The Secrets of Boosting Self Discipline. Keystone #4 - Persistence


“Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “Press On” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race”
- Calvin Coolidge

The final keystone needed in developing our self-discipline is persistence.

If you’ve missed the first three of these keystones, you can access them again now by clicking the following links;

What Is Persistence?

Persistence is the ability to maintain action, regardless of your feelings. You press on, even when you feel like giving up.

When we’re working on any ‘medium term’ goal such as losing weight, our motivation and drive will ebb and flow, like waves hitting the shoreline. Sometimes we’ll feel motivated; sometimes we won’t. But it isn’t our motivation that produces results; it’s our action.

Persistence allows you to keep taking action even when you don’t feel motivated to do so, and therefore you keep accumulating results. Persistence will ultimately provide its own motivation. If you simply keep taking action, you’ll eventually get results, and results can be very motivating. For example, we often become much more enthusiastic about watching what we eat and exercising, once we’ve lost that first 10 or 12 pounds, are feeling our clothes fitting more loosely and people around us are beginning to notice.

Should we always persist and never give up? Not necessarily; sometimes giving up is clearly the best option.

Have you ever heard of a company called Traf-O-Data? What about Microsoft? Both companies were started by Bill Gates and Paul Allen. Traf-O-Data was the first company they started, back in 1972. Gates and Allen ran it for several years before throwing in the towel. They gave up. Of course they did a little better with Microsoft…!!

So, how do we know when to press on and when to give up?

Is your plan still correct?

When we initially want to lose weight, we usually have a ‘plan’ that has motivated us into wanting to lose weight in the first place. It might be to feel better about the way we look, or to be able to shop for nicer clothes, or to become more confident or even to find a new partner. Whatever your original plan was, is it still valid now? If it isn’t, it might be an idea to update your plan in order to stay motivated.

Is your goal still correct?

Setting a goal at the start of any weight loss journey is important in giving us something to aim for; it might be a clothing size or a specific weight. Quite often though, having set off on our weight loss journey, things may have happened that make us feel differently about our original goal. For example, we might feel and look great in the clothing size above the one we had originally aimed for, it may be that those around us are telling us we’ve lost enough weight before we reach our originally intended target, or it may just be that we’ve reached our original goal and realised there’s still a way to go. Again, from time to time, we may need to update or even abandon our original goal. There’s no gain in clinging to a goal that no longer inspires you. Persistence is not stubbornness.

In order to make room for new goals, we have to delete or complete old ones. And sometimes new goals can be so compelling and inspiring that there’s no time to complete old ones; they have to be abandoned half-finished. In the past, I’ve always found it uncomfortable to do this, but I know it’s necessary.

When we feel that we are not attaining what we wish for, we are linking to a lot of pain in getting it. We are allowing the discomfort to halt our progress. The key is to re focus. Think about what you will do instead of whether you can do it and persist with determination.

So, how can we solve the problem of setting goals that might become obsolete in a few weeks or months? Well, one thing we can do is to set more flexible goals; goals that aren’t fixed. For example, an overall weight-loss goal may be broken down into, fitting into a particular outfit by a certain date (maybe a special occasion), then a different outfit by a later date (perhaps another occasion), then taking part in specific activities that you may once have felt too self-conscious or embarrassed to, in time for particular event (significant birthday, etc). In this way, progress itself is the goal.

Use your imagination creatively and positively. By doing this, you can enable yourself to visualize the experience that you wish to bring about in reality. The way we see something in our mind will affect the way we feel and therefore the next action that we are going to take. Your imagination of your future outcome will stimulate and mobilize your activities.

The value of persistence comes not from stubbornly clinging to the past. It comes from a vision of the future that’s so compelling you would give almost anything to make it real. Do your goals (your visions for the future) match up to this?

Persistence of action comes from persistence of vision. When you’re totally clear about what you want in such a way that your vision can evolve as you do, you’ll be more consistent, and persistent, in your actions. And that consistency of action will produce consistency of results.

