Starting off a new year with a good feeling is something so many of us want. This is why New Year’s resolutions are so popular.
New year, new chances, right? But being motivated at the start only to quit midway is also quite common.
It happens to many of us:
- Trying to lose weight, but you end up eating more and exercising less;
- Trying to write a book, but distractions keep on social media all day
- Wanting to earn more, but you’re stuck at your current job
- Wanting to stop procrastination, but you can’t take action
- And so forth.
To overcome that, we need self-discipline. With discipline, you can be more consistent, avoid distractions, and keep your emotions from interfering with your career and investment decisions.
But being more disciplined is easier said than done. There are two crucial things to discipline: First is doing less. When you do less, your efforts and energy are more concentrated and better spent. So you don’t run out of motivation very quickly.
Second is reducing friction.
I once became a member of a well–equipped gym, complete with a sauna and everything. It was a nice place. But it was a twenty-minute drive, and it wasn’t even along my way to the office. The result? I probably only went a dozen times in a year.
After that, I went to a gym that was on the way to my office. I had no excuse. Going to the gym was so easy I just went almost every day.
Once you have both factors, becoming disciplined becomes much easier. You get the idea. We don’t need to spend more time on that topic.
It’s much more important to quit the bad habits you might have. The habits that are destroying your self-discipline.
These are the 3 habits you can quit to achieve your 2023 goals.
1. Being overly critical of yourself
There’s a difference between coddling yourself and being too critical. Afterall, many people are raised believing they have to be tough on themselves to achieve things. Subscribing to “hustle culture” also doesn’t help.
As the early 20th century Wall Street trader, Jesse Livermore, puts it:
“A man must believe in himself and his judgment if he expects to make a living at his game.”
We all need a healthy amount of self-confidence if we want to succeed. Negative self-talk is counterproductive.
Often, unhealthy self-criticism comes from being too obsessed with one’s results. The thing is, many of our results are out of our control. For example, I can write a book with the goal of topping the NY Times Best Sellers list. But book sales aren’t within my direct control.
I can’t control how many people buy my book. But I can control the quality of the book I write. I also control the time and effort I spend marketing it. And it’s up to me to plan and execute a marketing strategy to maximize sales.
So criticizing yourself for results you have no control over is a waste of energy. Instead, focus on doing your best in the process of achieving your goals.
- Want to lose weight? Start walking/running every day. Or find a suitable exercise routine and stick to it daily. Commit to not skipping. And even if you do skip because life gets in the way, continue it again the following day.
- Want to write a book? Write one page today. Then another tomorrow. And so forth.
- Want to change careers? Research income-generating skills and find time each day to develop those skills. When you’re ready, you can apply those skills to your new job and career.
It’s all about being consistent with the process. And doing your best every day. The results will follow. And you won’t need to criticize yourself for it because you know you did everything you could.
2. Accepting distractions in your life
Many people who think they’re not disciplined enough tend to focus on coping with distractions rather than eliminating them. They try to find ways to focus harder, get more willpower, and resist temptation.
But aside from extreme things, like natural disasters or major illnesses, distractions aren’t an unstoppable force you have no control over.
Let’s take working at your desk, for example. It’s easier to get distracted when something unrelated to work — like your phone or a TV — is right in front of you. Instead of wasting mental energy preventing yourself from checking your social media or watching TV; wouldn’t it be more effective when you don’t see them at all in the first place?
If you’re like me, you like to work in a quiet area with no people so I don’t get tempted to lose my focus. I also keep my desk clean to avoid clutter, which helps me focus on my work the following day when I sit there again.
Clutter is always a potential source of distraction. This is a way of life that says no to any form of distraction. To me, it’s unacceptable to allow distracting things in my workspace.
You should simply never try to cope with a distraction that you can remove. This principle can be applied to many areas of discipline.
- If you want to be more disciplined with your diet, don’t rely on willpower to avoid eating junk food every day. Just stop bringing home junk food in the first place!
- Browsing your phone often makes you sleep later at night. So if you want to sleep early and get up early, put your phone away from you when you go to bed.
- You can also hit two birds with one stone: Commit to only browse through your phone when you’re on a treadmill.
If you’ve been trying the coping-with-distractions approach for a while without much success, then it’s time to try a different approach. Instead of trying to change yourself, try changing your environment.
3. Ignoring what truly matters to you
It’s difficult to do something consistently when you feel like you’re forcing yourself to do it. That’s why some people can’t maintain their diet, workout routine, or career — because they don’t enjoy it.
Peter Drucker puts it well in his book, Managing Oneself:
“Success in the knowledge economy comes to those who know themselves — their strengths, their values, and how they best perform… It takes far more energy and work to improve from incompetence to mediocrity than it takes to improve from first-rate performance to excellence.”
When I started going to the gym my only goal was to look good. I cared too much about other people’s opinions that it became a major source of motivation to work out.
Of course, that motivation crumbled fast. To become consistent, we must be motivated by something deeper and more personal.
Now, I train to prevent injuries and to feel better.
When you know and understand your real strengths and interests, you can focus on doing things you truly enjoy.
Action, action, action
You can listen to podcasts and YouTube videos and read all the books about becoming a better swimmer. But your swimming skill won’t get better until you get down to it and swim, swim, swim.
I’m a big proponent of learning and planning. But only action and execution will get you to your goals.
So this year, try to commit a set amount of time to doing and executing an action that gets you closer to your goal. Even 15 minutes of walking every day will make a huge impact on your health goals in the long term. And everyone has 15 minutes.
Don’t fall into the trap of “I’ll do it when [insert perfect life conditions we mostly use as an excuse].”
Do it now. Do it today. And keep it consistent.