In today’s world, self-discipline isn’t always the most admired of qualities. Technology has made instant gratification the norm. Everything from sex to food is available at the click of a button.
But what if there is a direct link between self-discipline and happiness?
Recent research has shown that people with a greater degree of self-control rack up higher scores on wellbeing and satisfaction tests. The authors of the study concluded that “feeling good rather than bad may be a core benefit of having good self-control, and being well satisfied with life is an important consequence.”
So how can we go about developing our own self-control? In this article I’m going to look at five science-backed ways of achieving that end. By the end of it you’ll be well-equipped to work harder, get more done, and, importantly, be happier for it.
Let’s take a moment to distinguish between self-discipline and willpower. The two words are often used interchangeably but there are important differences.
Personal-development blogger Mark Manson describes willpower as the ability to overcome in-the-moment resistance. The important thing to remember is that it’s finite. Like a muscle, you can only flex it so much until it fails on you. Conversely, he explains that self-discipline is best described as a measure of how well your day-to-day activities mirror your broader goals.
So for instance, if you’re on a diet and go to an ice-cream shop with a friend, your ability to resist buying a triple scoop of Ben and Jerry’s cookie-dough in that particular situation is determined by your level of willpower. On the other hand, your self-discipline is a reflection of how well your day-to-day habits, which are undertaken with little negative emotional pushback, reflect your dietary ambitions. It’s indicated by things like your meal-preparation, how often you snack or binge eat, and how conscious of good health choices you are.
And the energy behind how you work day-to-day comes from your habitual thinking and feeling. Which leads us nicely onto point number two…
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