The One Skill Sure to Make You a Whole Lot More Successful

It's - surprise! - self-discipline. And you can develop this critical quality without a lot of effort.
The One Skill Sure to Make You a Whole Lot More Successful
Image credit: Luis Alvarez | Getty Images
Entrepreneur Leadership Network Writer
Certified High Performance Coach, U.S. Navy Veteran
5 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

We are in the age of the ‘goldfish bowl’ attention span. Whatever happened to “Patience is a virtue” and “Rome wasn’t built in a day”? Well, I think they went “out with the baby and the bath water”. Our society is constantly shifting at such an accelerated speed that we forgot, or shall we say, left behind, the core practices we need to embody in order to survive as an entrepreneur. Core practices such as integrity, honesty, humility, patience, and many others. When it comes to self-discipline, we fall short. Is it because it’s too hard? Too challenging to maintain? Too time-consuming? (These are all excuses, by the way…just calling it out like it is!) Self-discipline is something that we need in order to shape us into responsible and thriving people and entrepreneurs. It has been around for hundreds of years and yet, it’s not around that often. How do you get into the practice of self-mastery so that you can push through the 'goldfish bowl' attention span and the 'microwave minute; results? These 3 tips will guide you on your path.

Related: 10 Powerful Ways to Master Self-Discipline


1. Delaying gratification

Oh boy! Yea…this one is going to be a toughie! Have you heard of “The Marshmallow Experiment?” In the study, conducted by Stanford University researchers in 1972, the professor offered kids a marshmallow. Each child could have the one marshmallow immediately, but if the child waited, they could have two marshmallows. This was an experiment in delayed gratification. Researchers followed up with the children who were able to wait for two marshmallows, ie. they were able to delay gratification, and noted that later in life these children had better life outcomes, better SAT scores, and even an improved body mass index (BMI). What does this mean in relation to self-discipline? In order to practice delayed gratification, you need to have self-discipline. To push off the instantaneous rewards for something more pleasing and rewarding in the future. This requires major self-talk and self-convincing in all areas, more specifically your thoughts and your mindset. What are you saying to yourself to put off the instant need of satisfying yourself? What are you saying to further motivate you to delay your gratification?  


2. Removing temptations

We all face temptations at one point or another. That ooey, gooey chocolate cake calling your name after you’ve just sweated out a gallon of water during your spin class or perhaps that cocktail when you’re out with your colleagues during happy hour when you’ve decided to cut back. It’s that self-discipline that comes into play when you are faced with temptations in life. In these situations, it’s key to ask yourself, “Is it really worth it? Am I willing to sacrifice what’s really important to me for this moment of pleasure?" (The pleasure will only last a few seconds anyway and guilt will immediately follow but that’s a discussion on a different day.) When you consciously decide to remove temptations from your life, you’re practicing self-discipline. Even small choices can add up to make a big difference.


3. Developing focus    

This is probably the most challenging yet simple concept to utilize in having self-discipline. Unfortunately, our society has more ADD/ADHD diagnoses than ever before, which can make developing your focus seem impossible. On top of the short attention span of 8 seconds, it seems that focus is allusive and hard to attain. So how do you start to develop focus? One method is through meditation. What?! Meditation? This useful and yet powerful strategy can help develop focus no matter what your current level of attention span may be. A simple way to start easing into meditation is to do the candlelight meditation. It’s an effective way to develop your focus. If you’re new to this, I would encourage you to start with just 2-3 minutes of meditation and build from there, adding a minute each time, until you reach your desired amount of meditation (20-30 minutes is ideal). Initially, it will be hard. You are actively reprogramming and rewiring your brain. The good thing is with repetition, developing your focus gets easier and easier each time.

Related: Is Your Work Ethic Better than Average? Find Out in 5 Questions.

Self-discipline is not a high-level practice. We all have the capability to practice self-discipline. It’s up to you whether or not it’s important to maintain. When we make the conscious choice of improving our self-mastery, it will initially require some work, some will power and some internal motivation. Eventually, when you practice it enough, it becomes a part of you, a part of your internal characteristics. People surrounding you will notice your ability to practice such a unique quality that they too will want to embody this ancient practice. Growing your self-discipline is essential to becoming the successful entrepreneur that you are meant to be. You are always modeling your behaviors so why not model self-discipline? It will impact you in ways you didn’t think possible.

Related: Why Mindfulness Matters for Entrepreneurs



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