None of us are perfect. We all have vices that we escape to in order to distract us from things that are stressful in our lives. Maybe it's something serious like drugs, gambling, or porn. Or maybe it's something less serious but you've realized you spend way too much time on like your phone, video games, or TV. Maybe it's something that's not serious yet but you know that it's better to stay away from - for instance, we all know someone who abuses alcohol to a point where it has damaged parts of their lives in a serious way.
One of the hardest things for us to do is to be and stay disciplined; to ignore impulses that seem harmless in the moment but we know add up to trouble. This is something that has been on my mind a lot lately because this year I have a strong focus on being more disciplined all-around. Last year, research was my major focus so in the time I would normally spend in the gym, I would spend that time reading. I realize now, I could have planned this out better and forced myself to just listen to audiobooks or podcasts in times that I was in the gym so I could still reach my goal for research while staying disciplined. But when I wasn't doing research, I found it was far too easy to get sucked into playing video games or spending time on my phone.
This year I've been pushing myself and, even though we're only a couple weeks in, my habits have improved ten-fold and it's because I keep away from my phone and video games and instead spend that time working out or writing. I feel amazing and I see it in the goals I set for myself each week that I've been getting far more accomplished.
Let me share with you some tactics that have resonated with me from books that I've read and that have been helping me stay disciplined. I think that you will find them empowering and hopefully they will help you reach your current goals if they resonate with you as well...
1. James Clear's Identity Based Habits
James Clear, author of the Atomic Habits (a book that released over 4 years ago that still remains at the top of the charts in Self-Help on Amazon and I'm sure will remain there for a very long time) states that, "The key to building lasting habits is focusing on creating a new identity first."1,2
Clear's outlook is that we essentially are the summation of our habits - and that's a tough thing to argue. With identity-based habits, he's saying that if we want to change our habits, we should have the mindset that we want to change who we are in a positive way. For instance, if we want to quit smoking, the best mindset we can have is, "I'm not a smoker," so that if someone asks you to smoke, that can be your response and you relieve yourself from the pressure and impulse to continue that unhealthy habit and lifestyle.
This is a very powerful tool and is a great way to start when you want to set goals for yourself - by envisioning the person you strive to be. As I stated earlier, I decided I want to be more disciplined so I engineered my goals for this year around that.
2. Richard Thaler's Commitment Devices
Richard Thaler is a Nobel-Prize-winner for his work in behavioral economics and this tactic is from his wildly popular book titled Nudge. Commitment devices are tools used to keep us on-track for our goals.3
Thaler's most popular example of this is taken from when he used to have dinner parties. He stated that while they were waiting and talking before dinner, they would commonly have drinks and after a certain number of times, he decided to move snacks into a different room for this period of time. No one there, especially Thaler, wanted them to ruin their appetite and by moving the snacks out of sight and to a place they'd have to walk to, he realized this helped tremendously.
We can all use commitment devices to help us reach our goals and there are countless examples. One that should be obvious is with the food you keep in your house - if you leave the grocery store without the foods you "can't help but eat," you're helping yourself tremendously because it won't even be an option for you unless you take the time to go all the way back. Another easy example is that if you keep healthy foods like fruits and veggies out where you see them regularly rather than tucked away in your fridge, you're also far more likely to eat those foods more often.
A commitment device that I've been using so far this year that keeps me off from my phone is by keeping it in the bedroom when I am home. There are times I need it to pay bills or make a call but most of the time, the only purpose it serves is a distraction if it's within reach. This certainly has helped me be productive while I'm home.
3. Mike Matthews' Ten-Minute Wait
Mike Matthews is a fitness author as well as CEO and founder of the supplement company Legion Athletics, Inc. His flagship books, Bigger Leaner Stronger for men and Thinner Leaner Stronger for women has helped me and hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of others with programming their fitness routines and learning the basics of lifting.4,5
In his book, The Little Black Book of Workout Motivation, Matthews advises that when we want to do something like scroll through our phones or watch TV, we should simply distract ourselves with a task that pushes us in a positive direction instead.6 He states:
"You can also institute a mandatory ten-minute wait before allowing yourself to indulge in an undesirable activity... Decide to do whatever you're dreading for just ten minutes, and once they're up, allow yourself to stop. Chances are you'll want to keep going!" (p. 59)
It's interesting how simple of a tactic this is, yet how true and helpful! I haven't forced myself to do ten minutes because it doesn't usually even take me one minute! Once I start moving in a different direction, I get wrapped up in that task and completely forget about the bad habit I was distracting myself from. One thing that helps with this is scheduling out your day so that you accomplish the things you want to. If you do it right, you'll find that you won't have time to fool around for hours in-between tasks.
Small distractions can quickly turn into bad habits that will eventually catch up to you.
What's keeping you from reaching your goals or being the person you strive to be? If you have a journal and you know there is something you want to work on, I recommend writing out your response to that question. If you don't, I recommend the free website/app that I've been using recently, Penzu. Once you've done that, consider these tactics given by James Clear, Richard Thaler, and Mike Matthews to help you stay true to that.
We all can make the conscious decision on how we want to spend our day. If you use these tools, they can truly help you stay focused and spend your time wisely.
I wish you the best on your current list of goals and with getting rid of those bad habits. If you have any questions or comments, please comment below. Thank you for taking the time to read.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.