Are you always throwing a fit at the mall or being bossy to your friends? Perhaps you’ve a habit of putting certain things off till the last minute or in general find it hard to stick to most things you plan to do. Whichever the area(s) are in which you’re lacking discipline, try not to lose heart. Just follow these steps.
- Don’t put yourself down for being undisciplined. Knocking yourself for this is unlikely to help, as it’s most likely it’ll make you feel de-motivated and possibly even depressed (depending on the extent this habit has affected your life). Instead, bear in mind that it’s not unusual and that this is an ability that can be both learned and mastered. It’s just likely to take time, as with trying anything new.
- Think about why you want to discipline yourself. Is there a particular goal you’re trying to achieve but you feel certain obstacles are getting in the way? Maybe you want to become an early riser, but have a habit of sleeping in really late. Or perhaps you’re trying to lose weight, but don’t like exercise. Put some quiet time aside to think through this, and take as long as you need to.
- Create an action plan form. This can be done in table form, either by hand or using a PC package such as MS Word or Excel. Don’t worry about completing it at this point. That’s next! Consider adding a relevant goal title at the top of this form, such as for example Become More Disciplined. After doing that add the following column headings in sequence:
- Time to Begin
- Possible Problems
- Strategies to overcome The Problems
- Progress Report
- Complete the column boxes under the appropriate headings. See the below guidelines on how to do this for each one:
- Action. Actions will be whichever steps you might have already thought of, or are about to try and think of, in an attempt to work towards your goal. This could be anything from limiting your time on an unproductive activity to economising on spending habits. If thinking of ideas is something you are finding difficult, brainstorming is a helpful technique for this. You might also find asking a family relative, friend or someone else you know useful. It’s likely that you will think of multiple actions, for which you will need to include multiple rows. Again take as much time as you need, and include everything you can think of.
- Time to Begin. Next think of a time in which to start each action. You might plan for this to today, tomorrow or a later time in the week/month. Keep this planning realistic by taking into account any time restrictions which will or are likely to occur. For example, if the action happens to be “Start waking up at 6 am each day” you are unlikely to find it helpful deciding to try this the same day if it’s already afternoon time by the time you’ve thought of it.
- Possible Problems. Next, take into account any difficulties you feel are likely to occur with each of the steps (step 2 should help with this). For example, if you decided to pick the “wake up at 6am” action but know it’s a pretty sure thing that when the alarm goes off you’re only going to press the “snooze” button and give in to the temptation to doze off again then you could jot down something like “I’ll just fall asleep again”. By identifying such obstacles at this stage, you’ll increase your chances of success of reaching your goal in the long run! Again, think through each action carefully at a time when completing the information.
- Strategies to overcome The Problems. Again, you could find brainstorming or asking somebody else’s opinion good ways of coming up with ideas for this part. Alternatively, thinking of things which have worked well at some stage in the past in specific situations could be a good starting point. However, if you know deep down something is highly unlikely to work as a strategy from past experience (for example, promising yourself you will talk yourself into getting up early next time when this has already failed on a number of occasions) – discard the idea. By trying to re-use methods which already have not worked, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. Move onto other ideas (for example, it’s possible setting an alarm clock some distance away from where you sleep could be more successful in waking you up as it takes more effort to switch it off).
- Progress Report. No planning is need for this part. All that’s required is that you start your actions/implement your decided problem solving strategies at the planned times, and when carrying them out make a note of the date and whether or not the result was successful.
- Implement the plan. Keep this up for at least a few days to get a clear idea of whether or not it is working for you – remembering to fill out the necessary progress information.
- Review the plan. Do this at the end of the time period you’ve been implementing it for. Look through the progress comments you logged during that time and take into account anything that went well as well as anything which didn’t go so well. For the things that didn’t, ask yourself if there is anything useful you can learn from the experience(s) which will stand you in better stead for next time and incorporate this into your plan for next time. However, if this isn’t the case consider dropping the current strategy you are using and try an alternative. Returning to the earlier suggested methods of thinking up ideas is advisable if you feel you are struggling with this.
- Don’t give up! You might find for the first time you try implementing an action plan, or even the first few times, you don’t achieve the full results you hoped for. However, don’t allow yourself to become discouraged. Learning anything new often takes trial and error, and it’s only by giving up that you’re sure to never achieve your goal. Keep a persistent attitude.
- Putting in the effort to do homework on time could be good way to practice disciplining yourself.
- Don’t expect overnight changes.
Sources and Citations
- Mind Over Mood (Dennis Greenberger & Christine Padesky)
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