Learning self-discipline – the most important muscle for a successful life


At the beginning of 2016, I asked myself how I had managed to change my life so positively over the past few years. The answer came to me immediately: strong self-discipline.

People tend to prefer short-term pleasure to what would be a better alternative for them in the long run.

Self-discipline is the quality of doing the things that are necessary to achieve your goals – whether you feel like them in the moment or not.

Many success experts, such as Brian Tracy, name self-discipline as the most important quality for a full and successful life. Several long-term studies confirm this assumption.

Learn how to learn self-discipline in this article.

“When I read about the lives of great people, I found that the first victory they won was over themselves; Self-discipline was most important to them all. ”- Harry S. Truman (Former American President)

In this article you will learn:

  • Why self discipline is so important
  • What a marshmallow has to do with self-discipline
  • How self-discipline works
  • How to improve your self-discipline
  • 9 strategies to be more disciplined in the future

Self-discipline – The most important quality for a happy and fulfilling life

Most people choose the path of least resistance.

Basically nothing speaks against it at first. It would be stupid to make it unnecessarily difficult for ourselves. Unfortunately, the path of least resistance is not always the best for us.

Choosing the path of least resistance means doing what is easy and fun for you, rather than what is really necessary for the success of your goals.

Suppose your goal is to lose weight: Eating healthy and exercising will bring you closer to your goal. In the short term, however, it’s more convenient to put a pizza in the oven, lie down on the couch and watch TV. If you regularly choose the path of least resistance, you will most likely not achieve your goal.

Everyone wants to be successful, rich, healthy, slim, and happy. If you take responsibility , you can achieve this, but everything has its price. Very few people are willing to pay this price.

Instead, they are looking for the miracle pill. The advertising constantly tells us: “Earn € 10,000 per week with just 2 hours of effort!” Or “In just 2 weeks to a defined six-pack, without changing your diet or exercising!” .

However, this miracle pill does not exist. I’m sorry if I’ve let you down now.

The visible successes are all based on hard work and renunciation. Often we just don’t see this hard work and sacrifice.

“It took me 30 years to become famous overnight.” – Harry Belafonte (American entertainer)

Suppose you want to build a business: For this you will invest countless hours of work and have to do without a lot. This way you will have less time for your friends, partner and your hobbies. I’ve seen it before and I know what I’m writing about.

Self-discipline is the ability to forego certain things because there is something that is more important to us. Skip the piece of cake now to get the whole cake later.

Everyone defines success differently, but if man had only given in to short-term needs, we would still be living in caves.

What a marshmallow has to do with self-discipline

The so-called Marshmallow Experiment was an experiment carried out by Stanford University in the USA in the 1970s. Selected children aged 4-5 were given a marshmallow.

Then they were given the choice: You can eat this sweet right now, or wait a few minutes, not eat the marshmallow, and then get a second one. After that, the children were left alone in the room. After about 15 minutes the supervisor came back in and released the children.

The children were followed up in a long-term study. This study found that the children who did not eat the marshmallow were more successful in their lives. As adults, this group had, among other things:

  • More often a university degree
  • They earned more later
  • They were slimmer
  • Their relationships were more stable
  • They did less drugs

Would you have eaten the marshmallow as a kid? I am sure I would have eaten it right away. Today I would call myself disciplined, but that wasn’t always the case. Anyone can learn self-discipline.

(If you want to know more about the marshmallow experiment, I recommend this interesting article at Zeit Online. The article also clearly shows that more is necessary for a fulfilling life than just self-discipline.)

How does self-discipline work?

Imagine a large vessel filled with water. If you take too much water from this container, it will be empty after a certain time.

Like the contents of this vessel, our self-discipline is limited. As the day progresses, our self-discipline continues to decline: Making a decision, resisting temptation, or doing unpleasant things costs us willpower.

Ideally, your self-discipline vessel will be refilled to the brim every night. The extent to which it is replenished depends, among other things, on the quality of our sleep or our diet.

If we sleep poorly or too little and are stressed in our life, this vessel may only be half full. Accordingly, we have less willpower available for the day, so that we are more likely to give in to temptations.

How can you train self-discipline?

You can compare self-discipline to a muscle.

How does a muscle grow? By training him. It is the same with self-discipline:

Do you want to train your self-discipline ? Act in a disciplined manner!

Don’t feel like going to work out? Go anyway

Don’t want to start studying? Sit down and start!

Are you on a diet and in the mood for dessert? Renounce it!

Whenever you overcome yourself to do something or resist temptation, your self-discipline muscle grows. As a result, your self-discipline will grow stronger over time.

However, you can also overtrain this muscle.

