What sets those with incredible self-discipline apart from those who just go with the flow?
Quite a lot, as it turns out.
When nobody else is around to impose the rules, two things happen:
Some people sink and others soar.
The difference is simple and radical: self-discipline.
So what defines these self-disciplined folks? Let’s take a look.
Self-control is a choice, but it’s also a habit.
Those who exhibit great self-control have honed this skill over time, developing a reflex where they don’t just act on instinct but consciously choose their actions instead.
They may want to reach for the junk food or text their toxic ex when they feel lonely one night, but they consciously choose not to do so.
And they wake up the next morning feeling a million times better as a result, ready to face the day with determination and energy.
The next time they need self-control it comes just a tiny bit easier, too. Because they’re making a habit of it and crafting their self-image around it.
2) Staying on task
Self-disciplined people tend to be highly mission-oriented.
They are good at staying on task and focusing on what they’re trying to accomplish.
Instead of getting caught up in diversions or temporary pleasures, self-disciplined people are able to keep themselves in line.
This is especially true at work and in their life goals, where they have an objective and put all their energy and attention toward it.
3) Grit under pressure
Self-disciplined individuals have a lot of grit under pressure.
When the going gets tough they don’t make excuses or complain, they buckle down and find a way to get the job done.
Instead of looking for excuses, they look for solutions.
If they can’t find solutions they try to learn any lesson possible from failure and disappointment.
4) High decisiveness
Those with remarkable self-discipline don’t defer decisions to others. They make decisions themselves even when it’s hard.
If they don’t, who will?
They make a decision when it needs to be made and don’t try to pass the buck.
It might be easier to push decisions off on other people or avoid them in the short-term, but disciplined people know that avoiding making a decision ultimately just makes everything harder in the long run.
5) Organizational acumen
Self-disciplined people are extremely organized.
Even if it doesn’t come naturally to them, they go the extra mile to keep a schedule and stick to it.
They try to keep their living space organized and clean as well, making their bed in the morning and having a plan for the day.
In their dealings throughout the day, they also make a strong effort to stay organized and show up on time to appointments and meetings.
If they say they’ll be there, they’ll be there barring any unforeseen circumstances.
6) Patient persistence
Self-disciplined individuals are persistent and patient.
They think long-term and have had the life experience, good raising or introspection to realize that many worthwhile things take time.
A fulfilling career…
A loving relationship…
Friendships that are worth cultivating…
These don’t come along every day, and even when they do come along they often take real work and persistence to navigate.
7) Resisting impulsivity
Self-disciplined people do their best not to be impulsive.
As I mentioned earlier, self-disciplined folks make a habit out of resisting their initial impulses and thinking through their behavior.
Even if they fall for temptation or impulse a time or two, they reflect on that and do better next time.
8) Honest self-appraisal
When a person is self-disciplined, they’re not afraid of taking a look at their strengths and weaknesses.
Where are they doing great? What can they improve?
They don’t let their ego get in the way of fair assessments about their character, psychology or motivations in life.
They want to get better and understand more about their purpose and behavior in life, even if it involves pain at some times.
This leads me to the next point…
9) Rationality about emotions
As much as possible, self-disciplined people do their best to be rational about their emotions.
If they feel angry, they reflect on what they’re going to do about it…
If they feel victimized, they think about whether it’s linked to something specific going on now or coming from past pain.
They try their best to accept what they feel while also not necessarily reacting right away to it.
10) Calm in the face of danger
Self-disciplined people experience fear just like anyone else.
But they have trained themselves not to react instinctively to it in a way that could make the situation worse.
If a situation gets tense, they try their best to breathe and think of the best way to proceed instead of panicking.
If there are others in danger, they try to maintain calm with them as well and find a way to think through the danger step by step.
11) Grace when dealing with conflict
Conflict is part of life, but self-disciplined people do their best to stay graceful when disagreement arises. This means they refrain from personal insults and losing their cool.
When they need to put their foot down or tell somebody to back off, they will absolutely do so.
But as much as possible they try to defuse a fight or argument before it can get too nasty.
12) Taking rejection in stride
Self-disciplined people feel pain and frustration at rejection just like all the rest of us.
But they do their best not to take rejection personally.
Even when a partner tells them personal reasons they are breaking up, the self-disciplined person does their best to remember that one rejection doesn’t define them.
It may hurt, but a rejection doesn’t need to be the final word on their value or deny hope for the future.
13) Learning from setbacks
Self-disciplined people do their best to learn from setbacks in general.
If they’re having career setbacks, maybe it’s time for further training or transition to a new career?
If there are challenges in their personal life or recent breakups, what can they learn that could be beneficial or useful?
If there’s no real lesson to learn and life is just lousy lately, is something like patience a possible lesson or perhaps just inner grit to get through life’s valleys?
14) Above-average learning ability
Self-disciplined people aren’t necessarily any brighter than less disciplined people:
But they are harder working.
They are better at learning because they put in the work day after day.
Whereas a less disciplined person might decide to learn French and do a few lessons daily before letting life take over, the self-disciplined individual will carve out time in their schedule every single day.
In the end, they’ll learn French and the other person won’t. The difference isn’t brains, and it isn’t even the strength of desire to learn: it’s self-discipline.
15) Acceptance of what’s beyond their control
Self-disciplined people are willing to accept what’s out of their control.
It’s not always easy to do for any of us, of course.
Accepting that mortality, illness, accidents and even things like breakups and friendships can be partly or fully outside our control is very difficult.
But self-disciplined people fully delineate what they can change and what they can’t. They work within the realm of what they can change and influence because they know that doing otherwise won’t do a speck of good.
16) Low expectations coupled with intense work ethic
Those with high self-discipline have low expectations. They go into each situation with one main thing in mind:
It’s up to me.
They know that whether it’s a relationship, a job, a new hobby or a difficult situation out of their control, their own attitude and approach is what makes the difference.
Expecting a situation, person or place to satisfy just leads to disappointment. So they grind hard and try their best without expecting anything.
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