Discipline: It's Not Just Willpower, It's an Emotion We Can Cultivate

Discipline: It's Not Just Willpower, It's an Emotion We Can Cultivate

When it comes to juggling work, family, and personal goals it can feel like a constant balancing act. When the pressure mounts, achieving what we set out to do often relies on being "disciplined." But for many of us, this term can feel a bit rigid or even negative.

Something I have learnt over the years of setting goals and working to achieve them is that it can really help if I reframe how I think about discipline.

Discipline is an Emotion We Can Cultivate

Discipline is an Emotion We Can Cultivate

We often think of discipline as a way we act, but it also has a powerful emotional side. At its core, discipline is driven by the desire to grow, improve, and achieve our goals. This translates into feelings of determination, focus, and a strong commitment to personal development and success. Viewing discipline through this emotional lens helps us understand its psychological roots and how it significantly impacts our decisions and behaviour. We can then nurture it in ourselves to help us have the discipline needed to achieve the goals we desire.

Emotions as the Engine of Discipline

Discipline is an the engine

Psychology tells us that emotions play a significant role in our decision-making and behaviour. Studies show that when we feel motivated and passionate about achieving a goal, the perceived difficulty of the task decreases. Conversely, negative emotions like boredom or frustration can make us more likely to give up. This is where the "emotional" side of discipline comes in. By cultivating positive emotions associated with our goals, we can fuel the motivation needed to stay disciplined.

How to Cultivate Greater Discipline in Your Daily Life

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It is one thing to understand the concept of discipline as an emotion, it is another to apply it! Here are some practical strategies to harness the power of emotions and cultivate discipline:

Set Clear Goals

Having well-defined and meaningful goals provides a sense of direction and purpose. What excites you? What do you want to achieve? Defining these goals becomes the initial spark of positive emotion that fuels discipline.

Establish Routines and Habits

In my goal setting technique, setting a goal is just the first part of the process. The goal is the north star of what I want to achieve but I then need to determine and create routines to help me achieve the goal – whether it's a daily planned exercise routine, having Adapt Drinks Relax in the house for a weekday swap out for alcohol or a dedicated time for working on a project. At the start, you have to think about doing the routines but with repetition and consistency they become more automatic, making disciplined behaviour feel more natural and not something that requires willpower. You don't for example, think about having to brush your teeth or see it as a disciplined act because it is a habit!

Lead With The Body

Gregg Krech the author of five books on Japanese Psychology, including the best seller The Art of Taking Action advocates the concept of leading with the body. It means that we don’t allow our emotions to rule what we do - we may not feel like going for a run, we may feel like having a glass of wine but that does not align with our goals. By taking a step and doing something physical like pushing ourselves out the door or drinking something other than alcohol (Adapt Drinks Relax!) our emotions will follow. There have been so many runs I haven’t felt like doing but I know that the run will help me achieve my goal of running a marathon so I get out the door regardless. Sometimes it is by telling myself that I only have to run for five minutes and if I still feel like I don’t want to do it, I can turn around and come home. I have never come home!

I will leave you with this quote from Krech which I remind myself of often:

"We don’t realize how much control we have over our body, because we don’t pay much attention to how often the content of our mind is out of sync with our actions. If we acted on every thought or feeling we had, our lives would be utter chaos…..
But in many cases my body is able to do what my mind doesn’t want to do or believes it cannot do. Rather than go through a period of mental gymnastics trying to motivate ourselves or attempting to get the mind to change its mind, we can simply let the body take the lead.

Go on, let the body take the lead!

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So go ahead and pour yourself a glass. You deserve it.