I’ve already made this mistake twice: I ran after my goals and tried to force them. “Unproductive” things that I enjoy a lot, like meeting friends or watching series, have been reduced to a minimum. Because I also did intense sport several times a week, I was permanently energized. Looking back, I can say that in both cases there was not much left to burnout.

Have I achieved my goals? Yes. Was i happy Rather less. Rather, I felt burned out and exhausted.

Muscles do not grow during training but rather during rest phases.

Get enough rest and do things that you enjoy. If you completely ignore your needs, it will make you unhappy in the medium term. Treat yourself and reward yourself. However, make sure that effort and reward are balanced.

9 tips for more self-discipline

1. Make it as easy as possible for yourself

What’s the easiest way to avoid eating sweets?

By not having any candy at home.

Plan your days so that you come into contact with as little temptation as possible.

For example, you can take your gym bag with you to work / university and then go straight to the gym. The chance that you will actually go to train is so much higher: This means you don’t have to go home to get your things. So you don’t even get tempted to lie down on the couch “just for a moment” (see tip no. 2).

2. Keep moving

As soon as we calm down, we often find it difficult to get up and move on. Ideally, do your task (s) before you reward yourself. Work before pleasure.

3. Just start !

Overcoming is often the worst. Once you’ve overcome yourself and started, it’s often quite easy and can even be fun. Also, you will ALWAYS feel good after overcoming yourself. Develop a habit of starting simply.

4. Do the most important things first

Your willpower is at its highest early in the morning. Your willpower decreases over the course of the day. Make sure you get the things that matter most to you done as early as possible.

5. Don’t waste your willpower on useless things

It doesn’t matter whether you eat a raspberry yogurt or a strawberry yogurt today.

It also doesn’t matter whether your steak is prepared medium or medium well.

Make a decision and don’t make 10 decisions back and forth. Save your willpower for the important things.

6. Develop positive habits

The easiest way to get things done in a disciplined manner is to develop a habit.

Ideally, to develop a habit, do the desired activity on a daily basis. In the beginning it will probably take you to overcome it, but after 30-60 days the new habit should have developed. Now it will hardly cost you, or definitely less, to overcome.

7. Take responsibility for other people

We plan a lot. However, very few people pull it off.

Often we kid ourselves: “I’ll do that tomorrow” or “It might rain, I’d rather not go jogging” .

Set a deadline by when you want the task to be completed. Then inform a friend of the task and the deadline. Also ask him to check that you have actually completed this task by the deadline.

Involving other people often leads us to take the task more seriously and really get it done.

8. Start small

If you want to start something new, start small.

Suppose you want to start meditating regularly. If you set out to start right away with an hour a day, there is a high chance that you will not pull it off. Therefore start with, for example, 5 minutes of meditation per day. This costs significantly less to overcome than a full 60 minutes.

5 minutes is 0.35% of your day. You will find time for these 5 minutes every day. You can gradually increase the number of minutes.

9. Do you have your own goals?

Often our goals are not important to us. We have been talked into them by our parents, friends, or society for so long that we think they are our own and we absolutely need to reach them. When we don’t really want to achieve these goals, the motivation often goes flat.

If you want one thing with all your heart, you will clearly be more willing to go the extra mile. If you keep failing, check to see if you really care.

Be good to yourself!

As disciplined as we are, we will not always succeed in putting all of our projects into practice.

So the pizza is preferred to the salad, not going to workout or picking up a cigarette again, even though we have resolved to do it so firmly.

Countless times I have not succeeded in putting my plan into practice. Then the negative conversations started in my head: “Failed again. You will never become anything! ” . Incidentally, this example is still mild …

After failing at their endeavors, many people begin to put themselves down. You won’t get anywhere, stop it!

Don’t judge yourself if you didn’t make it.

If your best friend spoke to you like that, would he still be your best friend? Probably not, so don’t talk to yourself like that either! Be good to yourself. Use the time more productively and ask yourself why you didn’t do it and, above all, how you can do it differently next time.

This article will give you more tips to increase your self-esteem .

Learning self-discipline – conclusion

Self-discipline is the ability to forego short-term rewards in order to receive a much larger reward in the long run. Studies see it as the greatest connection for a successful life. If you want to create the life of your dreams, you will need a lot of self-discipline.

Self-discipline is a skill that anyone can learn. If you want to improve this ability, train your self-discipline muscles and act in a disciplined manner.

Use the tips presented in this article to make it as easy as possible for you. If you fail to put your plans into action, stop putting yourself down! Be good to yourself. Regularly reward yourself for being disciplined. That’s why I’m going to treat myself to a marshmallow for now.

I hope you enjoyed the article. I would appreciate a comment and / or sharing the article.

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