Act boldly as if it were impossible to fail and pretend that you have gotten around your limitations. Whatever you are striving for takes time and you achieve them by taking one step at a time. As long as you make a resolution to succeed and maintain your persistence and perseverance, you will and you must succeed.
Self Discipline Summary

If you haven’t done so already and you have a weight loss goal (or any other goal) that you would love to become a reality;

1 Assess where you are right now. Accept where you are but don’t fall into the trap of thinking that things are worse than they are or beyond your control. Decide where you want to be; what your goals and plans are.

2 Use willpower to get you started. Remember, willpower is only sustainable in short bursts; so use it to do the preparatory work that will make your ‘journey’ ahead much easier.

3 If you want to achieve anything of any real value in life, you have to accept that there will be some effort involved along the way. Prepare yourself to put the time in for the tasks that need to be done, then do them. Also, challenge yourself to attain those tasks that aren’t necessarily easy or straightforward; these are the things that will help you appreciate your achievements all that much more when you reach your target.

4 Keep it going. Persistence is the key; if you persist and persevere you can not fail. As well as feeling motivated from your ongoing results, remember to continually assess your goals and targets to ensure they are compelling enough to motivate you to stay focussed.

That’s it for now; more from me again soon,

Best wishes



The Secrets of Boosting Self Discipline. Keystone #3 - Working Hard and Hard Work

The big secret in life is that there is no big secret. Whatever your goal, you can get there if you’re willing to work.
- Oprah Winfrey

A great way of understanding how to build self-discipline, is best explained using an analogy. Self-discipline is like a muscle. The more you train it, the stronger it becomes. The less you train it, the weaker it becomes.

At some point, we need to acknowledge that in order to achieve anything of any real value, we need to commit ourselves to some effort; in other words, we need to work at it.

Taking action is working hard. In contrast to hard work, taking action doesn’t necessarily mean doing work that’s challenging or difficult. It simply means putting in the time. You can be active doing easy work or hard work.

For example, when we have babies, we spend a lot of time changing nappies. But that isn’t really hard work; it’s just a matter of doing it over and over many times each day. Putting aforethought into healthy meals or pre-preparing healthy snacks isn’t ‘hard work’, but requires putting in some effort.

In life there are many tasks that aren’t necessarily difficult, but they collectively require a significant time investment. If we don’t discipline ourselves to keep on top of them, they can make a big mess of our lives. Just think of all the little things we need to do on a daily basis: shopping, cooking, cleaning, laundry, garden, paying bills, home maintenance, childcare, etc. And that’s just for home; if you include work, the list grows even longer. And whilst these things may not reach ‘high priority’ on our scale of importance, they still need to be done.

Self-discipline requires us to develop the capacity to put in the time where it’s needed. In the long term, we create a huge mess for ourselves when we refuse to put in the time to do what needs to be done; and to do it correctly. Such messes range from an untidy desk or cluttered email inbox all the way up to needing life-saving surgery or long term ill-health. Small mess or big mess, either way a significant contributing factor is the refusal to do what needs to be done.

Sometimes it’s clear what needs to be done. Sometimes it isn’t clear at all. But just ignoring what needs to be done won’t help no matter what. Initially, if what needs doing isn’t clear, the first step is to figure it out. This may require you to seek out information and educate yourself. For example, in order to launch this blog a few years ago, I needed to work out how to do it. I took time to educate myself by reading other blogs and evaluating various blogging tools. I can’t say it was all that difficult, but it did require a significant time investment.

Quite often, we allow little annoyances to linger a bit too long. Last Summer, a friend of mine bought a new house. But it was only last weekend that he finally unpacked the last box..! They did most of the unpacking in the first few weeks after the move, but a couple boxes were shoved into a corner, and neither my friend or his wife wanted to unpack them. Why? they didn’t know where to put the stuff they contained. It seemed simplest to just ignore the problem and hope the boxes would magically unpack themselves. Finally they got them unpacked last weekend and took care of a few other home repairs that had been on the back burner as well.

