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The Building Self-Discipline Challenge

I’m issuing a challenge, to anyone who’d like to work out their self-discipline muscle, who’d like some mental training:

Pick one self-discipline task to do for five minutes, every day this month.

Commit to doing it publicly, or at least to a few friends or loved ones. Report to them weekly.

Or you can do the challenge on your own — commit on Facebook or Twitter, for example, and report every week to hold yourself accountable. The self-discipline muscle can get stronger with daily workouts, or weaker with disuse.

By Leo Babauta from zenhabits.net

Why This Challenge is Important

So many of us suffer from problems that are caused by a lack of self-discipline:

  • Procrastinating on work and falling behind, which causes us to be overwhelmed and stressed out, unhappy at work, doing less-than-stellar work
  • Putting off exercise and eating right, which can cause all kinds of long-term health problems
  • Putting off dealing with our finances, which just makes the financial problems worse and worse
  • Putting off dealing with our relationships, having difficult conversations, which can lead to all kinds of difficulties
  • Getting into a funk of distraction, laziness, guilt, depression, loneliness, and self-hatred
  • Putting off writing that novel, creating a business, working on a dream project

Not fun stuff. If those are our problems, then it’s helpful to stop and really feel the pain that we’re causing ourselves. Feel the difficulties, the struggles, the piling up of problems. When we stop and consider all of this, then taking five minutes a day to help ourselves build a muscle that will make our lives better is not too much to ask. It’s actually a loving act.

How to Succeed at the Challenge

It’s easy to commit to a challenge, and then fail. That doesn’t feel so great. It just reinforces your belief that you don’t have self-discipline.

So, because I like you, I’d like to share some tips for succeeding at the challenge:

  1. Understand your Why. Are you doing it so you can start turning your life around? To improve your health? To finally pursue your dream? You have to want it, dude.
  2. Have reminders around you so you don’t forget. Put up a note somewhere, or several places. Put a reminder on your computer or phone.
  3. Ask for someone in your life to support you. Could be a roommate, spouse, best friend, your kids, a parent. Ask them to remind you, to ask you about it regularly, to encourage you when you feel like quitting.
  4. Make the task really easy. In fact, you could challenge yourself just to start every day. If you want to meditate, for example, then your challenge might be to just get your butt on the cushion. Make it so easy you can’t say no.
  5. Trick yourself into doing it. When we procrastinate, we often talk ourselves out of doing something: “Oh, just one more video on Youtube won’t hurt!” But for this challenge, talk yourself into doing it: “Just one pushup, then I can watch that video.”
  6. See this as a way to build a good relationship with yourself. You’re building trust, after ruining that trust for so long. Each time you are about to do your challenge for the day, just tell yourself, “I keep promises to myself. I am worthy of my own trust.”
  7. If you do mess up or are forced to miss a day (or two), don’t let it ruin the challenge. It’s a bump in the road. How sucky would cars be if they crashed with every bump in the road? Instead, just hit the bump and keep going. Learn from it. Do whatever it takes to get back on track.

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