How to achieve your goals by improving your self-discipline

Breakfast is not just the most important meal of the day, but also the most important meeting you’ll have: a chance to check in with yourself, remember what it’s all about, and strengthen your resolve to succeed. Success in business means not just managing your assets, your network, and your office, but above all: managing yourself. Ambition and hard work are a good start, but without rhythm and regularity it is easy to lose your flow, and wind up stranded from your original vision.

Simply put, in business there is no sustainability without self-discipline. If you are concerned that your dwindling energy levels are compromising your ability to fulfill your potential, that you are hiding from responsibilities that require regular attention, or that you’re giving in too frequently to distractions, it is time to take a serious look at your levels of self-control.

Fortunately, there are a number of techniques for doing so, many of which have been suggested or verified by experts. These can be as simple as hiding temptation from your sight or avoiding distractions. If you find yourself reaching for your smart phone every two minutes when you know you should be concentrating on your spreadsheets, hide it. Put it in a drawer or, better still, out back in your locker. Tests have shown this works with kids and candy – and what is that smart phone if not candy for your bored eyes?

Then there are more grown-up, professional methods you can try. We all become jaded with our ambitions from time to time. We forget why we got into the game in the first place, or are dragged down by the sensation that our competitors are achieving more with less. Giving in to these feelings will just make things worse. Instead, highlight the positive values that drive your daily work. Make a list of the reasons it’s important for you to stay strong and fulfill your responsibilities. And visualize the end results: not just how they will affect you, but the benefits they will have for other people. These techniques have been shown to strengthen the user’s willpower.

It can also be a question of lifestyle. Poor sleep invariably leads to poor self-discipline. This is not just a matter of fatigue-induced laziness: sleep deprivation actually affects the way your prefrontal cortex operates. That’s the part of the brain responsible for self-regulation, so it’s worth making sure it’s in top working order when it’s online! Another lifestyle factor is the company you keep. You need two kinds of friends (and hopefully they overlap a bit). The first kind is the type that exercise their own self-control in an exemplary manner. Hanging out with well-disciplined people makes you better disciplined. (Probably your mother told you that when you were hanging out with wrong’uns as a child!) The second type of buddy you need is someone who’s prepared to look out for you. Having friends or family members that give you regular reminders to stick to your good intentions can be really effective.

All the same, it’s important to make sure that you’re not chasing somebody else’s dream. It has been shown in studies that our willpower soon runs low if we’re trying to please others instead of focusing on our own desires. If you’re not sure whether this is you, return to our first method: make that list of personal values. If they don’t match the goal for which you’re aiming, maybe you’re honing your discipline towards the wrong goal.

Now that you have a pretty good idea on how to pursue your self-discipline workout regime, one last tip: start with a bang. Don’t try to segue softly into your new mode of operation, but choose instead a specific start point and call it Day Zero. Research has shown that setting a date to start your new regimen can actually make you more likely to see it through.

For a step-by-step plan on how to integrate these ideas and more into your self-discipline campaign, have a run through this new visual guide. Self-discipline is not just a trait you are born with or without: it is a skill you can build on and practice on your rise to the top.

G. John Cole is a digital nomad and freelance writer. Specialising in leadership, digital media and personal growth, his passions include world cinema and biscuits. A native Englishman, he is always on the move, but can most commonly be spotted in Norway, the UK and the Balkans.

Image: Flickr

Warren Buffett on hard work

WARREN Buffett‘s 2006 letter to shareholders makes for very interesting reading.

One of the sentiments that Buffett expresses in the very first page of his letter is one of gratitude to the managers who have run his companies over the last 42 (now 44) years. Buffett indicates that he and Charlie Munger, Berkshire’s vice chairman, run a company that has turned out to be a very big business; one with 217,000 employees and annual revenues approaching $100 billion.

We certainly didn’t plan it that way. Charlie began as a lawyer, and I thought of myself as a security analyst. Sitting in those seats, we both grew skeptical about the ability of big entities of any type to function well. Size seems to make many organizations slow-thinking, resistant to change and smug. In Churchill’s words: “We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us.” Here’s a telling fact: Of the ten non-oil companies having the largest market capitalization in 1965 – titans such as General Motors, Sears, DuPont and Eastman Kodak – only one made the 2006 list.

Instead of taking personal credit for Berkshire’s successes, Buffett pays tribute to the managers who have successfully led his companies over the years, and says he knows that he wouldn’t have enjoyed many of the duties that come with their positions – meetings, speeches, foreign travel, the charity circuit and governmental relations.

Buffett claims to have taken the easy route.

My only tasks are to cheer [my managers] on, sculpt and harden our corporate culture, and make major capital-allocation decisions.

If Buffett has taken the easy route, then it is a path that no-one else has cared or managed to follow. From 1964 to 2007, Buffett and his team have managed to grow the net worth of Berkshire Hathaway by 400,863%, no small feat.

Whether or not Buffett has taken the ‘easy’ route, one thing is clear, he hasn’t lost his sense of humour. Buffett says that he has allowed each of his trusted managers to run their own show over the years. Having a self-effacing sense of humour and, not wanting to miss an opportunity, he quips:

For me, Ronald Reagan had it right: “It’s probably true that hard work never killed anyone – but why take the chance?”

To live in a world full of people as lazy as Buffett, if only we should be so lucky.