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February 5, 2021

Self-Discipline and the Discovery of Happiness

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.

As human beings, we are wired to seek pleasure and avoid pain.

This concept extends far beyond our physical form. When it comes to contentment, we seek happiness while avoiding struggles and challenges.

But does this make us truly happy?

Sure, it may make us happy for a little while, but these quick-and-easy victories do not lead to long-term happiness.

Long-term happiness comes about from finding balance in life. This involves recognizing what deficits are causing stress in our lives and taking steps to change it.

Bringing about change takes self-discipline.

The Difference Between Self-Control and Self-Discipline

More often than not, self-control and self-discipline are described as being two terms for the same concept – yet they are very different.

Self-control involves saying “stop” while self-discipline says “keep going”.

I’m sure everyone can relate to the struggle of trying to lead a healthy life, especially when it comes to eating healthy foods.

Now, picture yourself holding your favorite indulgent bad-for-you food.

Self-control is the ability to control an urge, desire or compulsion in the face of a present pressure.

Self-control will tell you not to eat that treat.

Self-discipline, on the other hand, involves starting a new task and sticking to it. If you have told yourself that you would no longer give in to unhealthy treats, self-discipline would have stayed your hand before picking it up.

Self-control challenges our habits while self-discipline involves the fortitude to create new habits.

Self-control is easy. It’s a moment-to-moment occurrence. Self-discipline, however, relates more to accomplishments and forward-looking plans.

So why worry about self-discipline when self-control is so much easier to deal with? Why not just deal with those challenges as they happen and not worry about tomorrow?

While being mindful of the present is important in maintaining mental health, humans cannot experience an optimal existence without anything to work toward.

And we can’t achieve what we work toward without some self-discipline.

The Benefits of Self-Discipline

Holistic living shows us that our minds, bodies and souls exist in close connection with each other. A deficit in one aspect can cause struggles and issues in another.

Ever felt so nervous that you were sick to your stomach? This was your mental well-being directly impacting your physical health.

Your life works the same way, too.

When one area of your life slips, such as finances, physical health or spiritual health, the rest starts to wobble and the whole thing is at risk of crashing to the ground.

Self-discipline can help you target specific areas of your life that you feel are out of control and work towards restoring life balance.

Here are some ways that self-discipline can positively impact and benefit your life:

Overall Physical Health

When you begin to prioritize your health, self-discipline is important in creating new habits to replace the old ones that were not serving you.

Remember that indulgent treat I mentioned earlier? When it comes to your attitude towards food and exercise, self-control will get you started but self-discipline will sustain your journey.

The more you focus on forging that path, the more positive changes you will see to your physical health.

Career and Success

It’s no secret that only you are responsible for your own success, and this applies in the workforce as well. Self-discipline helps to increase your productivity and motivation.

Self-discipline also benefits education, for both children and adults. Not only does it lead to higher grades and achievements, but also higher wages down the road.

While money certainly should not be the focus on one’s life, it’s an important aspect that needs to be kept in balance.

Reaching for your full potential in academics and in your career is a personal and individualized journey but one that can tremendously reduce stress in the future.

Problem Behaviors and Bad Habits

Do you smoke? Binge eat at night? Spend too much money? Take too much time off from work?

Everybody has habits and problem behaviors they are not proud of. While some may be harmless, you may have problem behaviors and bad habits that are hindering your happiness.

While it takes self-control to avoid one instance of a bad habit, it takes self-discipline to replace it completely.

And healthier and more positive habits in your life will lead to increased feelings of happiness and fulfillment.

Better Choices and Decision Making

The opposite of being happy is not being happy. Unhappiness stems from negative emotions – most of them avoidable through better decision making.

Imagine having the inner strength to say “no” to the things that do not serve you or “yes” to the things that scare you.

Now imagine how far you can go in life if you have the self-discipline to do so.

How Self-Discipline Makes Leads to Happiness
In order to understand the relationship between happiness and self-discipline, you need to understand what happiness is and isn’t.

Happiness is not the absence of work. Reducing the effort you have to put into your life in order to make it feel fulfilled may be temporarily gratifying, but it comes without long-term satisfaction.

Happiness is the absence of feelings such as guilt, shame, regret, frustration, sadness, anger, fear, stress and anxiety. When we dispel negative emotions, we feel true happiness.

When we live without self-discipline, and accept those temporary moments of gratifications, we are often faced with negative feelings once the short-term positive feelings fade away.

Having self-discipline allows you to develop problem-solving skills that will lead you to make the right decisions in your life. This, in turn, helps to cultivate a positive attitude toward life.

Ultimately, you will have the skills to help you avoid indulgent and problematic situations, distractions and poor habits.

This means that you can easily avoid decisions that will lead to regret, stress and resentment.

With self-discipline comes control over your life, your choices and your emotions. Once you can take hold of your life, you make room to feel genuinely happy.

How to Become More Self-Disciplined

Ready to become more self-disciplined and discover happiness? Try these tips:

  • Know your weaknesses. Look at your weaknesses as areas of improvement, not aspects of yourself you should feel bad about. Once you know your weaknesses, you know what needs to change.
  • Don’t wait for it to “feel right”. Becoming more self-disciplined means shaking up your routine, which can be uncomfortable. It takes a while for new habits to become automatic behaviors, so don’t give up just because it’s not coming naturally.
  • Remove temptations. Whether you are trying to lose weight, balance your budget or increase your focus on any area of your life that is bringing you stress, it’s important to remove temptations that lead you away from your goals.
  • Reward yourself. So often we find ourselves looking outside of ourselves for validation. However, you are allowed to reward yourself for a job well done. This internal praise is far more valuable than seeking rewards from others.
  • Forgive yourself. Your journey toward becoming more self-disciplined is not going to be perfect so it’s important to forgive yourself for mistakes you make along the way.

Remember, self-control is the temporary strength to say “no” in the moment, while self-discipline is the strength to continue to say “no” while creating more positive habits.

It’s not a quick lifestyle change one can make overnight – it takes fortitude and practice. However, the more you practice something, the better you get at it.

And the better you get at it, the more happiness you will experience in your life.

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