A lack of discipline is the biggest reason for not achieving your goals in the long run.
Success and achieving your personal goals are no coincidence. Nothing that you occasionally do will ever lead to great results. What you do regularly, however, determines your success and level of satisfaction.
Achieving long term goals is a marathon, it comes with a lot of discipline and willpower, yet, these are not always easy to sustain.
As the famous quote goes:
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
— Lao Tzu
If you manage to get up and be consistent for a long time, there is no way notto achieve your goals.
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While many people think of discipline as something slightly negative, something that reduces their freedom, the truth is the complete opposite.
Being disciplined will give you joy and freedom.
“Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishments.”
In 2013, a studyin the Journal of Personalityshowed the correlation between a high level of self-control (discipline) and happiness.
The researchers focused on the question of whether high self-control makes people happy and found out that those with higher levels of discipline are not only more satisfied with their lives, but also have more positive emotions throughout their days.
In addition to that study, people with a high level of discipline are also happier because, in the long run, they can create their lives according to their own expectations.
If you are not disciplined and don’t act according to your goals, you will have a hard time achieving them and end up being less happy and satisfied.
If you, however, go through the short term pain of sticking to your habits and purposes, you can be sure to achieve your goals and live a happier life.
While building lasting discipline is certainly not the easiest thing to do, it actually comes down to a few simple principles that you need to follow.
You need to be very clear in what you want to achieve, plus, you need to make it as easy as possible for yourself to get there.
If you make it easy and know what you want, being disciplined becomes a lot easier, and instead of being a burden, it helps you to create the life that you desire.
1. Set clear priorities
Clear priorities are the base of knowing what you want to accomplish.
While having strong discipline is a sure way to achieve your goals, there are, of course, limitations to what you can carry out.
If you want to build several habits and work on various goals at once, you will most probably fail.
A clear focus is inevitable for reaching big goals.
Having a clear vision of your future in mind helps to focus on the right things and set daily priorities that align with that vision.
Whenever I feel lost, I take pen and paper and start journaling about my ideal future.
I consider the different areas of my life, like relationships, health, career, personal growth, finances, etc. and try to come up with an ideal picture for each of them. Through this exercise, I get a clear image of my future vision. As a result, I know what I need to do daily to make this vision my reality.
Let’s say you imagine yourself to be a fit, healthy person who is full of energy every day. If that vision doesn’t match your current lifestyle, you know that you need to make changes in order to improve yourself.
Once you know that, you can come up with ideas on what to change. Maybe your diet needs changes? Or you need to go to the gym more often? Or you decide to get help from a professional nutritionist or personal trainer?
Whatever it is, the first step is being clear about the ideal outcome and setting your priorities accordingly. You can only take action if you clearly know what to do.
When we decide to make changes, we are often tempted to make massive developments in various areas. Yet, that’s the surest way to fail.
Instead, pick a few specific areas of your life and strengthen your discipline and habits in those fields.
Once you’ve got them covered, you can think about your next improvements.
2. Set realistic goals
I love dreaming big. I also believe that extraordinary things become easy if you take massive action and work smart.
Yet, I always consider setting realistic goals.
Expectations that are too high and seem unachievable might drain your energy and motivation.
You need to find a balance between big goals that excite you and still staying realistic.
If you know that something is genuinely achievable for you and if you have a strong desire to achieve it, being disciplined and sticking to your plans will become easier.
What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.
— Zig Ziglar
3. Create subgoals and milestones
Splitting your goals into subgoals can help tremendously to achieve massive goals.
Sometimes, it can be energy-intensive and demotivating to work towards a big goal without any accomplishments for a long time.
It is much more fun to have milestones and celebrate your wins on the way to significant achievements.
Once you have a clear vision and a big goal, you can divide it into as many subgoals as you want. You can figure out what you need to accomplish every month, week, or even every day in order to reach your big goal in the long run.
These milestones also help you to stay focused and regularly reflect on your goals.
Sometimes, our goals and visions might change, and it is important to regularly ask yourself if your actions are still aligned with your vision.
4. Have clear deadlines
Without deadlines, it is tough to stay motivated and disciplined.
Deadlines help us to stay focused and be productive.
According to Parkinson’s Law, work expands according to the time that is available to its competition.
If you work on goals without a specific deadline, the chances are big that you won’t ever achieve them.
Whenever we don’t have deadlines and specific timeframes, we tend to procrastinate.
Having a clear time limit, however, is a performance booster and helps you to stay disciplined.
Everything is an experiment until it has a deadline. That gives it a destination, context, and a reason.
— Brian Eno
One more of the most powerful ways to stick to your deadlines and goals is by creating social pressure.
If you share your objectives with other people, you are much likelier to perform well.
Just by talking about your goals publicly, you boost your discipline as you don’t want to end up saying, “Nah, I didn’t achieve my goal because I was too lazy.”
If you want to go one step further, you can even share your goals publicly, for example, via social media.
I sometimes post a picture on Instagram on Sunday evening, sharing my goals for the upcoming week. By doing so, I feel obliged to share my progress with my community and truly stick to what I’ve committed to.
For me, my boyfriend is my accountability partner. We do almost everything together, and we motivate each other to give our best all the time. When one of us feels down and lacks motivation, the other one is cheering and finding ways to still do it.
Your accountability buddy can have similar goals like you but also completely different ones, it actually doesn’t matter. What’s essential is that you openly share your goals and regularly update each other.
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