Submitted by Paul R. Scheele, Ph.D., Learning Strategies
People attribute success in life to many things, but most achievements really boil down to a key attribute: self-discipline.
Whether one has it in spades or finds it difficult to muster, self-discipline can determine life outcomes as diverse as educational attainment, state of health, and criminal behavior.
It can even be measured in early childhood. A New Zealand study that tracked 1,000 people from birth to age 32 found childhood self-control predicted physical health, personal finances, and criminal behavior.
Children with poor self-control were much more likely in adulthood to experience drug and substance abuse, struggle financially, and commit more crimes, reported the study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Those outcomes even accounted for differences in socio-economic status and intelligence, said lead researcher Terrie E. Moffitt, of Duke University.
Perhaps you heard of the intriguing Stanford University “marshmallow” experiment on deferred gratification by psychologist Walter Mischel. In the study, children were each offered a marshmallow and were promised that if they could resist eating it, they would get two marshmallows instead of one.
In adolescence, those children who had the self-discipline to delay gratification longer were described as significantly more competent. A few years later that ability to delay gratification translated into higher SAT scores.
The good news is self-discipline is a practice that can be learned. It’s not a grim determination to correct weaknesses, nor is it a matter of plowing through difficult tasks with unbelievable willpower. True self-discipline is actually powerful, playful, and consistent with a healthy life.
You can increase your odds of success simply by understanding what makes you tick. The next time you engage in a difficult work project, a physical workout, or routine household chore, consciously observe yourself for clues to your resources and strengths. Notice especially instances when self-discipline flows for you.
Ask yourself these questions:
- What time of day is self-discipline easiest for me?
- What locations and environments nourish my self-discipline?
- What level of distraction strengthens my focus and practice? Is my self-discipline enhanced by silence and solitude? By a certain kind of music? By a certain level of hustle and bustle around me?
- Who energizes my self-discipline? This could be anyone you connect with in your daily life such as a friend, mentor, or trainer. Or it might be someone whose success story you admire.
Finally, ask yourself, “How can I make these things part of my days more often?”
Being self-disciplined does not have to be difficult or taxing. True self-discipline flows naturally from the strength of your clear purpose and living in alignment with your values.
To help you hardwire your inner drive and determination, I recommend you listen to an audio program I created called Self-Discipline. Simply push play, close your eyes, relax, and listen. You will be led through a closed-eye process that activates your “whole mind” with a precise blend of music and words to help you acquire new behaviors.
To learn more about Self-Discipline and the 41 other Paraliminal programs, please click here. Other titles in the Paraliminal library include Anxiety-Free, Deep Relaxation, Focus & Concentration, New Action Generator, Peak Performance, Power Thinking, and Success Built To Last.