The Triad of Self-Mastery
Developing self-mastery consists of self-discipline, prudence, and practicing temperance or moderation. With these character strengths we lay a foundation for creating success.
To develop self-mastery we also need life purpose, goals, and a strong sense of responsibility and accountability.
To accomplish our most noble ambitions it is essential to cultivate
the virtue of temperance and its character strengths.
A foundation of self-mastery is developing discipline and self-control.
To accomplish ourselves in meaningful ways, and fulfill our deepest purposes, requires that we practice self-discipline in the use of our time, energy, and resources.
Studies have found that people with good self-discipline are happier because they make positive decisions more easily. They also tend to make more informed rational decisions, and hence use prudence, rather than reacting from impulses or feelings. Those with good amounts of self-discipline also spend less time deciding on whether to indulge in behaviors that are harmful to their health. (Hoffman 2013)
Here are some keys to improving self-discipline:
1. Identify a goal that is important to you
It can be difficult to exercise self-restraint and discipline unless we have specific goals and aspirations. Having a goal or strong life purpose helps greatly with improving our self-discipline. Our goals also need to give us a sense of meaning. If we feel deep meaning and purpose about something, it will be easier to exercise self-discipline.
2. Know the reason why this is important to you
Our 'why' is connected to our most important purposes, and is the core reason why we do what we do. To be discipline requires that we have a strong reason for doing something. If there is no meaningful reason, purpose, or why, it is unlikely that we will be able to maintain a discipline.
Is your why connected to your family, personal ambitions, community, or life purpose?
3. Remove relevant distractions and temptations
Whether you know it or not, our lives are surrounded by distractions and temptations. These may also connect to our impulses and desires, and when we allow these things to get the best of our attention, we will lose our self-restraint and discipline. Turn off the phone and wifi, find a quiet personal space, and create buffers and boundaries that give you the space and time you need to be focused and disciplined.
4. Create the space and time for practicing the discipline and stick to it
We accomplish our goals when we give ourselves the appropriate amount of time and space to complete the relevant tasks. Making a routine schedule is essential for most things requiring self-discipline. If we don't schedule in the time and space, we will have missed one of the foundational elements required for exercising our discipline. Keep to a regular schedule with all things relating to self-discipline.
5. Find small things that are easy to exercise self-control with, and practice these
Some self-disciplines can feel like monumental tasks, while others may come more easily. For myself, it is easy to maintain discipline around exercising and caring for my body. I have a harder time exercising discipline around waking up early and keeping finishing projects. However, when I maintain the discipline of exercise, it helps me to keep committed to larger and more difficult disciplines.
6. Set smaller goals that allow you to get wins and feel like you have accomplished something
This key point is also connected to self-confidence, and when we set small goals regarding our self-discipline, and accomplish them, we can see the benefits, gain encouragement, and know that our efforts are giving us benefits.
7. You will need to practice and build in repetition
Discipline is developed, maintained, and improved upon when we practice the good behavior regularly. Without repetition we will not establish a firm ground for the discipline.
8. Give yourself rewards when you reach certain milestones of accomplishment
In order to maintain discipline we need to see results and get rewards. Imagine exercising but seeing no results, would you continue with it? Likely not, and this is why many people give up on exercise, they don't see the results they want. Crash diets without rewards are also doomed to fail, if there is no reward for the hard work and effort.
9. Don't let the inner critic get the best of you, practice self-love and compassion
The inner critic loves to sabotage our efforts, and say things like, 'you won't be able to succeed at this,' or 'what's the point of giving up this bad habit, you not good enough anyway,' Look out for this kind of negative self talk because it can be a major spoiler for our best intentions.
10. Be Accountable
When we have to be accountable we are more likely to maintain our self-discipline. Accountability can come in the form of responsibility to other people, or even to ourself. However, when we need to be accountable to others it helps keep us on track. Being accountable to our families, managers, employers, constituents, and shareholders can help us to keep to our disciplines.