How to get disciplined , motivated, and more willpower

Apart from the ‘Just Do It’ idea of which I have seen on TV since I was real little, does anyone have any suggestions for motivation, willpower, and especially discipline? It is a pitfall of mine that I’m sure someone here might have a remedy or partial remedy to.

I am especially looking for people who have actually been BAD with discipline but somehow got better, and I would not only like to hear your story but method you used to get more discipline.

Thanks in advance.

I have never been “bad” with discipline, but there was a time when I was quicker to come up with excuses than I am now. My whole life I’d heard people complain about not having enough time, so naturally this became my own mantra. Exercise? Don’t have enough time. Eat better? Don’t have enough time. Do a better job with house cleaning. Not enough time!

Maybe this excuse flies when you’re a parent and you have a houseful of children to raise, but it was a stupid excuse for me. Once I realized the insanity, I found myself suddenly having loads of time and energy. Without a ready-made excuse, I didn’t have any reason to not get shit done. But I don’t know what exactly triggered this revelation, except for maybe the fact that I was being held accountable by my therapist.

Try adopting a small habit that is easy for you. Like drinking an extra glass of water or doing ten jumping jacks when you get up in the morning. Then slowly add more tasks. The idea is that willpower is a muscle that needs to be exercised. With practice it will get stronger.

To make myself a regular gym-goer I made it all pretty easy on myself.

  • My goal was at first to just go. Not go X times a week, or stay for X amount of time, or accomplish X exercise goals, just go.
  • I didn’t have any weightloss or fitness expectations.
  • I made sure I had the right tools available at all times: enough gym clothes to last 2 weeks without scrambling for something to wear, a good bathing suit and a set of towels so I could swim when I wanted, proper shoes. No excuses that I didn’t have clean shorts or whatever.
  • If I feel sick, I don’t go. If I don’t have time, I don’t go. No uncomfortable or rushed sessions at the gym.
  • On the flipside, I make sure to schedule around it. If friends want to meet, we can meet after the gym. If I need to go grocery shopping, after the gym. If I want to be home in time for the baseball game, I need to not fuck around with getting in and out of the gym.
  • If there are periods when I don’t go to the gym for a while (and there are), I make sure to mentally note that things aren’t “back to normal, me avoiding the gym” but instead “Not normal, and I need to GET back to normal” (meaning gym is normal life, and not being there is weird.)

I think taking it easy on myself and making it a regular, almost benign duty - like brushing my teeth - made it much easier for me to successfully make it a part of my life.

I’ve got friends who do several weeks of very intense exercise or dieting and it never becomes a part of their routine. Same for me, until I discovered the method of just being cool about it and letting things happen.

I don’t see myself as being very undisciplined in all areas of my life, but I am very fat and an ex smoker so clearly I have issues with self control.

Putting it in writing.

Reward yourself for success, punish yourself for failure: you can have some ice cream if you do your lengthy walk; if you don’t you don’t get any ice cream. You don’t get to read Straightdope until the dishes are done…

Discipline is sort of like a muscle - you improve it by using it to failure, repeatedly, and just try to last a bit longer before each failure. What typically happens is after one failure, people quit. The motto “if at first you don’t succeed…” actually works.

Start small and simple. Set a goal that you have a reasonable chance of reaching:

I will exercise for 15 minutes per day.

I will stop eating junk food on Mondays and Wednesdays.

I will complete at least one [task that needs to be accomplished] each evening before I go on the Internet.

You can always expand/revise from there. If you start with huge goals (exercising 2 hours a day, giving up all junk food, giving up the Internet) you are dooming yourself before you begin.

Once you find that you can accomplish one small goal, it becomes easier to set and accomplish the next one.

Live in China, Japan or Singapore etc for a year, that should do the trick. :wink:

This. I use 3x5 index cards to make a list of things I want to accomplish today. And they get done. I enjoy crossing them off. If I don’t make a list, nothing gets done.

Traditional martial arts training. It is all about discipline and self-control.

Two things work together to get me to improve my habits.

  1. Stop being hard on myself about doing it “right”. I don’t make myself get every toothpaste spot off the mirror, and I am now happier about cleaning bathrooms. I set myself a reasonable workout routine and don’t worry about getting more intense, so I am now happier about going to the gym.

