the point in making my bed?” your teen will argue. You tell them that they shouldn’t leave their clothes all over the floor. It’s not good for their clothes and they could trip over a garment and hurt themselves. “But all my friends do it,” the teenager will respond. “It’s a floor-drobe, don’t you get it?” What you want to tell your child is that they need discipline in their life. If they can’t accomplish simple tasks and introduce order now, they’ll struggle to do so when they’re an adult living alone – without a parent there to nag them!!!
What is discipline?
In many ways discipline is just another word for hard work and self-control. We all wish we had the capacity to be more disciplined. We would get more done professionally, be in better shape physically and even have stronger relationships with those we love. Is discipline something that must be instilled into you as a child or you’ll never get it? Or is it something that you’re either born with or not? No, discipline is something every individual can acquire, but it takes will-power and practise to become a truly disciplined person. It’s a muscle that grows stronger with regular exercise!
Secret 1: Make a promise to yourself
If you want to be more disciplined begin by making a promise to yourself. Commit to being more disciplined at home and work, for 21 days. Aim to be disciplined in every aspect of your life. Clean up your diet, don’t indulge in gossip, wake up earlier. Also attend to housework – make your bed, put out the rubbish, sweep the floor. If you are disciplined enough to get the little things done, you will have the discipline to do bigger, more important things. The first 21 days will be challenging, but commit to staying on the disciplined bandwagon for at least three weeks. After 21 days you can decide if you want to try another 21 days of strict personal discipline.
Secret 2: Set your goals
Before you begin your first disciplined three weeks, write down your primary life goals then stick this list up where you will frequently see it. Spend a few minutes every day thinking about these goals. That should help you remain disciplined and focused.
Secret 3: Prioritise your tasks
Prioritise your daily tasks and start the day by completing the most challenging tasks, then progress to the easier tasks. If you get the difficult tasks out of the way, you will have a sense of accomplishment and these hard jobs won’t be hanging over your head like a rain cloud. A sense of accomplishment will also make it easier to stay on the discipline bandwagon.
Secret 4: Completing 21 days
Try to stick to your 21-day discipline promise. If you have vowed to exercise every morning, do not let yourself off the hook, even if the weather is bad or you are extra tired. The moment you deviate from the routine, the more difficult it will be to return to that routine. It takes about 21 days to form a new habit so commit to 21 days of discipline. Where did I get the 21 day figure? There was a US plastic surgeon called Dr Maxwell Maltz, who noticed that it took his patients 21 days to get used to seeing their new appearance in the mirror. Also when a patient had a limb amputated, Dr Maltz noted that it took the patient about 21 days to adjust to being without the arm or leg. Dr Maltz concluded that “it requires a minimum of about 21 days for an old mental image to dissolve and a new one to jell.” Meaning it takes 21 days for a person to form a new habit, so if you want to be more disciplined start with a 21-day plan.
Secret 5: Treat yourself
I do suggest that you allow yourself a few treats during the first 21 days. If you are dieting, allow one end-of-week treat. If you are trying to spend less money, have a $30 end-of-week splurge. If you have a controlled treat, you are less likely to crumble and capitulate to temptation during the 21 days. If you do fall off the bandwagon and abandon your discipline, forgive yourself and return to your disciplined routine as soon as possible. If you fall out of the saddle, get straight back on that horse! After all, persistence is a key ingredient of discipline.
Secret 6: Get organised
Organisation also helps you to be more disciplined. If you want to exercise regularly, make sure you have your gym clothes out before you go to bed. That way you won’t be late for your 6am aerobics class. If you want to eat healthier food, prepare and pack a salad for the lunch the night before so they’ll be no temptation to pick up a hamburger when you’re hungry. Make sure you factor in the extra time to exercise and prepare healthy food in your day.
It is also a good idea to stay away from temptations during your first 21 days of hard discipline. Avoid the coffee shop that serves your favourite cake! If you want to spend less time on social media, keep your computer off or let your phone go flat at night.
Secret 7: Meditate
I recommend that you also spend some time meditating or praying during those first 21 days. Dr Kelly McGonigal, a psychologist at Stanford University who specialises in increasing willpower, said meditation is the number one way to increase discipline. “Practicing mindfulness meditation for a few minutes each day can actually boost willpower by building up grey matter in areas of the brain that regulate emotions and govern decision making,” Dr McGonigal said. That great Protestant minister, Martin Luther, once famously said: “I have so much to do today that I'm going to need to spend three hours in prayer in order to be able to get it all done.”
Spending time sorting out your thoughts or communing with God is the best way to fortify your will power and become a more disciplined person.
ABOUT PAT MESITI
Pat Mesiti is a best-selling author, coach and educator in the area of personal development. Having built some of Australia’s largest people-driven organisations, Pat understands the power of harnessing human potential. He has shared the stage with some of the world’s great business minds and has sold over millions of copies of his books and materials.