Stanford University conducted a study on hundreds of 4- and 5-year-olds where they were given a choice of immediately getting one marshmallow or waiting 15 minutes to get two marshmallows. The researchers then followed the participants over 40 years and found that the toddlers who waited 15 minutes for the extra marshmallow were more successful in nearly all areas of their life including education, health, and social life. The conclusion was that all those who were successful had the same underlying trait, self-discipline.
This does not mean if you have not achieved self-discipline by the age of 5 that you are destined for failure. For most people, self-discipline is a work in progress and you can certainly work to strengthen this trait.
Here are some tips to help you work on your self-discipline:
Rewrite your goals every morning
Writing down your major goals every morning will start your day with a burst of motivation as you envision where you want to end up. The act of writing it down will also allow you to reprocess the information and help you remember it long-term. And as an added bonus, it will give you a chance to review your goals and make them more refined and specific over time.
Start slow and build up habits
Practicing self-discipline will feel uncomfortable at first as it often means giving up an activity that you usually instinctively do for immediate gratification. Instead, you are also asking yourself to do something new and unfamiliar for delayed gratification. First, realize that it is normal to feel uncomfortable and embrace that feeling. Second, start with a first step that might even seem too easy and gradually build up the amount of time you spend doing it. This will let you get into the habit of consistently working on your goal without feeling overwhelmed.
Fuel yourself properly & exercise regularly
When you’re hungry, your brain is not working at its highest potential which means good decision-making is that much harder. A well-balanced diet filled with essential nutrients will help with concentration and alertness. Going along with a healthy diet, regular physical exercise will help strengthen your self-discipline. Exercise improves your cardiovascular system and consequently gives you more energy for your daily activities. In addition, applying self-discipline in all aspects of your life will give you the momentum to work on your other goals even if they don’t directly relate to health.
One of the best ways to make sure you stick to a new habit is to plan ahead and identify any obstacles or temptations that you might encounter. Remove these temptations so that making the right decisions can be easier even in times when your willpower is low. This can be booking your workout classes a week in advance so that you are already committed or avoiding having distractions in the house.
Track your progress
A huge help in overcoming a slump is seeing how far you have come. At the start of the year, I decided to start running more regularly and downloaded a running app to track my progress. Opening up the app and seeing the improvements in my run times almost always works in motivating me to stick to my schedule on days I just want to stay in bed. Because it’s hard to see day-to-day progress, long-term goals are hard to stick to without reminders of how much your hard work has paid off so far. So choose a method that works for you and consistently track your progress.
I hope these tips help you strengthen your self-discipline and give you the boost you need to keep on working on your goals!