  2. To get started in the first place though, I just have to hit some kind of rock bottom. Thoughts about how bad the situation is rocket around in my mind for some time… weeks? Months? Until finally I’m sick of them and just do it.

Read the “The Power of Habit”. It might open your eyes about how the brain works and what steps you can take to turn bad habits into good.

One habit can catalyze other good habits. We see this most commonly when people start regularly exercising. They might change their diet too, or start going to the dentist more or saving more money.

A long time ago, I started getting in the habit of making my bed every morning. Doing that everyday seems to make it much more likely I put my shoes and clothes away rather than leaving them on the floor. A cleaner house cuts down on stress, which means its easier for me to prioritize and plan. Which means less procrastination and feeling more in control of my life.

When I start feeling mentally disorganized, I write a list of things I need to do. Then I make a point of accomplishing at least 3 things on that list each day. Three things is not a whole lot, so it’s doable. Breaking big tasks into little ones helps too.

Like ZipperJJ, I tried to be nice to myself but I also made myself go to the gym. Not go and whale on myself for two hours, but just promise myself I would go. If I got there, and I didn’t feel like it, I had permission to leave. But that never happened. You get to the gym and you feel tired and you go “well, I drove all the way over here, I’m not doing that for nothing, let’s start the workout and see how it goes”. While I didn’t always meet my predetermined goals, I pretty much always did more than I thought I could have, when I felt “tired” or “sick” (not really sick).

The next step was finding ways to enjoy it. I said to myself, “I don’t want to do a ton of stuff I hate, but I need to do this to live longer, so I need to find ways to make this as enjoyable as possible”. Now, at one time, you couldn’t have convinced me that I could get even from hating it to merely severely disliking it (mostly, before I started even trying to go to the gym, I assumed I’d hate it). But, I determined, I’m willing to try new things. Let’s try to try as many things in the gym as I can. And, surprise surprise, some of them weren’t abhorrent. I found that, after the habit got established, I kind of… enjoyed… my gym time. I’d load up my phone or MP3 player with music I was excited to listen to or podcasts I was looking forward to, and after I got past the nervous newbie stage, I could just sort of zone out and think for awhile. I found I liked doing weight training when I could log it all and see my week-to-week progress. I found I liked to swim. I found I even liked Zumba, even though I was terrible at it.

I later got sick and could no longer go once the muscle wasting got bad enough, and I was surprised by how much I missed it. Now, when people complain about the gym, I think, “I wish I could go.” But I applied the same rule to my recovery. I don’t have to go to physical therapy and rock it every time – I just have to go. I don’t have to meet my walking goal every day – but I have to try. And I find that my odd desire to log and track things is very helpful, and so I play with lots of apps and websites, I got a Fitbit, et cetera.

One thing I’ve also learned is that you don’t need to be perfect or some amazing human being to get your shit together. My family is heavy into fitness now, and some of them are in amazing shape (like literally-on-a-poster-for-a-workout-program, won-money-for-after-pictures shape). But I’m with them and I see, they don’t have to be perfect and live on wheatgrass and protein shakes alone. They still eat junk food, they still put things off or get sick and miss a workout, but they’ve made working out and eating right the habits and the bad stuff the occasional thing, rather than the other way around. So I figure, maybe I’ll never be like them, I’m always going to have my illness too, but I can be a little better than I am right now. I want to do more next week than I could do last week. And I’m still not running marathons after a year of recovering from illness, but hell, I went from unable to stand, shower, dress, or do practically anything and living in a damn nursing home (where I was this time last year), to where I am today - working full time, living back in my own house by myself, getting around, enjoy social occasions, and such. I did that, one tiny little effort at a time.

Make small, attainable goals that emphasize the effort and not the end result. Don’t say ‘I will lose 50 pounds’, say ‘I will log everything I eat for a week and go to the gym 3 times’. Once you give yourself a chance to succeed, you can bounce off that success, rather than every time you go to the scale going “still got so many pounds to go”. Make it fun, make it positive.

More caffeine.

(Assuming you’re not doing that already.)