Understanding what makes a person disciplined
Discipline is a cycle with triggers and feedback loops. It gets stronger or weaker over time, depending on how you leverage it. It looks different for everyone, depending on their values and goals, but it’s nevertheless a crucial part of building confidence and high-performance.
Every morning when I wake up, I have a series of decisions to make that have compounding impacts on my day. When my alarm goes off, do I hop out of bed? Do I go for my run? Do I create content? These early decisions have a huge effect on my happiness and productivity for the day. It’s a choice: will I win the day or will the day win me?
These decisions come down to my self-discipline. Discipline is the coach in your head who pushes you to do your best, even when you don’t feel like it. Sometimes the voice is strong, sometimes it’s a distant echo that you can’t hear through your pillows and soft blankets.
Practicing discipline creates habits. I call this “Autotelic Routine Execution.” When the urge to do something becomes habitualized, it takes less mental fortitude to get it done. Recall the 4 Stages of Learning:
- Blissful Ignorance
- Painful Awareness
- Amateur Expertise
The Autodidact operates on muscle memory. The mental and physical wheels are greased, and what was once challenging is now simple. The road to becoming an Autodidact is wrought with small decisions anchored in discipline that propel you toward habitualization. Practicing self-discipline makes the hard things easy and fun, which in turn makes self-growth more exciting.
Practicing discipline starts with inspiration, motivation, or determination. No matter what the catalyst for your self-control, leaning into it with all your might is the only way to break from complacency.
Inspiration is the least powerful trigger for discipline. It is bred from external sources; others can inspire within you a feeling of potential that gives you permission to take the first step.
Motivation ebbs and flows like inspiration. It is an internal drive toward a goal you want to achieve, and is responsible for your dedication to progress towards the objective. Since motivation is an internal force, it’s more powerful than inspiration; however, since it fluctuates, it’s still not the strongest of the discipline triggers.
Determination is the ability to grit your teeth, get out of bed, and go for that run even when you’re running low on sleep and it’s raining outside. It’s an internal force that, no matter how you’re feeling, orients you toward action. This is the most powerful trigger because it’s deeply personal, powerful, and gets the job done every time.
Willpower sits in the gap between the catalyst and the activity. No matter what incentivizes you to act, it is the next stage in the discipline cycle.To use the running example:
Trigger: I listened to a podcast about a woman who ran 26 marathons in 26 days. Now I’m inspired to run regularly.
Willpower: I got up at 6:30am, got dressed, laced my shoes, and am leaving the house to run three miles.
Where the trigger is a mental force that encourages you to act, willpower is the first step toward executing the activity. You’ve triggered the willpower necessary to accomplish the day’s goal.
Execution is the implementation of willpower over the course of an activity; it is the act of completing the objective. If you plan to run three miles, don’t stop at two. Without willpower, you’ll never start. Without execution, you’ll never finish.
The act of reviewing performance creates feedback loops that incentivize you to get up and do it again. After finishing your objective, it’s important to make note of how it went. Mood, level of performance, and any quantifiable metrics are imperative to keep in mind as you assess your progress. In the example of running, consider having a spreadsheet to track distance, time, and any other notes such as,, “Didn’t feel like doing it today, but I completed the run!”
Reviewing is part self-competition and part encouragement. Over time, these feedback loops compound and eventually force the new habit to take hold and drive your behavior.
Discipline is the cornerstone of habit creation. Exercising this muscle will enable you to reach new heights as a Lifestyle Engineer. Recognize what trigger pushes you to take action, then complete the activity and review your performance. Implementing this discipline cycle will diminish the need for triggers and willpower. With enough energy and attention, it will become an automatic way to win your day every single day.
What is Beanie & Blazer?
Beanie & Blazer is a lifestyle engineering company built to align people’s personal values and goals with their habits and behaviors. Our methodology offers our community clarity of purpose, a tribe of mentors and supporters, and reclamation of time in their busy lives. We systematically train people to become high performers.
Want more content like this?
Subscribe to our newsletter, The Hive, to get weekly snippets about performance and mindset.