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Discipline tends to have a bad connotation. People dislike rules, and especially when they are enforced. Having organization is considered good, but discipline is bad. In fact, the very opposite is true. Discipline is a wonderful thing to treat yourself to. People who practice self discipline are much happier, because they know exactly what their ambitions are, and how they are going to get there. As defined by Forbes, “self discipline is the bridge between goals defined and goals accomplished.” But how can you start from nothing? Discipline comes naturally to some, but perhaps not to you. What tangible things can you do to bring the practice of discipline into your life?

Set Goals and Make a Schedule

In order to achieve your goals, you have to have them. Take yourself out to dinner and do some soul-searching. What do you want your life to look like? Get as specific as possible. What exact things are a part of your dream? Maybe your goals are obvious. You want to have a six pack, get out of debt, get a promotion at your job. Whatever it is, create a SMART goal (that means it is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time bound) that speaks to your need. Once you have this vision, make sure to have a calendar handy. Using reason, set a date to have this accomplished, and then do some simple math. If you want to paint your whole house, you have to start one room at a time. Put each room on the calendar. Physically create something to keep track of what you are supposed to do and when. Create time like you schedule meetings. The promises you make yourself are the most important, and maintaining this commitment to yourself is the best way to achieve your goals and practice self discipline.

Pour Maximum Time and Energy into It

I’m not kidding. If you put more time into something, it will get better, no matter what. The more you learn, refine, and practice, the better your outcomes. If your goal is to become a doctor, you had better get as many books as you can – and this is the hard part – and actually read them. Pick up your schedule and max out your free time to spend on your passion. Remember how you put it down in chunks to get accomplished? The best news is, if you end up with free time, you can do whatever you want then to get ahead of schedule and get this knocked out early. Create visual prompts. If you have a post it note on your mirror, computer, and alarm clock, you are way more likely to think of your baby steps and big picture throughout the day, and do some work to accomplish it when you find yourself in a lull.

Your Brain Will Thank You

Following this plan requires you to use executive function. Executive function is a brain based system that navigates planning, self control, and flexibility. Essentially, it is the discipline hub of your brain. Once you start working these parts, they actually get stronger. Science shows that your brain expands when you put more training into it. More than that, being in control of your life comes with perks of its own. Discipline reduces anxiety and improves resiliency in the face of struggle.

The best part of developing this control is that it creates momentum. If you start accomplishing goals in your fitness sector, that motivation expands across the whole pie chart of wishes. Suddenly, you are budgeting every month, meal prepping on Sundays, going to the gym before work, and you have become a morning person. It sounds unbelievable, but trust me, when you put your mind to something, that fire starts to burn in every part of your life.