You know those people who just seem to have their impulse control honed down so much, you can’t help but look at them and marvel.
There is no chance of them taking up some arguably enjoyable but detrimental habit like smoking.
They don’t seem tempted by short term gratification like cashing out early or reaching for that extra slice of cake.
So what’s their secret?
How do these sturdy-willed individuals manage to keep such a steely discipline?
Well, they’re partially so disciplined owing to how they engage in the following 5 habits – some of which might surprise you:
1) They spice up the routine
I don’t deny that managing to set up a good routine that still allows for flexibility and growth is a difficult line to walk.
But people who are incredibly self-disciplined tend not to be free-floating creatures.
They have fairly strict and formulated routines which they follow, involving elements such as getting up at the same time, no screens 2 hours prior to bed, regular exercise, meditation and podcasts etc.
One interesting touch that they add to this habit is that they incorporate incentives.
Because yes, getting up everyday at 5 am can suck.
But what if you treated yourself to your all-time favorite cinnamon spice latte?
Takeaway coffee is often the first thing to be cut by those projecting how to budget and save.
But, if an incentive like your favorite coffee or even a certain type of breakfast gets you out of bed faster, use that to your advantage.
Because (as long as you bring a reusable cup…), spending a few dollars on a coffee that gets you excited for the morning pays off better than sleeping in for an extra 3 hours.
2) They’re prioritization wizards
It’s a busy week ahead.
Your calendar is filling up and people keep sending you task after task.
Everything starts piling up and you feel yourself start to sink.
Highly disciplined individuals tend to be good at managing these high-stress, heavy workload periods.
This is largely because they are just so good at prioritizing and organizing.
Using planners and apps and good old written lists, they sit down, take a deep breath, and work out how to tackle all of their tasks.
And rather than just throwing themselves at the first task to come their way, they organize them so that the most important duties are finished first.
This relieves a great deal of that stress and means everything gets accomplished right on time.
3) They exercise temptation avoidance
Not in a biblical sense, but there are two ways to deal with temptations:
1. By removing them entirely.
So rather than spending all your weekends partying hard and staying out until the early hours, you learn to set your own curfews.
You enjoy evenings with friends, but avoid going to the bar after dinner, thus avoiding the temptation altogether.
2. By exercising restraint and improving upon your impulse control.
This one is pretty hard to master, but as a chronic nail biter, one of the tactics I’ve found most useful is staring at the jagged edge of a nail I want to bite.
It sounds perverse, almost.
Why not distract yourself or wear gloves?
But an almost counterintuitive yet still very useful tactic is to sit with the temptation, to let yourself be tempted, but to refrain from engaging in it.
Highly disciplined individuals are masters at this.
They often slip up and start again, but by pushing themselves to their limits when it comes to temptation, they extend that limit further and further until the great shout of temptation becomes but a quiet whisper.
4) They know that health doesn’t come in a one-size-fits-all format
Highly disciplined individuals who exercise that impulse control successfully tend to be so good at it because they aren’t rigid in the way that they enact discipline in their own lives.
They embrace their individuality, and in doing so avoid confining themselves to a certain box or category which they know will be unsuitable and unsustainable in the long run.
Sure, they might have tried Crossfit and hated it. They don’t keep forcing themselves to go just because someone on the internet told them it’s necessary.
Okay, they might have tried intermittent fasting and realized the brain fog prevents them from working well. They don’t continue to fast and fast just because diet books harp on about its benefits.
They know that forcing themselves down a path that doesn’t suit them will likely only hinder progress, so have no issue with trialing different methods before they find the shoe that fits.
5) They let themselves relax
But…highly disciplined people…RELAXING?!
Well, the fact of the matter is that if you push and push yourself to stick to a militant regime of all work, no play, and certainly no fun, you’ll likely run out of steam before you know it.
Disciplined individuals know that.
So amidst the organizing and scheduling, they allocate periods where their phones get switched off and the work emails get muted.
They spend time with their family or friends, or go off and take the day to immerse themselves in nature or dabble in hobbies, new and old.
Sure, this downtime doesn’t happen everyday. Sometimes not even every week.
But highly disciplined individuals know that to effectively stay in the go-get-it mindset, they need to have that time off.
Overloading your brain with too much structure and rigidity will lead to a pushback.
And after all, what enjoyment is there in exercising impulse control and self-discipline if you can’t sometimes enjoy yourself?