Make Self-Discipline a Habit in Your Business
People oftentimes use the terms self-discipline and self-control interchangeably. However, self-discipline is a separate and distinct skill from self-control. As discussed in part one of this blog series, self-control is focused on understanding the difference between impulsive and rational choices, and how you respond to certain stimuli when making decisions. Self-discipline, on the other hand, is about one’s ability to persevere and finish what they start. Exercising self-discipline requires you to delay gratification and do what must be done in spite of external or internal difficulties, adversities, or fatigue. It is your ability as an entrepreneur to carry yourself over the finish line after you’ve reached the point of exhaustion that sets you apart from others.
You’ve probably heard of the term “wantrepreneur” at some point. Those are the folks who say they want to be an entrepreneur but are unwilling to discipline themselves to attain success. They see the results of entrepreneurs who’ve attained great accomplishments but have no idea of the amount of hard work and sacrifice that went into making those results happen. As Arden Mahlberg said, “Discipline really means our ability to get ourselves to do things when we don’t want.” You want to be an entrepreneur, but are you willing to give up your Saturday morning brunches, mindless social media scrolling, or Netflix binge-watching? Just as any person serious about losing weight must exercise restraint when making food choices and endure consistent sessions in the gym, so must the prospective entrepreneur serious about getting their business launched. Below are some tools to help get you on the right path towards self-discipline.
1. Time For A Mind-shift
Napoleon Hill said it best. “Self-discipline begins with the mastery of your thoughts. If you don’t control what you think, you can’t control what you do.” If you perceive self-discipline as punitive or limiting, you will find excuses to justify your lack of consistency. While I make no claim that self-discipline won’t involve some unpleasantness and friction, the benefits of self-discipline far outweigh any negatives associated with it. Launching and growing your business means restricting your lifestyle to devote your time to your business.
It is human nature to move away from things that don’t feel good and indulge in things that bring pleasure. Distractions are plentiful. Ever notice that no matter how busy you are, you somehow find time to scroll through your Facebook timeline. Drafting a business plan or marketing campaign on a Saturday night is no fun. Making goofy faces using Snapchat filters is. As a successful entrepreneur, you must find pleasure in accomplishing every milestone, no matter how big or small, in your business. If you see working on your business as a chore, you will be more susceptible to making excuses for not getting things you find laborious done.
2. Plan Ahead
A failure to plan is a plan for failure. Truer words have never been spoken. One of the main reasons businesses fail is for lack of planning. Success for an entrepreneur happens when opportunity meets preparation. You need a plan for what to do in the peak and lean times of your business. How will you allocate your resources when new clients are few and far between? How will you maximize your time and abilities during the slow periods in your business? Define what you want to achieve and develop a plan to attain it. Be specific and write it down. Without clearly articulated goals, you can’t measure your progress.
One suggestion is to set up periodic milestones and action steps for your business. Have regular strategy sessions to brainstorm long-term goals and projects. Write out a list of what you need to do to achieve your goals and complete projects. Break down your goals into manageable steps and plan each week in advance. List the obstacles and difficulties that may arise, the information and skills required, the people or resources necessary to meet each goal. You can always add to these lists as you learn more.
I use The Happy Planner in both my professional and personal life to keep me on track and focused on the tasks ahead. These planners come with additional accessories that make planning your weeks and months more enjoyable. Schedule your vacation or fun days away from your business as well as the deadlines for completing certain tasks. Taking one hour out of the 186 hours you have each week to focus on what’s next for your business will do more to keep you on track than you can imagine.
3. Don’t Let Failures Become Fatal
Like any muscle in your body, you must consistently exercise to build strength. The same goes for making self-discipline a habit in your business. Maybe you started out strong, planning your weeks and months far in advance and knocking items off of your to-do list on a daily basis. Then, something happened in your life that required you to step away from your business for a time. The journey back to consistently planning and executing tasks in your business became difficult each passing day. You notice that you’ve started missing deadlines and catching up on work seems impossible. If that sounds like you, the biggest mistake you can make at this stage is to allow these hindrances to deter you from pushing through. Failure is nothing to be ashamed of. But failing to get up and try again is.
This is why having a plan for every scenario in your business is vital. Successful entrepreneurs understand that life happens. It is better to expect the worst and plan for it than to be blindsided by the harsh realities of life. People purchase insurance not because they want something bad to happen, but when disaster strikes, the insurance policies can help make them whole again. Self-discipline means creating a plan of action for your business and executing it when circumstances appear dire and panic sets in. One mistake is not determinative, but repeating the same mistake is.