Tag Archives: discipline

Help! I want to give it my best but…

In everything that I do, I have a desire to do it to the best of my abilities. That is the hope and goal. However, is that really the case? Sadly, I can’t truly say that I have given my best effort in everything. I now know better. I know that the goal isn’t so much about in everything that I do, but in the areas of my priorities that I want to give it my best.

The truth of the matter lies in 2 “a-ha moments”:
1. Not everything in my life is weighted equally in importance or value. Not everything requires perfection. Not everything requires equal time and attention. For example, I don’t need to give my best effort in stacking the dishes in the dishwasher. Just sufficient “stacking” will do.

2. Only what is most meaningful will I choose to spend my time and energy on. I will want to ensure that what is most important to me, gets my full attention, time and effort. I will give up other areas in order to allocate enough time to complete the projects that are important to me.  For example, I will give up playing golf in order for me to have more time to complete a project that is more important to me.

Unless we are clear in our minds and hearts around the above 2 aspects, we will constantly be in a battle of feeling good or guilty. Guilty for not achieving or guilty for not giving it your best. So what can we do to ensure that we do give it our best when it matters?

Daring to do the best in requires 3 key factors:
1. Intention to succeed. You must be intentional. You must have goals and have plans in place. Change can only take place when we are purposeful and intentional in our approach and determination. Ask yourself:
a. How badly do I want to change?
b. What is going to make this attempt at change different from all the other times?
c. What changes do I need to make?
d. What goals am I going to set?
e. What plans do I have to put in place to achieve those goals?
f. Who am I going to share this plan with?
g. Who is going to help me be accountable?
h. Who am I going to assign as my cheerleader when the going gets tough?

Be intentional in setting up clear goals and action plans.

2. Disciple to overcome. Discipline is required in anything that we want to strive for. Nothing worth getting ever comes easy. Discipline also implies that sacrifices will have to be made in order to achieve something greater. Every successful person will demonstrate discipline in their actions. Discipline will mean that you will need to give up something in return. You might have to sacrifice some comfort in order to achieve your goals. Ask yourself:
a. What am I willing to sacrifice in order to achieve my goal?
b. What comfort am I will to give up?
c. What would happen if I gave up something in return to spending more time on achieving my goals?

Discipline requires determination, commitment and willing sacrifices.

3. Focus on the prize. Staying focus on the prize will help you to avoid distractions. Keeping your focus is hard especially when the demands of this world is so varied and constant. Making the decision to go for your goal requires that you constantly review, reflect and refocus. It is important as part of the goals that you have set, you are clear on the benefits or rewards of achieving the goal. Questions to ask:
a. What do I get out of achieving the goal?
b. What deeper purpose am I serving?
c. What impact am I making?
d. Who and what will this benefit?
e. How life changing will this change be?

Every winner keeps an eye on the prize.
The answer to being the best lies in being intentional, discipline and focus. It will require sacrifices and hard work. The reward is always meaningful.

No matter where the outcome, so long as you know that you have given it the best, you are already rewarded with learnings, experiences and growth.

Willpower the key to creating new habits

Every one of us has an inner desire to grow in knowledge and in character. We want to improve and be a better version of “me”. As we strive to be better in the intangible (knowledge, experience, skills etc), what is demonstrated to others around us is our actions or behaviours. We need to “act out” our intentions in order for something to happen. To perform any task, we need to be able to perform a serious of actions. Upon performing the same set of actions over and over, we are over time and repetition developing a habit.

Habit is a set of actions to complete a certain task that has become an automatic process. We don’t have to think hard in performing a certain task. For example, brushing your teeth. When you first learn this skill, it requires a lot of focus, energy and coordination to be able to maneuvers the toothbrush to brush each tooth without hurting yourself. After performing that same set of actions over time, it naturally becomes easier until a point where you don’t even have to think about it. You can now brush your teeth and probably do something else at the same time.

That is the power of habit. Once a series of actions have been repeated until it becomes automatic, it does not require much brain “power” to work at it, it makes it very efficient. There also lies the downside of habit. It is so powerful that it is hard to break or change a habit. Trying to break or change a habit is like pushing your car uphill with the handbrakes engaged. Our brains do not like the effort that it takes to make those changes because believe it or not, our brains are “lazy”.

How would you go about changing or creating a new habit? As mentioned, a habit is formed when we want to accomplish or achieve a certain goal. In order to achieve a certain goal, certain actions need to be taken. Upon reaching the goal, you will experience a reward. Therefore to create a habit, there are 3 areas:

  1. Goal: There needs to be a trigger to get the ball rolling.
  2. Series of actions or process: In order to achieve the specified goal, there must be a series of actions that needs to take place in order to make it a reality.
  3. Reward: What is the reward that you envision for achieving that goal.

As an example, to create a new sleep habit. The goal is to sleep for 7 hours every night. To achieve this goal, there needs to be a series of actions eg no technology an hour before bed, no sugary or caffeine drinks, do some yoga stretches to relax etc. The reward is a good night of 7 hours sleep. At the start, it will be hard and our “old” habit will basically be saying “no” to every attempt. That is where willpower comes in.

Willpower is the key to creating new habits. Willpower is basically your conscious mind saying “I am going to do this no matter what.” A decision or a choice that you are committed on doing regardless of what you feel. Willpower is also like a muscle, it grows stronger with use and time. Willpower has been described as self-control or self-disciple, all of which requires a conscious decision to be made and then the commitment to follow through. The beautiful aspect of it is that over time and continuous repetition any set of actions will become a habit. To get to the habit stage, the initial stage will be like pushing the car with the hand brakes engaged uphill until it starts to go down the hill with the hand brakes disengaged. Various studies have shown that the key attribute every successful person have is self-discipline. The willpower to decide and stay the course. Without willpower, we are not able to break through any habits.

To create or change a habit:

  1. Identify the goal or desired outcome.
    1. What is the desired outcome?
    2. Why do I want this outcome?
    3. Be specific.
    4. If it is a long term goal, then break it down to achievable mini-goals.
  2. Outline your strategy or series of actions that needs to take place.
    1. Write down the actions that need to take place.
    2. Break down “bigger” actions into “smaller” ones which does not look daunting. For example, if you want to exercise for 30 minutes as the big goal, break it down to 5 minutes every day for the 1st week and work your way up. By breaking it down to 5 minutes, it will not seem as daunting as 30 minutes.
    3. Be committed to executing the plan knowing that over time, it will be easier.
    4. Stick to it and repeat
  3. Reward. Set up a reward system for yourself. Mini-rewards for each mini-milestone. That will keep you going when you acknowledge your progress.  Our willpower needs to be rewarded as it is being strengthened.

In the next article, I will cover the barriers for willpower and how to overcome them.