Self-discipline: Key to a Better Life

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Many parents today believe that it is oppressive to discipline children.  What these parents may not realize is that children need discipline in order to learn about boundaries.  To discipline children does not involve physical punishment, verbal admonitions, or harsh practices. 


The best way to discipline children is to model disciplined behavior, followed by rewarding the behavior that you do want to see, and being clear and specific about the rules. 


Children need to know what the rules are and what the consequences are of not abiding by the each rule.  Then, and only then, can a child know what the cost of not obeying a rule is and they have the opportunity to make an informed choice.  Writing them down, and placing them where everyone can read them, helps everyone.  Once a natural or logical consequence has been established, it must be enforced each and every time.  Therein lies the discipline.


To model disciplined behavior, a parent must be self-disciplined.  Self-discipline involves acting according to what you have decided is best for you, instead of reacting according to what you feel in the moment. 


If you struggle with self-discipline, the good news is that it can be developed.  Like a muscle – the more you work it, the stronger it becomes.  Just like there are different muscles groups, there are different areas of self-discipline: sleep, diet, communication, exercise, etc. 


It takes time and effort to design a plan for achieving your goals, courage to stick to the plan, and persistence to see the plan through.  Self-discipline can empower you to overcome any addiction or reject any self-defeating lifestyle.  It wipes out procrastination.  


Write down your plan and identify the disciplined acts that will take to get there.  Remember to identify the land mines ahead and decide how you will respond at those times.


Willpower is something that most people believe they do not have enough of and that if they did they could stick to their diet, quit smoking, or end an abusive relationship.


Willpower has its place in our efforts to achieve goals but it is not the only requirement.  Willpower provides an intensely powerful yet temporary boost in


our ability to resist temptation.  However, willpower is unsustainable.  It’s for sprints rather than marathons.  It requires intense focus which can only be maintained for so long.  Willpower works well to establish a base from which self-discipline can progress. 


If your goal is to lose 20 pounds, use your willpower to make the plan, clean the environment of the things you want to restrict in your diet and the foods you overeat.  With a clean environment you can be more self-disciplined.  Another use of your willpower is to forecast the temptations and plan for them. 


Use your willpower to establish the conditions that will make your goals easier to achieve rather than trying to use it to achieve the goal directly.  Do not try to use willpower to attack your most challenging goals but rather to attack the environmental and social obstacles that perpetuate the problem.  Self-control is not so much about resisting temptations but about finding effective ways to avoid them.


Self-talk is an extremely helpful tool in maintaining your commitments.  Encouraging and reassuring yourself are ways of internalizing your own personal coach.  Indulging in negative self-talk, self- recrimination, and self-blame can undermine the strongest willpower and the most disciplined mind.  Develop a series of affirmations that you can use at critical times.  Write them down on file cards and have then handy so you can read them when tempted.  For example, “I can do this! I have what it takes!!” 


Self-control is not about deprivation but about managing conflicting goals – wanting the short-term pleasure of smoking with wanting the long term goal of enjoying a long and healthy life. 


Self-discipline is more important than IQ in predicting academic success.


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