Mastering Discipline, Consistency and Focus - Part 1

John Braat

Jonathan Braat / September 15, 2022 6 min read

This is part 1 of a 3 part series on self-discipline, consistency and focus. How can you become more disciplined? Here is what worked for me.

I consider myself a fairly disciplined person.

But this hasn't always been the case. I actually dropped out of high school (the german equivalent) because I wasn't disciplined enough to bear with it.

Since then, I have completed (then) mandatory army service, caught up on qualifications to study, finished a Bachelor as well as Master of Science in Computer Science and went on to work six-figure jobs.

Whether you want to build a business, progress in your current job, learn a new skill or even level up your personal relationships, discipline, consistency and focus are the foundation you need to reach your goals.

In this article I will talk about discipline and share my personal learnings and tips on how to improve it. I will use "wanting to be healthy" as an example because it is very relatable to most people, but you can apply the approaches covered to virtually any of your goals.

Discipline

Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishments.

  • Jim Rohn

What is discipline

Discipline is essentially self-control.

Do you know that moment when you see a bag of chips, lollies, or candy and your mouth starts watering? You know you want it, but your head tells you "Wait... we already had a burger. If you eat this, you'll regret it later." Not eating it is self-control. You resist the urge.

It's similar with things you think you should do, but aren't because of <insert reason>.

Imagine this scenario:

You know your health is important, so you decide to do regular workouts. It's Monday evening and you just finished work. You are a bit hungry, Mike annoyed you at work, and you can't be arsed to go for that run. Instead of giving in, you get over yourself. You put on your workout clothes and do it anyway.

This is discipline.

You keep the promise to yourself despite things getting tough or hard.

Developing discipline has several benefits including:

  • Reduced anxiety
  • Increased personal happiness
  • Becoming more resilient

In my experience, discipline comes down to resisting urges, powering through when times get tough and your ability to deal with failure.

1) How to resist urges

The lazy answer here is to say: "Well, just don't do those things." But there is actually a more proactive and methodical approach to resist unwanted urges.

Let's say you are struggling with eating too many unhealthy snacks at home. Recognize and accept this. Now think. What can you proactively do to decrease the likelihood of eating the unhealthy snacks when the urge hits you?

Instead of tempting yourself by stocking your pantry with 20 bags of chips and 3 different trays of soda, you could for example leave those at the store. It is much less likely you will put on your shoes, hop into your car and drive to the store to get a bag of chips when you feel the urge to eat them.

Building failure resilient systems will go a long way in making you more disciplined.

Are you struggling with self-control eating a whole bag of gummy bears? Don't place the bag next to you, instead take a handful and put the bag into the pantry. Are you struggling with being distracted by your phone during work, or browsing reddit in bed? (one of my vices) Put the phone into another room before working/going to bed.

You get the point.

=> Make it hard to misstep.

Bonus tip: Try urge surfing.

  1. Recognize and acknowledge the unwanted urge or behaviour when it comes up.
  2. Notice your thoughts and feelings without trying to change or suppressing them.
  3. Ride the urge out for 1-30 minutes (time is up to you) => don't act on it, but acknowledge its existence

Urges rarely last longer than 30 minutes. Riding them out without feeding into them, e.g.: obsessing, justifying that it wouldn't be so bad, etc., helped me a lot. After the time has passed, I usually even forget I wanted to do whatever it was.

2) How to keep doing hard things

Whether you want to build a successful business, or get that beach body you have always dreamed of. You will have to put in the work. At some point on your journey you will "not feel like" going to the gym after working for 10 hours. Or you don't want to do that pesky task for your business - in my case it's marketing.

Identify the person you want to be: "I want to be the owner of a successful business" or "I want to be a healthy person"

To be the person you have to act like them.

Now, everytime you find it difficult to do the hard thing ask yourself this:

"What does a <insert desired trait> person do?"

Would the healthy person skip the workout? Or in the case of the business owner ... Would the owner of a successful business neglect marketing?

This also makes resisting unwanted urges a bit easier. A healthy person doesn't eat burgers every day. Once you have decided to be the person, and actively reflect on these micro decisions, you will notice the difference.

3) Dealing with failure

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.

  • Winston S. Churchill

How well you handle failure can decide how long you can keep going. It's normal to fail. Everybody does.

Successful people differentiate themselves by learning from their failures instead of beating themselves up, or giving up entirely.

These are some common mistakes when dealing with failure:

  • Blaming others / not taking responsibility
  • Unrealistic expectations for your performance
  • Thinking that failing makes you a "failure"
  • Not learning from your mistakes

Maybe you miss a workout because your day didn't allow for it. Perhaps you couldn't resist eating three pieces of cake at that party.

Don't let this bring you down. Mistakes happen. Learn from them and adjust accordingly.

Closing thoughts

Dropping out of high school was really, really stupid... But you know what? I'm somehow glad it happened. I'm glad I could learn from this massive blunder and change accordingly.

Take your failures as learnings and make the best of it. At the end of the day you can only go forward.

NOTE: a big chunk of my learnings come from the application of tips and tricks from the book Atomic Habits by James Clear. Highly recommended read (not affiliated).

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