Self-discipline is about leaning into resistance. Taking action in spite of how you feel. Living a life by design, not by default. But most importantly, it’s acting in accordance with your thoughts – not your feelings.- Samuel Davies.
Change is the corner stone of human condition. Without change, we would stagnate and perish as creatures who are incapable of change or evolution do. So it is with this in mind that we address the issue underlying self discipline. What motivates it in the first place-the desire for behaviour change.
This can be broadly classified into three broad realms. One is the cultivation of self discipline which we will address in the article. The next realm is building of habits which can give you the advantage of consistent daily practice. The final realm is the change to your environment which can influence the ways in you think and act.
In this article, the focus will be on self discipline and the various manner of building them. Self discipline is one the hardest skills to master. It can separate the wheat from the chaff. It can be the difference between achieving your dreams and staring down the abyss that separates your abilities from your will power to do them.
The difference between motivation and self discipline is that- Motivation is what gets you through the gate to starting down the path of achieving your dreams, your habits and self discipline are what get you across the finish line.
Self discipline is what will keep you going on the days you feel too exhausted to move, the days when you feel overwhelmed and hopeless. Where motivation will falter, your self-discipline is what will help you pick up the slack in your education.
Here we will address a few ways of boosting your self-discipline in order to master yourself and by extension your dreams.
The very step towards attaining self discipline is to redefine yourself. The way you view yourself is what determines the attitudes and beliefs you have regarding the way you act towards your goal. For instance, if you view yourself as a less academically inclined individual, you will actually have less motivation and willpower to act on things that relate to education. There will also be backslide when you face a failure like a lower score in tests. This backslide can take the form of frustration, anger, apathy with your preparation.
In order to circumvent these feelings, we will urge you to attempt to redefine yourself. Visualize yourself as an achiever, as an academic and slowly but surely you will be able to level up your preparations. You may find your ability to understand concepts and the nature of the topics and ideas expanding. You’ll have a deeper grasp of the topics pertaining to UPSC. This is the power of self identity.
The crux here is to start thinking of behaviour change in terms of identity. This will not only ensure a deeper understanding of concepts but also that of behaviour and ideas surrounding your chosen self identity.
The why is often the most important part of this equation. The why is what wakes you up at 4 a.m. to study. We need a strong why to push us towards doing things on a regular basis. The why is what keeps you going in the face of demotivation and doubt.
A strong purpose is what differentiates winners from those who plod along life, days stretching endless. You why is what will give an edge over other competitors and it may even shine through in you interview.
So take some time to do some soul searching. Find your why. It can be anything you experience that makes you want to get up and push yourself hard. It can be because you want to make your parents proud. It can be the ambition to make a name for yourself. Your why is your own. It is something untouchable by anyone else. Finding it and guarding it is important because that is the light in the dark. It is what will sustain you and keep you through storms of self doubt, frustration or anger.
Find ways to befriend the discomfort you’re experiencing. Chances are, you’re new to the preparation of UPSC and are daunted by the sheer volume you have to study or by the idea of going up against millions of people.
Remember the adage, ‘Magic happens outside your comfort zone’. This is especially true with the UPSC exam. Discomfort is simply an avenue for growth and change of an individual. This is especially true for UPSC aspirants. You may walk in an ewe lamb of the world, aware and yet not of the world around you. It is through growing, both your knowledge and your world view, that you can actually move forward. This happens when you learn to embrace discomfort.
The other component to befriending discomfort is to accept the resistance you feel towards something you feel is difficult or beyond your capacity. Acknowledge that you don’t want to do this at all. Then account for this resistance whenever you need to do tasks that you feel are unpleasant.
The secret to overcoming this resistance is to practice doing what you dislike. It’s a lot like training your muscles, it will hurt initially but you can also build up the strength and capacity of your muscle through consistent practice. This is where you will enforce your self discipline muscle in your daily practice.
Calibrate the Basics:
When you build a house, the first things to consolidate will be the foundation, the ground beneath it and then you can build on that. In order to build up the basics of self discipline, you need to also look at three crucial aspects of yourself- sleep, exercise, nutrition.
Sleep– A lot of self discipline is tied into your ability to be well rested and refreshed. The more sleep deprived you are, the poorer your impulse control and the increased likelihood of emotional outbursts. Poor sleep also impedes your memory formation. Therefore this is an excellent every day area to focus on building your self-discipline skills.
Exercise– Exercise is the best area to practice building your self-discipline skills because it is the most blatant form of knowing if you’ve exercised any self discipline or not. It’s a simple yes or no answer. There are of course innumerable benefits to exercising contributing to memory formation, to deep consolidation of concepts, more intense concentration ability.
Nutrition- If sleep and exercise are the bricks building up the foundation of your house, then nutrition is the cement binding them together and enhancing the strength of all three together. Nutrition is important in maintaining health and optimizing our body’s performance. This is even more essential to as aspirant to maintain good health in order to prepare for the exam.
Meditation is a practice that has been proven to have many beneficial effects. According to studies conducted by Stanford University, meditation has been proven to be able to increase the grey matter, increase volume in areas dealing with emotional regulation and self control. This has also increased corticol thickness in areas related to paying attention. There are also studies which indicate that meditation increases focus, attention and memory.
Practicing meditation will be a hard challenge for oneself in the building of self discipline. It will also conversely improve your self determination, and discipline. This is similar to self sustaining loop. Pranayama meditation is especially useful for improving your concentration. This type of meditation can also be used on a consistent basis as a part of your study ritual.
By incorporating some of these ideas into your regular study schedule you may notice an increase in your will power. The ability to do what you feel resistance towards and what discomfits you. This is advantageous in as many endeavours as you choose to carry forward. We hope this helps. Happy Learning!