Chances are when you think of discipline, you think of this:
No, you can't see your friends!
Stop watching movies!
Games are a waste of time!
You can never have fun again!
You must always study!
The thing is, this isn't discipline; it's self-denial, and it's one of the quickest ways to lose motivation and quit.
I struggle with the difference between self-denial and self-discipline all the time. I often get mad if I spend too much time doing something fun like playing a videogame, watching sports, or enjoying a TV series because I feel like I'm wasting time that I could be doing something productive.
In fact, there was a time when I would spend three to four hours a day studying Spanish (and more like 8 hours a day on weekends) because I felt it was the only way I was going to improve. 🥴
While that practice time didn't hurt, the fact that I denied myself anything fun eventually led to burnout.
Burnout is what happens when you make yourself sick or unable to continue working because you have worked too hard for too long.
If you think discipline means never having fun, you'll burn yourself out and quit.
Instead of never doing anything fun, self-discipline means choosing what you want instead of what you feel like in a given moment.
That means if you want to be fluent in English and have made a daily goal of practicing for 30 minutes every morning before work, then you choose to do that, even on days where you don't feel like studying.
That's right; you can still have fun. You can still play games. You can still watch movies. You don't have to deny yourself anything.
All you need to do is set a reasonable goal that works for your schedule, accept that there will be days you don't feel like doing it, but choose to do it anyway.
Feeling lazy is a part of the human experience. I certainly haven't felt like studying Spanish every day for the past four years, and I haven't been 100% successful in doing it every day either. However, I have been able to do it about 90% of the time, whether I felt like it or not.
By the way, it's perfectly fine to need help with this.
Choosing what you want regardless of how you feel is easier said than done.
That's why I've built the Deliberate English Community.
The Deliberate English Community will give you the tools and support you need to develop this self-discipline. Every week you'll receive lessons, challenges, and guidance on what to study and how.
You won't be forced to study by yourself either. When you join the Deliberate English Community, you are joining a community full of students and native English teachers. 🧡
This will help you in two ways:
Everything you say and do will be reviewed and corrected by native speakers, helping you build confidence and a more natural vocabulary.
You'll be encouraged to choose your goals regardless of how you feel in the moment by being exposed to other highly-motivated students.
Next, think about what obstacles will get in the way. For example, if you plan to study every morning, maybe a bad night's sleep will be a problem.
Finally, create a plan for each of these obstacles. For example, if you know that poor sleep will be a problem, then create a plan that says, "if I sleep poorly, I'll work on repeating sentences out loud instead of writing because it's more enjoyable for me."