Discipline is not a personality trait

You don’t either ‘have’ discipline or ‘don’t have’ it. Discipline is just choices you make each day.

You make those choices based on what’s important to you at that moment.

You make those choices based on how you are feeling in that moment.

You make those choices based on how you feel about the end goal and how important it is to you in that moment.

Priorities can change each day, and that’s ok, you can still make a different choice the next day, it is not proof that you have no ‘discipline’.

Let’s take learning a language as an example.

You might use an app and decide you are going to spend an hour every day learning the language, you are going to be disciplined! You’re motivated, you want the end goal really badly and you know you can find an hour a day – easy!

A few days pass and all is good – the app is happy, you are happy, those words are being learnt and it feels great!

But maybe around day 6 you have a busy day at work and your son is sick and you just can’t find the time.

Maybe on day 7 you are tired and your brain just wants to play some pointless games instead of learning some difficult new words.

Maybe on day 8 you forget about it completely.

So by day 9 you start yelling at yourself “what’s wrong with me, why can’t I just be more disciplined! If I had discipline I’d still be learning the language!”

And day 10, 11,12,13 etc you’re annoyed by even the thought of learning the language because you know you have no discipline so it’s not worth it.

Ok, you get the picture, right?

So what could you do instead?

Accept that you made some choices on day 6 and 7 as your priorities changed.

Reflect on whether you like the choices you made, if not, consider how you could do things differently next time if the same pressures came up.

Don’t criticise yourself for being ‘undisciplined’, instead, re-commit to an hour a day and keep going.

No drama.

Ok, but I still keep skipping days and I REALLY want to learn the language, what’s wrong with me?

Nothing, try this:

  • What can you do to re-structure your days so that it is easier to get an hour a day?
  • How can you make learning the language a higher priority for you?
  • How can you make learning the language easier for you?
  • Remind yourself why you want to do it every day and recommit

Solutions could include:

  • Do the hour first thing before any interruptions come
  • Leave reminders for yourself through the house so you know it is important
  • Ask your friends or family to remind you that this is important and to encourage you to do it

Discipline is not a personality trait. If you tell yourself that you’re undisciplined you’ll start to believe it.

Instead, remind yourself that you are making choices each day and you get to control what those choices are. If you are making choices you don’t like that much, then explore why that is and how you can make different choices.

Sometimes in the course of exploring why we aren’t doing something we identify that we actually don’t want it enough. Again, this is not proof you have no discipline, it isn’t the lack of discipline that’s stopping you, it’s that other things are higher priorities for you. Understanding and accepting this can really help. Being honest with yourself about your priorities instead of beating yourself up for having no discipline can really help!

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