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June 5, 2023

Self Discipline Is More Than Self Control

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Many people misunderstand what it means to be self-disciplined. They think that it involves taking action at all costs, having the will-power to grind it out, and to never make excuses. This is just a sliver of the full definition that we hear most about because ‘hustle culture’ gives people the motivation they need to take action. 

But what I just described isn’t self-discipline, it’s self-control, and certainly there’s a time and place for it - To practice restraint and not have that extra dessert, to get up and get in the gym even when you’re feeling tired, to make yourself step into a cold shower even though you know how uncomfortable it is.

But there’s so much more to self-discipline than self-control. There are subconscious elements to it and environmental factors that are more influential in your self-discipline than your conscious will alone. Practicing self-control requires that things need to feel hard, that you’re actively restricting yourself from something that you feel like you want. Self-discipline is much more grounded and when you set yourself up in the right way, being self-disciplined can actually be the easy thing to do. And here are a few of the ways you can do that.

First is to build a self-disciplined identity. I call this your “Best Self Reflex”. This means that when there’s a choice to be made, you pick the option that is in alignment with the best version of yourself on autopilot. You don’t need to negotiate with yourself or convince yourself of what you want because your default response is an expression of your best intentions. This requires that you build an identity of being self-disciplined, stacking evidence of all the ways that you’re practicing self-discipline, until it incorporates as a subconscious belief you hold about yourself.

Then the second way to set yourself up for self-discipline success is to structure your environment. James Clear talks a lot about this in “Atomic Habits”. If you want to make a desired positive behavior easier to do, set up your environment to decrease the amount of effort and strain required to do it. For something you want to do less often, add friction and pain to make that behavior less desirable.

Get these two things working for you and you can reserve your self-control and will-power for when you really need it.

Now if you feel like you’re not as self-disciplined as you’d like to be (making excuses and exceptions more often than you’d like to admit) or you aren’t consistent doing the key behaviors that you know prime you to show up for your personal and professional life at your very best, let’s start thinking about self-discipline differently and do something to change that...

Take on the Super Habits Challenge and reprogram your mindset to make self-discipline automatic.

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