Do you know what the big difference between someone like Arnold Schwarzenegger and say, you, is? It’s not the massive muscles, the money or the political career. It’s the self-discipline.
Yep, self-discipline is what drives people to greatness and what lets the rest of us fall by the wayside. And where does that discipline come from? From within!
Sure, sounds cheesy… but it’s true! And if you think of people like Arnold Schwarzenegger, or like Steve Jobs, or like Dwayne Johnson, you’ll think of people who never seem tired. They always seem enthusiastic whether that’s to work out at 6am in the morning, or whether it’s to start a new project. The difference between them and everyone else is that they don’t come home and crash – they use every last drop of energy and time to move towards their goals or enjoy life.
Can this really make such a big difference? You bet! Think about all the things you plan to do but don’t have the time or energy for. Maybe you planned to get into shape but could never stick to a workout? Maybe you were hoping to start a blog? Or to take up knitting?
But what actually happens is that you come home and crash on the sofa. Time isn’t the problem – it’s energy.
Or rather it’s willpower. You lack the willpower to push through the low energy and do it anyway.
But if you had the discipline to make the optimal use of all your time… then you could accomplish anything!
And here’s the good news: just like almost everything else, that willpower can be trained! Here’s how…
The best way to train anything and to get better at anything is just to practice. Willpower and discipline are no different. If you want to be better at resisting temptation and being resilient, then you need to practice.
This is where a lot of advice goes wrong. A lot of articles will tell you to ‘remove temptation’ to make it easier on yourself not to snack. Or they’ll tell you to ‘avoid making too many menial decisions’.
But this isn’t really training your willpower, it’s just helping you have to use it less.
So instead, focus on making yourself use it more so that you’ll get better at making yourself do things you don’t want to. A great place to start is with making the bed. Make the bed every morning as soon as you get up. If you can do this effectively, then you’ll be ready to start moving on to bigger fish – like exercising every morning!
Keep Your Eye on the Prize
I used Arnie as the example of someone with indomitable willpower and he himself also attributes much of his success to that trait. So where does he think his determination comes from?
Simple: he says it’s the ability to really visualize where he wants to be and to stay focussed on that goal at all times. This started as bodybuilding for him and this was enough to help him get up early, to eat massive quantities of protein and to train when everyone else thought he was nuts.
You need to be the same in chasing your goals. Make sure that you really believe in them and that you are excited and passionate about them. Let them motivate you to get up early and remind yourself why you’re putting yourself through this.
You can use the same method in reverse too. If you need to revise or tidy, then focus on the consequences of not doing that thing and let it motivate you.
Have a Mantra
In the film Deadpool, the titular character says ‘maximum effort’ every time he needs to dig deep. This is never really explained in the movie but we can assume that this is a kind of mantra he has developed to make himself give 110%. And you can benefit from something similar – just practice a phrase that you can repeat and use this to remind yourself to push through the pain and do that thing you don’t want to!
You can even tie this to the last point and make your mantra into something that reminds you why this is worth the effort. Talk to yourself and remind yourself why you’re doing this whenever you start to flag!
Finally, meditation is something that is widely regarded as being excellent for self-discipline and willpower. That’s because meditation is all about those things – it’s about having the ability to tell your brain what you’re going to think and what you’re not going to focus on. Over time, this actually increases ‘cortical thickness’ which it is thought to be linked with attention, interoception and sensory awareness (1).
And from a less scientific standpoint, it’s very interesting to note that nearly everyone who is incredibly driven and motivated to achieve amazing things reports using meditation as a tool. If you don’t believe me then try listening to Tim Ferriss’ podcast!