3 Things the Self-disciplined Aren’t Fazed By
I am fascinated by people who are intrinsically motivated. There is something so powerful and unstoppable about a person who doesn’t require external incentives to keep them on target. Motivation of this kind requires vision to see beyond what you desire presently to what you desire ultimately. The consistency, habit, and self-denial of the disciplined is like ammunition, and when they're locked on target, they'll do whatever it takes to stay the course and keep firing.
So, what keeps these types motivated? What sets them apart from others who don't demonstrate this same level of resilience? I believe there are three things that we all inevitably face once we've committed to bettering our habits and reaching our goals—things that may easily derail the average person, but to the self-disciplined, they're simply a means to an end.
Self-disciplined people have a high tolerance for monotony. Their relentless dedication to the end goal braces them for the tedious and repetitive tasks that lie ahead. As Darren Hardy says in his book The Compound Effect, "I want you to know in your bones that your only path to success is through a continuum of mundane, unsexy, unexciting, and sometimes difficult daily disciplines compounded over time”. 1
I watch as people in my generation disengage because the work in front of them isn’t exciting enough. They fold on their commitments and give up on their goals because somewhere along they way, they’ve adopted an entitlement that life should always be adventurous. But the hard truth is that adventure is earned. Adventure and freedom are the profits of hard labor and commitment, and the process isn’t always an exciting one. It’s largely a monotonous one, so embrace it (read: get over it).
Self-disciplined people are self-aware people. When it comes to temptation, self-awareness acts as a built-in radar that is highly sensitive to the ever-inviting pull back into dispassion. The key is not just being self-aware in the face of present temptation, it’s also being able to preempt it. Self-disciplined people know exactly where their weak points are and they’ve already anticipated how many of these distractions will come at them.
For example, think ahead to your alarm going off at 4:45 AM. Hitting that snooze button has already crept its way into your considerations, so don’t wait until that groggy, vulnerable moment to make that decision. Tell yourself those six hours prior that this is not an option. Sometimes it helps to think through what high priority items you’ll be facing the next day—your morning workout, a big presentation to a client, your kid’s school play. Get yourself motivated toward what’s ahead so that by the time the Snooze Button Siren starts singing, it won’t matter. You’ll have pre-conquered it.
Darren Hardy puts this into excellent perspective when he says, "If you took a bite of a Big Mac and immediately fell to the ground clutching your chest from a heart attack, you might not go back for that second bite...If you failed to make that tenth call today and were immediately fired and bankrupted, suddenly picking up the phone would be a no-brainer. And, if that first forkful of cake instantly put fifty pounds on your frame, saying 'no thank you' to dessert would be the true piece of cake.” 1
If you’re going to be self-disciplined, you’re going to continually be inconvenienced. Get used to it. Are you trying to eat a little better? Then it’s going to take more effort to cook that salmon and steam those vegetables than it is to zip through a drive-thru somewhere. Have you committed to 30 minutes of reading each day? Then the extra time you were taking to relax and watch Netflix every night might have to be cut short. Are you wanting to be a more effective leader? Then stop what you’re working on when your team needs you. Engage and give them your full attention so your contribution is meaningful.
Inconveniences are invitations to transcend our base, apathetic nature. Inconvenience doesn’t deter the disciplined, it invigorates them, because they know that the most satisfying rewards come at the end of the toughest grinds.
When our focus is locked in on the end goal, we aren't fazed by the tediousness of a task, the lure of temptation, or the pain of inconvenience. Self-disciplined people see these plights as a sharpening, not as an oppression. This is why they're resilient; this is why they're finishers; and this why when it's over, they'll do it all over again.
Hardy, Darren. The Compound Effect. New York City: Vanguard Press, 2010. Kindle Edition.