Let us assume you are embarking upon a diet – Keto, paleo, low carb, etc. You have done the necessary research and are convinced about the diet that sounds right for you. Day 1 starts with great enthusiasm and you are super excited about your plan and vow to stick to it. Day 2 also starts well and you go as per plan. But a couple of days later, the inevitable happens. You go out with friends to a pizzeria and upon seeing the cheese laden marvel, your mind coaxes you to pick up one slice. It doesn’t help that your friends also egg you on and before you know it, you have devoured the slice.
If the single slice was an aberration and you are strong enough to say no, the diet journey continues, albeit with a few hiccups as mentioned above. But if you are prone to one hiccup every day or other day, there goes your diet and plans to fit into those slim fit jeans. So, what went wrong? Did your motivation levels dip upon seeing the delicious calorie laden slice? Why did your brain not stop you from reaching for the pizza ? Where was the motivation to stick to the plan ? Turns out that Motivation doesn’t really matter. It is a Discipline that is required to sustain your diet plan.
The key difference between the two approaches lies in the underlying rationale. Motivation is based on an emotional or feel good factor. If one is feeling lively and energetic, we say the person is high on motivation. Conversely, a low morale and a dispirited approach is likely to be termed as low motivation. Motivation is fickle as it relies on feelings and the emotional quotient of a person.
By contrast, Discipline involves zero emotions, as it well should. It relies on a strong sense of purpose and completion of the task, without any regard for emotion. Discipline is when one trains the mind to be strong and forge ahead with the task at hand, irrespective of the emotional state of mind. Discipline brooks no excuse and needs to be adhered to.
A strong focus on discipline trains the mind and makes it stronger. You are what you think said the Buddha and this truism is reinforced every time we follow a disciplined effort or plan. When you rely on motivation, it is a crutch to lean on – an excuse for failure. When the mind is disciplined, there is no need for falling back on any emotional or mental support. You are your own support. The more you stick with discipline, the easier it gets. The mind becomes stronger and less prone to being buffeted by the whimsical winds of emotion.
The beauty of Discipline is that it can be applied to complete any task. A gold medal in swimming ( a la Michael Phelps), a Phd. In robotics or the will to learn salsa – all these are possible with a steady dose of Discipline. Think of it as a bitter but extremely effective medicine.
The obvious question now would be how do we build this bedrock of Discipline in our lives ? Is it even possible to inculcate in oneself such a trait, with the world constantly pulling at your senses from every direction? Discipline seems such an archaic virtue in today’s context. How does one internalise this character defining trait ? The answer lies in following the plan below :
Focus: Any effort that you make to start building Discipline within your daily life must have one essential ingredient – an unwavering focus. Don’t get distracted by the flashy and the trivial. Our phones are designed to distract and deter us from pursuing any worthwhile goal. Ditch those meaningless updates and whatsapp messages. Keep your focus on your goal.
Remember that you are doing this for a purpose. And make that purpose the centre of your focus – the bullseye. Swami Vivekanand summed it up brilliantly – “Take up one idea. Make that one idea your life – think of it, dream of it, live on it. Let the brain, muscles, nerves, every part of your body be full of that idea, and just leave every other idea alone. This is the way to Success ”.
Take baby steps: I am a big believer in this philosophy. The road to a thousand miles begins with one step. Don’t let the enormity of your goal deter you. Start small – one step at a time. I used to think earlier that going full blaze after your goals is the way to success. I was wrong. A small but powerful book helped me realise the beauty and effectiveness of this approach – Mini Habits : Smaller Habits, Bigger Results by Stephen Guise. If you are serious about cultivating Discipline, I urge you to read this book. The mind is tricked into believing that you will write only that one page, climb only one flight of steps or lift only that one weight. Do it – trick your mind. Once you start on that one small activity, you will soon get immersed in it and your mind will automatically reach out to do more. You are then on the path to winning.
Repeated action : Discipline gets reinforced by repeated action. A difficult exercise routine seems an unbearably uphill task on day 1. By day 3 it gets slightly easier and by day 7 it even becomes pleasurable to complete. The repeatable nature of a disciplined approach helps make the task /activity progressively easier to complete. On the other hand, an approach that relies on motivation alone, is not consistent and is at the mercy of mood swings. Such an effort cannot last. Keep doing what you do, don’t get distracted and stop.
An unwavering focus on discipline helps you to stay the course. Discipline is a hard taskmaster. It brooks no excuses and needs to be built on the foundation of an iron will. Once started, you must not stop. There is no room to give in to excuses. Although there will be a multitude of reasons why you should give up, these are all false. They are designed to thwart your ambition. Don’t let them.
You now know that the way to cultivating a Disciplined mindset is to start small, stay focused and repeat your actions till it becomes a habit. This will bring you slowly but surely to your goal, whatever that is. The fulfilment of your goal is the end result of all your effort and must be that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, right ?
As it turns out, the goal is the end result but something greater happens to you once you embrace discipline in your daily Life. Your mind becomes calmer and stronger. Your mental reserves of strength increase and this in turn gives you the quiet confidence to take on further challenges. The expansion of the mind helps you to grow as an individual and fulfil your destiny. As Jim Rohn has wisely said – “Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.”
So what is your plan to make Discipline a part of your daily life ? Let me know.
Image credit : truly tafakari.