The Nuts and Bolts of Self-Discipline and Habits

Your net worth to the world is usually determined by what remains after your bad habits are subtracted from your good ones. ~Benjamin Franklin

I’ve been talking a lot about habits; how to overcome bad habits and how to develop and sustain positive new habits. Here’s why. It matters and it matters a lot! From the feedback we’re getting, it’s something everyone wrestles with ferociously every day. And we’ll continue wrestling, not winning, until we face the facts. It’s up to us and it all comes down to a pretty unpopular subject, self-discipline. I’m here to tell you self-mastery is the magic ingredient, the secret sauce, the holy grail of living a life that is aligned with your worthy values, the things that matter most to you!

The subject is far from a modern concern. Aristotle made this observation somewhere around 350 BC, “Excellence is an art won by training and habituation……We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit”. Self-discipline is the positive force that helps you build your legacy of greatness beginning today, using what you have and starting where you are right now. Fortunately, it is not “Mission Impossible.” It’s something anyone can develop if he or she has the right “why.”

The really amazing thing is it doesn’t matter what part of our life we start to work on! Developing self-discipline is, as Aristotle so wisely taught us, “won by training”, and we can begin with any area where we want to improve! Jim Rohn was one of my favorite early mentors. I spent hours listening to his audios while commuting and I loved his “every man” simplicity. Here is what he had to say on the subject. (I wish you could hear him say it in his endearing delivery style).

“Any day we choose we can go to work on the basics—on any one of a host of small activities that will start the process of self-discipline. The joy that comes from this small achievement will start the miracle process. The early inspiration that comes from the practice of new and simple disciplines will start a process called “soaring self-worth.” It does not matter how small or how insignificant the activity is because it is within those obscure but important disciplines that the great opportunities exist. The smallest of disciplines, practiced every day, start an incredible process that can change our lives forever.”

Thankfully, we’re learning a lot about new ways to make the process of building positive habits easier. Even self-discipline has some “life hacks”, systems we can use to speed up the process. The new term is “choice architecture”, and I referred to it in an earlier post. I want to share a little more information about that system and how to use it to leverage your efforts.

Remember when I said that people and resources often appear magically on a need-to-know basis when you’re actively engaged in personal growth? It seems to happen without fail! Here are some terrific tidbits from a young man I began following recently because he makes so much sense. (Naughty confession: I’m always dazzled and a tinge envious when someone so young has it figured out so well). This is, in part, what James Clear posted recently about utilizing a system instead of simply setting goals.

“What’s the difference between goals and systems?

  • If you’re a coach,your goal is to win a championship. Your system is what your team does at practice each day.
  • If you’re a writer,your goal is to write a book. Your system is the writing schedule that you follow each week.
  • If you’re a runner,your goal is to run a marathon. Your system is your training schedule for the month.

Now for the really interesting question:

If you completely ignored your goals and focused only on your system, would you still get results? I think you would.

SOLUTION: Commit to a process, not a goal.

Choosing a goal puts a huge burden on your shoulders. But we do this to ourselves all the time. We place unnecessary stress on ourselves to lose weight or to succeed in business or to write a best-selling novel. Instead, you can keep things simple and reduce stress by focusing on the daily process and sticking to your schedule, rather than worrying about the big, life-changing goals.

When you focus on the practice instead of the performance, you can enjoy the present moment and improve at the same time”.

We couldn’t agree more! We are convinced that our system, “Worthy Values First” and an emphasis on internal, rather than external motivation is an outstanding way to begin to reframe your thinking, find your “why” and begin to shape your personal “Legacy of Greatness” beginning right now! Does this new way of thinking about habits and self-discipline make the process seem easier and less overwhelming? Please weigh in with your thoughts!  We welcome your comments and questions!









    • Betty Streff

      Thanks! I love the way Jim Rohn called it the “miracle process” and inspired us to experience “soaring self-worth”. Just makes you want to begin right now, doesn’t it?

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