Motivation and Discipline – How to take control
Discipline is what separates a great person from an average person and a successful person from a failure. In short, anyone who is willing to put their mind to something and push themselves to achieve it, will excel above the rest.
Bill Gates, Bruce Lee, Stephen Hawking, Bill Clinton, Sylvester Stallone…none of these modern day successes were born any better than the average person. In fact, some of them had/have handicaps that many of us don’t, from dysfunctional families to speech impediments to being paralysed by Motor Neurone Disease. They weren’t born with exceptional genetics or had good luck or God on their side. Their great achievements have all been the result of their own hard work and their phenomenal discipline.
This is a capability we all have within us. The only thing stopping you from being rich, athletic, a genius and in great shape, is yourself!
Unfortunately many men and women would much prefer to seek short-term fun and comfort than long term achievement. Instead of living to their potential, they do the opposite and allow themselves to deteriorate. Slobs, nerds and geeks, wimps, layabouts, failures and losers, fat people, drug addicts, smokers, heavy drinkers, even many depressives…they can all transform themselves and realise their potential simply by breaking their poor habits and exercising some discipline. It begins by taking control!
"I'll do it tomorrow"
"I'm too tired/too cold/too hot/too scared…"
"I’m too old/young/tall/short…"
“I’m not cut out for this.”
“Other people make it difficult for me.”
"Just a few beers/cigarettes/spliffs/cakes won't hurt."
"I've had a tough week, I'll just relax today and start that task tomorrow."
These are all phrases that precede procrastination and idleness. Next time you find yourself wanting to be lazy, pay attention to what you tell yourself. Or, alternatively, pay attention to other people’s excuses and see how they attempt to justify it. Laziness doesn't come naturally and people feel they must talk themselves into it and make excuses to overcome feelings of guilt and uneasiness.
However, that guilt and uneasiness is there for a reason. The human mind and body are there to be used, and every able-bodied, able-minded man and woman not even trying to reach their potential should feel ashamed…especially when there are people with severe disabilities and afflictions living full and happy lives and achieving so many great things.
Next time you catch yourself looking for excuses, blaming other people or external conditions, stop and think about what you are saying and why. What you are really saying is “I’m too lazy”.
Laziness is a habit!
Humans are very adaptable to environments and lifestyles. If your mind and your body get accustomed to relaxing, they become less equipped to deal with tasks. When you don't use your brain, braincells die! When you don't use your muscles, they become flaccid and weak! The more you stagnate, the more you deteriorate. Some studies have even shown that the human body can literally close down certain faculties and organs if they stop being used for long periods.
However, just as some people can't move from the sofa, there are some people who can’t sit down and take a break. These people are in the habit of working hard, pushing themselves and keeping active. Being lazy defies their nature. They don’t collapse from exhaustion or moan about aches and fatigue, because their mind and body has adapted to their active lifestyles. In fact, they usually sleep better at night and wake more refreshed than lazy people.
Laziness is a learned state. It can be unlearned, and I’m going to explain some ways you can do just that.
Breaking lazy habits
Discipline is not something you are born with; it comes with practice. The more you socialise, the more sociable you get. The more you exercise, the fitter you get. The more you read, the wiser you get.
The key to overcoming laziness is to take action. No one is asking you to go parachuting, run a marathon and write a novel by the end of the week, but maybe you could start by tidying your room, taking a short walk or reading a chapter or two of a book. It won’t yield any staggering results, but it’s the first step in breaking old habits and forming new ones. You just need a little jump start.
Once you finish a small task (i.e. tidying up), pay close attention to that feeling you get afterwards. Unlike that guilty, dejected and lethargic feeling you get after playing computer games or watching TV all day, you should feel a slight sense of achievement and self-control. You may even feel more alert and active than usual. It’s a good feeling that just gets better the more you do.
I am assuming that you, like most people, have a bedtime routine in which you wash your face, brush your teeth and change into your bed clothes. Not many people see it as a duty or feel that it infringes on their time. That’s because it is a learned habit. With practice, you can feel the same way about completing important tasks, self-improvement and working towards your goals.
Now it’s time to be more specific with your activities. If you use a computer regularly, you can do this in a text file or Word document. If not, then buy yourself a small notebook or diary. This is going to be your “to do list” and is going to be one of the most useful things you can do to overcome laziness and get yourself motivated!
Every night, before going to bed, write a list of tasks you aim to complete the following day and label them in order of importance. You can start adding bigger and more tasks once you feel you can handle them, but for now, just stick to a handful of small tasks.
An example list would look something like this:
1. Pay credit card bill
2. Work out – legs
3. Grocery shopping
4. Read Chapter 1 and 2 of “bookofchoice”
5. Get hair cut
The following day you must attempt to complete all of these tasks, giving priority to those at the top. If you find that you cannot complete task 4 & 5, for example, you can carry those over to Wednesday, but you must try your hardest to complete your top 3 at the very least. Sometimes you can combine two or more tasks at once. For instance, on the way to the bank to pay your credit card you could get your hair cut and then stop off at the supermarket and do your grocery shopping on the way home.
Every time you complete a task, cross it out or place a tick next to it in your log book.
There is nothing to stop you relaxing and watching TV or whatever, but limit yourself to an hour between tasks or wait until all tasks are complete. This acts as an incentive to complete tasks, and instead of putting off important duties, you are fitting your relaxation time around your duties and thus forming positive and productive habits. You will also find that by actively completing tasks on a daily basis you will gain momentum, so they get quicker and easier to deal with.
Aside from your daily tasks, write down a list of tasks you aim to complete before the end of the month. As a student, I usually put tasks such as essays and a book list in this category. This helps to keep me within a time frame and makes sure the following month is free for any additional tasks.
This list is also very handy as a reminder for birthdays, paying bills, attending interviews and so on, that must be done within that month.
Once you get into the hang of this, you may find that you complete all your monthly tasks early. This would be a good opportunity to add some educational reading, creativity, writing, DIY or something generally productive to your list.
Resident tasks are those tasks you do every day or every month, and become permanent entries on your lists. On my daily list, for example, I have tasks such as “drink 2 litres of water”, “20 minutes meditation” and “take vitamins”. On my monthly list, I have “tidy, polish and vacuum” and “pay bills”.
This serves as a reminder and helps integrate certain trivial tasks into your routine. I know some people who haven’t vacuumed their house for a year, or changed their bedding for 6 months! I know other people who keep forgetting to pay their bills and get fined for late payments, all because they get sidetracked by other “more important” things. Keeping these tasks written down in your journal, waiting to be crossed off, will stop them from being neglected.
Many people suffer from stress on a daily basis and worry about looming problems they need to face, tasks they need to complete, deadlines they must meet and so on. As a result, the stress weighs heavily upon them, distracts from everything good in their life, makes them irritable and drives loved ones away, and even damages their health. These people pay extortionate prices for stress relief programs, drugs, hypnotherapy, herbs and new age gimmicks.
Completing tasks and facing upto your problems as suggested previously is possibly the best form of stress relief available as it removes the root causes. Afterall, if you complete an important task today, you don’t have to worry about it next week or the week after, and have just saved yourself a week, month or more of stress! Meanwhile, you will be able to concentrate better, your health and mental state will improve, so will your mood and relationships with others, and of course, you will begin to appreciate your free time a lot more, without stress, distraction or guilt.