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How Can You Train Yourself To Be Self-Disciplined?

A good number of researchers have tried to explore the different facets of self-control and willpower in recent times, and most of them have conducted research with one obvious question in mind – how can self-discipline and willpower be strengthened and improved? Since self-discipline is a limited resource, as science has already proved, how can you possibly motivate yourself to be self-disciplined? Here are the three most effective and evidence-backed ways of motivating yourself to be self-disciplined.

Keep Temptations Out Of Sight

Walter Mischel, an Austrian-born American personality theorist and social psychologist, conducted a study with preschoolers, famously known as ‘The Marshmallow Experiment’. He proved that kids who stared at a delicacy directly are less likely to resist the temptation to eat it than the kids who distracted themselves. This ‘out-of-sight, out-of-mind’ theory is applicable to grown-ups too.

Another recent study found that office workers who kept their candies out of sight in a drawer indulged far less than workers who left their candies in plain sight.

This brings us to the unnerving question – do we have so little willpower that when we come across too many temptations, we cannot help but lose our self-control? Researchers do not quite agree with this notion. Mark Muraven proved that when willpower-exhausted individuals are assured of a reward, they continue to be self-disciplined. Motivation and rewards might help you in regaining, and possibly increasing your self-discipline.

Persistency Makes It Easier

Researchers who analyze self-discipline often draw a fatigued muscle analogy to explain the lack of self-control and willpower. However, there is another encouraging aspect of the same analogy. Human body muscles become exhausted after a long workout session in the short-term, but if individuals do the same workout regularly, their muscles are strengthened. Professor Mark Muraven, a Social-Personality Psychology professor at the University of Albany, asked participants in a resarch study to keep a note of their food intake and to improve their posture and mood for two weeks at a stretch. The participants who exerted self-discipline by performing assigned tasks demonstrated more self-discipline and self-control in the follow-up tests than the participants in another group who were not told to exert self-discipline.

He conducted another study with smokers and found that smokers who practiced self-discipline by performing specific tasks such as squeezing a handgrip or avoiding sweets could quit smoking more easily than smokers who were not told to exert self-control. Regular exertion of self-control can help you be more self-disciplined over time.

Mix It Up A Little

Charles Duhigg, Pulitzer-prize winning journalist who writes about the power of habit formation in our lives, made some interesting points in his book ‘The Power of Habit’. He recommends changing up the normal routine you usually follow, and explains why; Human habit behaviors are controlled by a specific part of the brain – the basal ganglia. The Basal ganglia control our behavioral patterns, emotions, and memories.

Decisions, on the contrary, are controlled by the prefrontal cortex, which is another part of the brain. According to Duhigg, our decision-making skills deteriorate when a certain behavior becomes a habit and the normal routine we follow can be compared to an auto-pilot mode. You can always motivate yourself to break a bad habit and bring changes in the normal routine, but your brain might signal you that you are going the wrong way. However, you should embrace the ‘wrong’ habit and stick to it as it will increase your self-discipline in the long run.

What If You Can’t Motivate Yourself?

If you feel motivating yourself to be self-disciplined is easier said than done, always remember that you need to know your weaknesses before you can overcome them. Secondly, you need to set clear and precise goals and have a plan beforehand to execute those goals. You can also read some motivational books, practice yoga and listen to music that can help you keep the focus on what you do. Remember that motivating yourself to be self-disciplined is not easy and you may encounter many mental obstacles.

One easy way to stay focused and motivated while gaining self-discipline is to listen to self-help podcasts and read motivational books by top authors. Aside from that, you can also take a break from work, watch some movie that teaches self-discipline and get back to work once you are completely rejuvenated. Do not forget to consult a mental coach in case you need further motivation or assistance.

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