Self discipline is a tricky ingredient to work with. It is often difficult to determine exactly how much of it we need and the best ways to mix that amount into the rest of our lives. But when we are able to use it effectively, self-discipline can help us find tremendous satisfaction. If we want to optimize our self-discipline, there are some common mistakes we need to avoid.
1. Having too much or too little self-discipline.
It is undeniable that all of us need a basic amount of self-discipline in order to avoid getting fired from our jobs, letting down those who depend on us, or permanently fusing to our couches from lack of movement. But beyond that basic level, we actually have a fair amount of choice about how disciplined we are. That’s why it is important to recognize the signs that we need to adjust our level of self-discipline.
You might need more self-discipline if: You are constantly frustrated by how little progress you are making toward your goals, you know what steps you could take to make more progress, and the reason you aren’t taking those steps can really only be described as “laziness.”
You might need less self-discipline if: You are constantly working toward achieving your goals, no amount of accomplishment ever feels like enough, and you are starting to feel burnt out and exhausted.
2. Using self-discipline in all the wrong places.
Unfortunately, life often gives us responsibilities we would rather not have, and handling those responsibilities requires self-discipline. When we give those things our best effort, we often find ourselves with no energy left to be self-disciplined about anything else.
In order to ensure that we have enough self-discipline to go around, we have to budget it carefully. We need to determine where in our lives we can afford to make some self-discipline cuts, and where we might benefit from some extra self-discipline. This means evaluating which areas are most important to us, and focusing our resources on those areas.
Sometimes this gets confusing, because there are certain things we would rather not put effort into that are actually very important to us. For instance, we might dislike going to work, but having a source of income is important to us. So we have to use up some of our self-discipline on work. However, if we don’t care about being promoted, we may be able to put in slightly less effort, giving us more self-discipline to use on something else.
3. Basing our own self-discipline needs on the opinions of others.
It is important to realize that there is no universally accepted ideal for self-discipline. Some people are happiest with more self-discipline, and others are happiest with less. Neither way is right or wrong, so we just need to figure out which type of person we are and embrace it. Most of us fall somewhere between the following categories.
A) People who benefit from high self-discipline. These people are happiest when they are actively engaged in a challenge. The feeling of satisfaction they get from putting in a full day of work is worth any stress they encounter in the process. They are easily bored with downtime, and spending a while relaxing makes them feel lethargic, rather than recharged. People like this might be able to maximize their happiness by pushing themselves as hard as they can.
B) People who benefit from low self-discipline. These people are happiest when they are able to put their feet up. A full day of hard work is likely to leave them feeling frustrated and exhausted. They don’t mind taking a longer time to accomplish a goal, if doing so prevents stress. For them, downtime is rewarding and enjoyable. People like this might be able to maximize their happiness by not pushing themselves all the way to their limits.
Once we finally master the use of self-discipline, we can create our own perfect recipe for happiness. Then, all that’s left is smiling and enjoying the delicious rewards of our labor.