Creating the Willpower to Finish What You Start through Self-Discipline
Do you ever wonder what it would be like to know without a doubt, that whatever task or goal you begin, you will conquer? Imagine the satisfaction and the freedom from all the self-criticizing! Of course, you are supposed to struggle along the way of any goal or task, it’s part of the process. But again, imagine having the determination and the self-disciple to not give up. It’s what we all crave for ourselves, right? Well, we’re about to give you 6 simple strategies that you can implement in your life TODAY to help you gain that self-discipline and overcome man’s worst enemy: procrastination.
1. Be more aware
Mindfulness is often the key to unlocking new levels of self-awareness and sparking new flames of change. The same is true in the area of self-discipline. Many of us have a general idea that perhaps we procrastinate, or maybe we put things off now and then, but we don’t really notice how common it is, nor exactly what happens when we do this.
By bringing your awareness to your habit of procrastination, and not getting done what you’ve pledged to get done, you can watch for patterns, proactively adjust your schedule or habits to confront these patterns and exercise more self-control and self-discipline.
But none of that can be possible if you don’t first look, with great honesty and authenticity, at the problem.
“Become aware of your pattern of starting and stopping,” suggests psychologist Susan Perry. “A way to recognize a possible pattern is to list every past project you can recall. Every class, resolution, language, book, or plan you have begun. (Maybe a close friend can help.) Write down why you started this activity, and when and why you stopped. Can you determine any commonalities?”
2. Be selective in what you choose to start
Not everything in your life is worthy of your attention. Not everything you think you need to work on requires the full strength of your self-discipline. Self-discipline is about focus - what are you focusing on?
When you start a project or embark on a task or start reaching for a goal, ask yourself: Is this something I’m very passionate about? Will this change my life or change the lives of those I care about? Do I really want to see this project through to completion?
If the answer is a maybe or a no for any of those questions, rest assured: You’ll struggle completing this task because it’s not something that’s aligned with where you are or where you’re going. And while you may put a lot of pressure on getting it done, think of all the wasted opportunities you’re giving up for the sake of this one thing.
You’ll find your self-discipline and perseverance will flourish most when you’re focused on completing a project or task that you truly care about.
3. Commit to committing
Self-discipline is all about mental fortitude. Are you truly all in? Are you committed to this project, this task, this goal - whatever it may be? If you’re unsure, you’re bound to fail, and you won’t finish what you start when it comes to turning your thoughts into actions.
“Decide to finish,” says Adam Toren, a serial entrepreneur, mentor, investor. “The first step of finishing is to make the decision that no matter what, this lingering task or project will linger no longer. Tell yourself you're going to alter your behavior and approach to actually complete what you start. Sometimes this will mean saying no to more things up front, so they never make it on the to-do list to begin with, making it easier to eliminate unnecessary busy work.”
4. Set realistic goals
A common reason we sabotage our own ability to achieve our goals and finish what we start is because we aren’t being realistic. “I’ll lose all this weight in seven days,” you tell yourself. “I’ll write that book in a month! I’ll get a job raise that’s three times bigger than what I’m working on now! My teenage children will instantly become angelic, obedient saints!”
“Know yourself and try be realistic,” says Perry. “If you’re not particularly reality-based by nature, it may be a useful trait to work on. Setting goals that you can’t possibly achieve, while insisting you can and you will, merely sets you up for failure.”
5. Celebrate your progress
Neurologists say that rewards are an important part of our desire- or goal-oriented brain circuitry. And while that final accomplishment or moment of completion can be rewarding, our self-discipline and our desire to finish what we start can waver if the middle part of the journey is onerous or extended.
This is why it’s helpful to celebrate what you’ve done so far. We can feel discouraged when we’ve been working hard at something for weeks, or even years, without getting what we want. Setting up milestones towards final completion, and celebrating those milestones, can keep your passion running hot.
So, reward yourself! You deserve it!!
6. And finally…
Know that not everything is deserving of your self-discipline. Not everything in your life is worth the mental focus and spiritual energy. You may find as you work on something that in the end, it’s not really aligned with your life vision and higher purpose.
That isn’t a cop out. It’s about recognizing and adjusting areas of your life where necessary. Don’t force it if it isn’t working out. Give yourself the space and the grace to be flexible in this journey.
Self-disciple in and of itself is a tough labor, we’re always looking for the “easier” alternative. I get it, it’s unpleasant. However, it’s not here to give us joy or happiness, peace or contentment, or even safety or pleasure. Its very purpose is to turn our thoughts and plans into action and propel us through whatever challenging times lie between us and our goals. All of your efforts WILL be rewarded, but the journey is rigorous. Hope you’re up for it.