Building your self-discipline can be hard. However, it’s deeply rewarding. To illustrate this, here are several areas where applying more self-discipline will improve your health, wellbeing and happiness:
The old cliché is true: we are what we eat. By improving your diet, you can help prevent major diseases including obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and several kinds of cancer. You will also have more energy and improved moods.
To use your self-discipline to improve your eating, start small. Make one change at a time, and when that feels comfortable, make another change. Here are a few ideas to start with:
- Add one fruit or vegetable to each meal.
- Stop buying bulk packs of your favorite (unhealthy) snacks.
- Buy a good non-stick pan, and reduce the oil in every recipe.
- Cut your servings of red meat in half.
- Pick breads and cereals made with 100% whole grains, instead of ones made with white flour.
Exercise can improve your mood, reduce your risk of serious illnesses, strengthen your body, and give you energy to get through the day. Exercise is even a fountain of youth: under a microscope, the cells of regular exercisers look younger than the cells of sedentary people.
Even though regular exercise is the closest thing we have to a magic cure-all, less than 20% of Americans get the recommended amount of exercise in a day. Guidelines suggest that adults should get at least 150 minutes of brisk movement (such as walking or riding a bike) each week. Beginning or increasing an exercise program will make you feel better, look better, and even think better, too.
As a bonus, exercise is also a way to boost your self-discipline. That’s why employers like to hire athletes. Bosses know that people who can stick to a training plan know how to buckle down and get the job done.
The human body was designed to move. All you need to do to become an exerciser is to pick an exercise you like and stick to it. To get started:
- Experiment with different workouts until you find one you enjoy.
- Work out with a friend, so you can motivate each other.
- Sign up for a walk, ride, or race, and let the approach of race day motivate you.
- Add a 10-15-minute walk to your schedule each day. When that gets easy, make it 20-30 minutes, or add a second short walk.
You don’t need to be obsessed with Marie Kondo or Martha Stewart to recognize the benefits of a cleaner, more organized house. If your dishes are done, your laundry is folded, and your wallet and keys are sitting by the door, it’s so much easier to get dressed, make breakfast and get out of the door in the morning. Once you get in the habit of keeping your home tidy, you’ll find that you save more time by being organized than you spend cleaning.
When it comes to cleaning, the idea of doing it is often much worse than the reality. Focus your self-discipline on getting started. Once you start, it’s easy to finish. Here are some good habits to establish:
- Get the dishes done before you go to bed each night. Your mornings will be so much better.
- Once a day, set a timer for 10 minutes and get everyone in the house to tidy until the buzzer goes. If everyone puts their back into it, this should be about all you need to keep you home clean.
- Create a dedicated space for your keys, phone, wallet, and anything else you carry every day, and make a habit of always putting your belongings back in their spot.
Improve Your Focus at Work
Studies show that almost all employees waste at least some time at work each day. The amount of time wasted varies, with some employees wasting just a few minutes, while the worst offenders can waste three hours or more.
Think about your workday. How much time do you waste? What could you do with that extra time? If you were able to reduce your daily timewasters, you might be able to take on an additional project and finally get that promotion. Or, you might be able to finally leave on time, but still get just as much done. Whatever your goal, reducing wasted time at work helps you get there faster.
Your first step is to identify your top timewasters. Track your time over a few days and see where you could be more efficient.
Note that time spent thinking about a project or building meaningful connections with colleagues is not necessarily time wasted. Sometimes wonderful ideas emerge out of casual conversations. In addition, there will always be a little slack in the day, and it’s not possible to be 100% efficient at all times.
Once you have your list of timewasters, think of ways to reduce the temptation to indulge. These solutions will be personal to you and to your specific job. Then, decide on how you are going to spend all the time you’ve saved. Finally, enjoy the benefits that come from greater efficiency and focus on your work.
Self-discipline helps us stay focused on those things we know we should do for our long-term wellbeing. Whenever someone completes a marathon, earns a graduate degree, balances three jobs and childcare, or carefully manages a budget so that the month and the money end at the same time, they’ve used at least some self-discipline to get there.
By cultivating your self-discipline, you can improve your health, fitness, career performance and even happiness. Fortunately, self-discipline is available to all. All you need to start improving this important quality is the will to do so. It may not be easy to start with, but the more you practice the art of self-discipline, the more you will benefit.