The Art of Self-Discipline: Prepare to Get Hungry
I find that a lot of people not only here, but everywhere, find themselves constantly wishing they had more time to do the important things in life. They talk about not having enough time to play with the kids or enough time to study or whatever their issue may be. I'm here to share my experiences with this.
Mid summer last year, I resigned with my employer in order to take a new position that was not as promising as I had been led to believe. I found myself working in sales on a commission-only basis being sent into territory that had been worked daily for months by other agents and my lack of results were met with responses that I wasn't trying hard enough.
If you think I'm going to tell you the reason behind your failures, whatever they may be, is that you aren't trying hard enough, I ask you to think again.
I did not remain with that company for long, because it did not take long for me to discover that my enjoyment of eating semi-regularly was more important than my employment with their organization, but I can say I learned a great deal in the brief time I was with them. What I learned especially was that hunger is a great motivator for change. Don't believe me? Give it a shot--you'd be surprised just how delicious $0.29 Top Ramen can be (hint: I've never liked Top Ramen, but after two or three days, it may as well be Surf and Turf).
After I realized that things were not going to change if I remained, I became zealous in my job applications. I'm pretty sure Indeed, Ziprecruiter, Careerbuilder, etc's servers all experienced stress from my constant applications during that period of time and that's actually what I want to talk about.
The reason it is hard to make time for things we care about is that there is no immediate consequence, so choosing instant gratification (e.g. watching Game of Thrones over studying for that exam) can seem to be a better choice. Do I enjoy the few luxuries I am allotted or do I put myself under more strain for something that may or may not come later?
There's nothing wrong with taking a break and catching your breath, but when it becomes habitual to choose the relaxation over proactive work towards improvement of our circumstances, that is when it becomes a problem. It's not a problem if we are content where we are in life, but if we are not (which I imagine you are not if you wish you had more time), then we need to create consequences, even if they're artificial, in order to redirect our behavior to things more in line with our long-term goals.
For me, that was hunger, because I couldn't afford anything to eat. I knew if I didn't take a highly active effort in my search for new employment opportunities, then the hunger pangs would continue. I had a natural consequence directing my behavior, but even today, I employ artificial consequences to help direct my behaviors towards high-ROI behaviors.
An example of this is that I'm studying for my Associate Professional in Human Resources (aPHR) certification from Human Resources Certification Institute (HRCI). The first thing I will do each day (or after work) is devote at least an hour to my studies or I don't allow myself to watch TV or play computer games (two hobbies which relax me). Why? Because we can condition ourselves to create proactive habits and while positive reinforcement can be effective, punishment (frequently misinterpreted as negative reinforcement) is much more effective for most people.
By setting certain rules for yourself, you realign your behaviors with what you say you want. It's difficult, especially at first. There will be days when you feel exhausted from work, but you said you wanted to do X and committed to work towards it for at least Y minutes everyday. It is important to stick to this, especially early on, in order to create a habit, but the more we do things that we do not want to do, the easier it becomes.
Believe me, if I can develop Self-Discipline, anyone can.
Thanks for reading,