I often hear people say that they just aren't disciplined or that they're not a disciplined person. It's an interesting comment that I often hear chattering around in my own head. So here's the thing...Everyone is disciplined. You are 100% disciplined to the habits that you’ve become accustomed to. The question is, are you disciplined to the right things?
If we want to become disciplined to something new here are some suggestions to consider:
Pick your battle
Prioritize what you would like to create and then pick one thing at a time to work on. Stick with that one new area until you've made it a habit. We have limited capacity for will-power, if you pick more than one thing to change at any given time chances are that you'll fail at all of them. It typically takes a minimum of three weeks (the average is 66 days) before a new routine becomes a habit.
As Stephen Covey says, "The key is not to prioritize what's on your schedule, but to schedule your prioritizes." It's important to create your life around your priorities versus trying to "fit them in." How many times to we attempt to "fit in" our priorities versus making them the actual priority?
A process that works well is to every Sunday night create a plan/schedule for the week. Each evening revisit the plan, making any necessary adjustments and have it set for the next day. Research shows greater success if you start your day off with a clear plan, you're more likely to get off square one and start on a positive trajectory for your day. Keep the plan in a location where you'll see it, visual reminders are a great tool.
Identify 2-3 critical tasks that need to get done either that week or each day. Focus on the critical few versus the trivial many. Then break down the critical tasks into smaller tasks. It helps to have small wins or rewards to create momentum, our brain likes to cross off tasks and feel that sense of reward.
Giving yourself a lot of small wins, gives your brain a burst of dopamine which is a feel good hormone that's essential for successful habit formation. Plan for incremental changes, don’t try to do it all at once. It keeps you motivated to continue. The satisfaction of a small success keeps you going and makes you want to do better. You can boost up the dopamine even more by rewarding yourself and celebrating your win. Consider creating a reward for yourself every time you achieve a small victory. So, instead of focusing on a negative, like that you haven’t fully accomplished your goal, focus on the positive and your brain will help to support more.
Don't sabotage yourself
Don’t hurt yourself with negative self-talk if you aren’t perfect or skip a day, that just sabotages you. Remember you can always choose again. Keep that phrase in your mind. If you mess up, get right back on the wagon. Don’t wait for Monday, don’t let more days slip by, get right back on it.
Work on your belief system
Let go of old stories and the old self-image...that’s your old story, what’s the new story you are creating? Use phrases like “up until now” or “that doesn’t apply to me anymore” to flip/reverse old thought patterns. Surround yourself with examples and others who are doing what you desire to help shift your belief system as to what's possible.
Use envisioning/imagination techniques to create a new belief system. The brain can’t tell the difference between a scene you actually see and one that you imagine vividly. So, envision in great detail accomplishing your goal, what implementing this habit and being consistent will have life look like. The sweet spot for doing this is first thing in the morning upon waking and before getting up. Whatever is top on your mind will dictate the trajectory that your mind continues to take and it will drive what you see. As Stephen Covey says, "Live out of your imagination, not your history."
This is not a complete list of things that positively impact creating new habits and routines, but it's some critical pieces that will set you up for success. Wouldn't it be great if some positive life style changes happened as a result of the pandemic?