It wasn’t difficult or costly to do these things. It was simply a matter of time to get them done. It didn’t require much skill or brainpower. In the end, all they did was to accept what needed to be done, take a few minutes to work out how to do those things, and then do them.

Put in the Time

There are lots of occasions in life where the solution is largely a brainless time investment. If your email inbox is overloaded, this is not a challenging problem; there are much bigger challenges in life than handling old correspondence. I guarantee you have the brainpower to handle it. Getting your email inbox to empty is purely a matter of time. Maybe it will take two or three hours to do it, but if it’s worth those hours to get it done, then put in the time. Maybe enjoy some relaxing music as you do. How many problems do you have on your to do list right now that can be solved with the simple application of Action?

Making sure we consistently have the right food in the cupboard or fridge, requires a bit of ‘block time’ on a regular basis. Arranging our lives and other priorities so that we can set aside time to be active, requires us to take action and invest some time in ourselves.

Develop Your Personal Productivity

Disciplining ourselves to be industrious and taking action allows us to squeeze more value out of our time. Time is a constant, but our personal productivity is not. Some people will use the hours of their day far more efficiently than others. It’s amazing that people will spend extra money to buy a faster computer or a fuel efficient car, but they’ll barely pay any attention to their personal capacity. Our personal productivity will do a lot more for us than a computer or a car in the long run. Give an industrious programmer a 10-year old computer, and he or she will get much more done with it over the course of a year than a lazy programmer with state of the art technology.

Despite all the technology and gadgets we have available that can potentially make our lives more efficient, our personal productivity is still our greatest challenge. It’s important not to rely on the things around us to make us more productive. Generally, if we aren’t productive without technology or gadgets, chances are we won’t be productive with them; they will only serve to mask our bad habits. But if we’re already industrious and efficient at taking action without technology, then any technological assistance will likely make us even more productive. Buying a Wii Fit Board or Xbox Kinect Console won’t turn a lazy person into a ‘go-getter’, but for anyone who is already keenly active, this type of technology offers a huge additional array of activity options.

When you’re looking to lose weight and become more active on a consistent basis, your time is perhaps your most valuable asset, and your results are directly proportional to how you spend your time. Obviously, we can’t buy any more time than we're given, and the clock is always ticking. With that in mind, there is a very practical idea you can apply right now to increase your effectiveness without working any harder than you do now;

Keep a detailed time log.

The first step to better managing our time is to find out how we're currently spending our time. Keeping a time log is a very effective way to do this, and after trying it for just one day, you'll immediately gain tremendous insight into where your time is actually going. The very act of measuring is often enough to raise your unconscious habits into your conscious awareness, where you then have a chance to scrutinise and change them.

So, how do we keep a log of our time?

Throughout your day, record the time whenever you start or stop any activity. Consider using a stopwatch to just record time intervals for each activity. You can do this during only your working time or throughout your entire day. At the end of the day, sort all the time chunks into general categories, and find out what percentage of your time is being spent on each type of activity. If you want to be thorough, do this for one week, and calculate the percentage of your total time that you spent on each type of activity. Be as detailed as possible. Note how much time you spend on email, reading paperwork, web surfing, phone calls, eating, going to the loo, etc. If you get up out of your chair, it probably means you need to make an entry in your time log. You may typically end up with 50-100 log entries per day.

You may be surprised to discover you're spending only a small fraction of your working time doing what you'd consider to be actual work. A detailed Time Management study carried out a few years ago in America showed that the average office worker only does 1.5 hours of actual work per day. The rest of the time is spent socializing, taking coffee breaks, eating, engaging in non-business communication, shuffling papers, and doing lots of other non-work tasks. The same study suggested that an average full-time office worker doesn't even start doing real work until 11:00am and begins to wind down around 3:30pm.

We may or may not agree entirely with the results from that particular study. However, by carrying out the exercise, you’ll certainly reveal ‘useable pockets of time’ in your days that you once believed to be packed full.

