We all wish we could be more disciplined. If you are human, there is at least one thing in your life you wish you could escape the grasp of…
Maybe those little white phalluses known as cigarettes tricked you into an addiction. A few years of smoking and you are realizing they aren’t doing your health any benefit. But, every time you try to stop, you can’t help but think about them all day long…Well, I’ve got a trick that will help you.
Maybe you are making a few too many stops at Mcdonalds these days. Your waistline is heading in the opposite direction you’d like it to. And your energy is heading south as well. But, despite obvious consequences, the lovely employees at Mcdonalds still get to see you regularly…Well, I’ve got a trick that will help you.
Perhaps behind closed doors, you are realizing that your secret porn addiction is costing you more than you initially thought. The low motivation, lack of interest and patience with your girlfriend, and unwarranted anxiety have surfaced even though you haven’t been caught yet. You want to stop but now you are realizing it’s not as easy as you thought…I’ve got a trick that will help you too.
And, even if I missed your vice, I guarantee this trick will still radically improve your discipline and ability to say no to the bad habit(s) that is currently kicking your ass.
A few months ago, I had the pleasure of spending the day with a friend I hadn’t seen in a long time. Since last seeing him, he had completely turned his life around.
The last I heard, my friend was spending far too much time drinking and partying for his own good. Now, just a year and a half later, he was sober with two new businesses under his belt.
Curious, and happy for him, I asked what his secret was. He attributed his success to the following four words.
DON’T PLAY WITH TEMPTATION
Here’s what he meant: Don’t leave anything to your willpower. Assume that when it comes down to willpower, your willpower will always fail you. Willpower is not a reliable crutch.
Instead, don’t entertain that first thought. Don’t just take a “peek”. Never have the “one” drink. And, if you’ve stopped something for a few days, never assume that your willpower is stronger now and you can have “a teaser”…One puff, one hit, one bite, one time…DON’T PLAY WITH TEMPTATION.
Every time you entertain thoughts of acting on your bad habit, you are like a fish biting bait. On the other end, the fisherman—also known as your vice—is waiting for a nice catch.
Knowing this, simply turn around and stop looking at the bait. Get distracted and involved in something to keep your mind busy until the temptation passes away. You can also blunt the temptation by defaulting to an affirmation or anchor thought.
Whatever you do, don’t give the thought any energy—stop looking at the bait and don’t even consider having a nibble.
Remember: there is a hook underneath it!
This trick won’t make your vices and all their temptations disappear overnight, but it will significantly reduce the amount of time they spend poking your brain for attention. And, the less you think about your vice, the less you will be inclined to act on it.
Practice this for at least a few weeks. I promise that if you stick the course, it will get easier. You will start thinking about it far less and, eventually, it will become automatic.
Using This In Reverse
Refusing to entertain temptation will work wonders for taking an axe to the tree trunk of your vice. Every luring thought you cut off will serve as a downward swing, slashing through air and eventually meeting with bark to reduce its sturdiness. But we can also use this same principle in reverse for equal benefit.
There is an equally addicting force to not doing. It seems this force gets stronger the more we know something is important to do. Steven Pressfield, author of The War of Art calls this Resistance.
Resistance wants to cripple us and keep us from all the good things life has to offer. It is like disciplines younger, evil, brother. Jealous of all the rewards and glory that discipline yields, resistance is angry. It fights dirty. It wants revenge, and it plays for keeps. Resistance wants to destroy everything discipline stands for.
Resistance is very likely using your vice to distract you from what you actually need to be doing…Have you been putting off going to the gym for far too long now? Do you want to be a writer but you never open up your laptop to write?
That hit of dopamine you are getting from your pornography, cigarette, Mcdonalds, etc, is a cheap substitute for the hit you would get from doing your work.
Recognizing this enemy is critical for being able to overcome it. Then we can realize we aren’t lazy and worthless but instead we have been duped by an invisible adversary. And a worthy one at that.
To overcome resistance, we aren’t going to play with its temptation. We are going to just do what needs to be done.
We will get up and go to the gym as if we were a drone programmed to do so. Make that meal plan, write that next chapter, apologize to that person we hurt…And then, we will be glad we did.
Our brains will reward us with dopamine and make us think less and less about our original vice as the brains need for dopamine is met through productive means. Soon, there is a chasm so large between you and your vice, that you’d never dare to make the jump back over.
Be More Disciplined
Don’t play with temptation. Never rely on your willpower to bail you out.
Instead, recognize your enemies and refuse to play into their power. When you see bait, turn the other way. When you feel resistance, dive right into it.
And when you fall, get back up, brush off your shoulders, and don’t ever assume defeat.
You got this.
PS – Let me know of any tricks you use to improve your discipline in the comments below!
PPS – For more content like this check out Man’s Guide to Well-Being: Take Control of Your Mood and Life