I’ve become a little bit of a maniac about discipline and willpower lately. Again, not because I have SO much of it but because I have a little of it and I want more. I’m still a lot like the rest of the modern world: unfocused, lazy, addicted to my smartphone. But I think I’ve got the not-so-secret secret to building discipline more or less figured out. It isn’t easy, but it works. Ready? Let’s go.
Think of discipline/will-power like a muscle. You need to exercise it to maintain what you have, and you need to exercise it even more to increase its size/power/endurance etc.. With me so far? Cool. Let’s extend this analogy further.
Say (for some reason) you wanted to be able to dead lift 300 pounds. Would you start off trying to pick up 300 pounds? No. Unless you wanted to poop yourself trying, you would begin by lifting something that was much lighter, and then build up to it gradually over time. This strategy reduces the risk of injury and helps you build the muscle mass necessary to achieve your goal of lifting 300 pounds.
Ok. Now let’s say, instead of lifting 300 pounds, you want to get rid of all your bad habits (social media, junk food, smoking, etc.) and adopt a whole bunch of good habits (exercise, eating vegetables, etc.). Don’t try and do this all at once! You’ll poop your pants trying! Pick one thing and start doing it every day. I’ll make it even easier, pick a new good habit (so you’re not giving anything up). Pick a new habit that takes less than 10 minutes of your day to accomplish. It could be making your bed each morning, shaving every day, eating eggs instead of breaking your fast with sugar-frosted-diabeta-crumbs. Just pick something easy to do that will add value to your life, and do it every day. Do it for a month.
After a month passes, if you’ve been able to stick with it 80% of the time, you’ll start to notice something. That thing that was a minor pain in the ass no longer hurts like it did week one. It’s become like brushing your teeth. You might not be delighted by the experience, but it feels good to get it out of the way.
Once you’ve reached this plateau, you’re ready for more weight (your brain’s gonna have sick willpower abs when we’re done, bro). Keep your first habit going, and pick another good habit. How about packing your lunch before bed? Now that your willpower has gotten accustomed to the new daily routine, it’s important to give yourself a stretch assignment so you can build your discipline muscles up even more.
You might need to send yourself a reminder or something when you get started, but you’ll probably pick this new habit up quicker and with less pain than the first.
Now here’s the really cool part. If you keep this up, the bad stuff starts to get easier and easier to cut out. With this system and (if I’m honest, a big assist from the Man Upstairs), I cut out cigarettes and porn over the past two years. Cigarettes because cancer. Porn because I’d like to see you get something done at home alone with a whole internet’s worth of ladies at your beck and call.
One last thing. I should probably mention, this “adding weight” system works well enough for the average Joseph or Josephine, but if you’re a capital “A” Addict with a history of substance abuse, you need to get in a program and start praying. My silly blog post isn’t man enough to help you OK?