For example, one participant of the Time Management study only finished 15 hours worth of real work in a week where he spent about 60 hours in his office. Even though he felt he was technically about twice as productive as the average office worker, he was still dumbfounded by the findings. Where did those other 45 hours go? His time log laid it all out for him, showing him all the time ‘leaks’ he wasn't consciously aware of; checking email too often, excessive perfectionism, doing tasks that didn't need to be done, over-reading the news, taking too much time for meals, succumbing to preventable interruptions, etc.

Logging timings is a great way to ‘open our eyes’ to assessing our true productivity and revealing the real truths behind the ‘excuses’ we use to convince ourselves that we really don’t have any time. To keep on top of things, time logging need only be done periodically to provide these benefits. For example, you may choose to do it for one week every 3-6 months or even once a year. Over the years it can make a huge difference in your realisation of how much time you actually have and of how productive you can really be.

If you decide to pursue the path of developing your personal productivity, it may cause you some days of hair-pulling and teeth-gnashing, but it does eventually pay off. I think many people are attracted to the idea of becoming more productive out of basic common sense. It doesn’t take much brainpower to figure out that if you use your time more efficiently, you’ll complete more tasks, and therefore you’ll accumulate results faster.

Personal productivity allows you to create enough space in your life to do all the things you feel you should be doing: eat healthy, exercise, work hard, deepen relationships, have a wonderful social life, and make a difference; otherwise, something has to give. Without a high level of personal productivity, you’ll likely have to give up something that’s important to you; you’ll end up having conflicts between health and work, work and family, family and friends. Taking action and being industrious can give you the ability to enjoy all of these things, so you don’t have to choose work over fitness or family over healthy eating. You can have it all.

Hard Work

Alongside Working Hard, building your self-discipline also requires Hard Work.

A good definition of hard work is that which challenges you.
And why is challenge important? Why not just do what’s easiest?

Most people will do what’s easiest and avoid hard work, and that’s precisely why you should do the opposite. The superficial opportunities in life will be always be swamped by hordes of people seeking what is easy. The much tougher challenges will usually see a lot less competition and a lot more opportunity.

Mponeng is a gold mine in South Africa's North West Province. It extends over two miles below the surface and is considered to be one of the deepest and most substantial gold mines in the world. The trip from the surface to the bottom of the mine takes over an hour. It cost tens of millions of dollars to construct, but it’s one of the most lucrative gold mines ever. These miners tackled a very challenging problem with a lot of hard work, but ultimately it paid off.

Strong challenge is commonly connected with strong results. Yes, we can get lucky every once in a while and find an easy path to success. But will we be able to maintain that success, or was it just a fluke? Will we be able to repeat it?

When you discipline yourself to do what is hard, you gain access to a realm of results that are denied for everyone else. The willingness to do what is difficult is like having a key to a special private treasure room. The nice thing about hard work is that it’s universal. Hard work can be used to achieve positive long-term results regardless of the specifics.

Hard work pays off. When someone tells you otherwise, beware the sales pitch for something “quick and easy” that’s about to come next. The greater your capacity for hard work, the more rewards fall within your grasp. The deeper you can dig, the more treasure you can potentially find.

Being healthy is hard work. Finding and maintaining a successful relationship is hard work. Raising kids is hard work. Getting organized is hard work. Setting goals, making plans to achieve them, and staying on track is hard work.

Hard work goes hand-in-hand with acceptance. One of the things you must accept, is that there areas of your life or goals that you long to achieve, that won’t succumb to anything less than hard work.

If you want to lose weight and maintain your weight-loss, it’s time to accept that the path to your goal requires disciplined diet and exercise. Both of these are hard work, or at least ‘harder work’ than that necessary to maintain your old ‘heavier and unhealthier’ lifestyle.

Your life will reach a whole new level when you stop avoiding and fearing hard work and simply surrender to it. Make it your ally instead of your enemy. It’s a potent tool to have on your side.

Of course, talking about Working Hard and Hard Work is all well and good. But there’s something missing; the final key element in boosting your self-discipline and it is required to consistently churn out meaningful results and continued progress.

It is the art of Persistence and will be the topic of my next post in a couple of weeks time.

Until then, keep up all that hard work!