How to Conquer a Weak Self Discipline

I already mentioned in a previous`post that I am not the most self disciplined person in the world. And I reckon that there are others who feel the same way. Despite what appears to be a weakness, there is good news for those of us who lack this virtue.

“There is this pervasive idea that the successful person is the ‘disciplined person’ who leads a ‘disciplined life.’ — It’s a lie.”

The above is from Gary Keller and Jay Papasan’s book, The ONE Thing, which I have also alluded to in a previous post. They counter the above falsehood with the idea that we need just enough discipline to develop an ongoing habit that will create the desired outcomes in our life. You work at something regularly until it regularly works for you. When you see a “disciplined” person, what you see is a person who has trained a handful of habits into their lives.

How do you create a habit? Charles Duhigg, in his book, The Power of Habits, breaks down a habit into three components: A cue, a routine, and a reward. A certain cue, let’s say finishing breakfast, prompts a certain routine or behavior, let’s say, sitting down to meditate for 20 minutes, which in turn brings about a reward or set of rewards. In this case, a focused mind, or a sense of peace, or a lowered blood pressure, or even the hint of a fulfillment of a future result, such as a consistent sense of well being that is currently eluding you.

Another important component – you must have a sense of “craving” for the reward that compels you to begin the routine. Otherwise, resistance usually wins. You must want the reward. It has to light a fire within.

It also usually takes 66 days to build a solid habit. Success literature speaks of a 21 day period to completely develop a habit, but solid research has discovered otherwise. The full range suggests 18 to 254 days, but 66 represented a “sweet spot”, with easier habits taking less time and more challenging habits taking longer time.

One other thing – habit building is an upper brain function. We’ll come back to this in a later post, but for now, think of your upper brain as your pilot, and your lower brain as autopilot. When you develop a habit, you are having to use faculties of your brain that require actual focus and willpower, a kind of command center. Once this habit begins to take hold, however, the control for the new “circuitry” is shifted to the lower brain, a kind of intuitive, instinctual, automatic response system. When you begin to do the routine without having to mentally engage the initiation of it, then you know that the lower brain has begun to assume control, and it won’t be long before the routine is indeed a habit.

I will now leave you with this question to ponder…What habit or handful of habits do you need to study and breakdown and begin to implement so that you can reach your desired outcomes?


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