What you want now or what you want most? – How to start making the right choice

Hello beautiful…Happy new month!!! I mean, it’s still the new month right? Even though we are on Day 6 already. It’s Day 6 right?

I’m always curious as to how people count things. Like how do they count money? How do they count distance? How do they count time in a day? How do they count time in a year?

You don’t understand me? Okay, let me explain.

Let’s start with money. For me, I count my money in groups of NGN 5000. If I have 42K in my account, in my head, I have 40K. If I have 50k and I start spending, in my head, it’s already 45K. That is how I count money.

Let’s go to distance. I count distance by the number of turns. There are some really long roads that I’ve trekked the whole distance because I felt “It’s just one straight road”. And there are some places in very close proximity that I’ll always take an Uber to because there are just so many turns. That is how I count distance.

I hope you understand me now when I say I’m curious about how people count things. Today, I’m wondering how people count time in a year. Do they count it in months, weeks, or do they take it day by day?

For me I count it in quarters – Q1, Q2, Q3, Q4. And September is the very last month of Q3. If you’re like me and you take your year in quarters, then you’re probably coming close to an evaluation point. You’re looking at the goals you set for the quarter, how much of it you’ve achieved and how much you have left. In today’s post, I’ll be talking about something that plays a huge part in me achieving most of my goals: SELF-DISCIPLINE.

My theory is that self-discipline is always about choosing between what you want now and what you want most and this can be applied to anything.

Let’s use an example of something I hardly apply discipline in (Clue: Featured Image). Every single time I go to a mall that has a Miniso outlet, it’s almost impossible for me not to enter Miniso. Once I enter Miniso, it’s almost impossible for me not to buy anything.

What I want now – To buy the cute things I can see in Miniso.

What I want most – To have money for more important things.

How can I optimize for choosing what I want most over what I want now? Self -discipline.

Self-discipline is always about choosing between what you want now and what you want most.

I’m not going to lie to you. Self-discipline is challenging…but it’s not extremely difficult. It’s actually more difficult to live without self-discipline than it is to live with self-discipline. Believe me without self-discipline, you will be making A LOT of easy choices in the short run that will eventually result in difficult and negative consequences.

I think of self discipline as learned behavior. You’re basically rebuilding habits but this time, you’re building the correct ones. And it’s not just theory. You need to do a lot of practice your daily life. The best way to build a habit is by repetition.

“But I enforce self-discipline a lot…and it looks like it’s not working for me.”

It’s fine. This can happen. I’ve been there! Sometimes it feels like you’re doing everything to be extremely disciplined but you’re not seeing the expected results. Here is a couple of things you might have been doing wrong, just like me:

  • You think self discipline is all you need.

Self discipline is a complementary tool…a very helpful tool but also very complementary. Think of self-discipline as a compass and your goals as a destination. If you don’t have a destination, then your compass is useless. Self-discipline without clearly defined goals will leave you feeling frustrated.

  • You don’t have any motivation.

It’s always important to have something driving you and inspiring to get to your goal. If not, self-discipline just starts to seem like punishment. I usually advise that your major motivation is internal and not external. You can have other minor external motivations but the major thing pushing you should come from within. I say this because external motivations are usually variable. They can change at anytime and I know how easy it is to lose focus when your major motivation changes. That’s why it needs to come from you. Because you are a constant!

  • You think it’s about willpower.

Self-discipline is not about willpower. If it were, it’ll probably be easier to just have that determination and get it over with. But self-discipline is more about building healthy habits that will take you to your goal. It’s not a one-off thing. It’s realising that “this thing is bad for me” and forming habits that will help you avoid it. Willpower requires you to be ever-conscious or “always guiding” as you people say on social media but self-discipline on the other hand takes you to a place where you now automatically gravitate towards the right choice as opposed to fighting an internal battle with yourself. While you’d need willpower at some points while building self-discipline, that is not all it is.

  • You think you need to become a robot.

Self-discipline doesn’t mean you’ll become a robot incapable of feeling, wanting or craving anything other than what your manufacturer programmed. Nope. It does not work that way. You need to recognise and allow yourself feel those emotions. Check in with yourself. Listen and know exactly what you’re feeling so you can know how to deal with it going forward. If you fall off the wagon, keep in mind that you’re human and it’s okay. You can try again the next day. Don’t beat yourself up.

  • You’re not being patient.

I know you want to hit your goal now. I know you want to see your results right away…but patience is key in self-discipline. Remember that you’re building a habit. It’s not just a one-off thing. You need to be patient with your goals. It may take time but you’ll eventually see results. You also need to be patient with yourself. If you fall off the wagon for instance, you don’t need to quit. Be patient with yourself and get back on.

So how do I do self-discipline correctly?

Know and accept your weak spots.

Let’s assume you have a junk food weakness. If you keep cake and chocolates in your fridge saying that you won’t touch it and refusing to accept that junk food is your weakness, you’ll eventually eat it because it’ll be staring you right in the face. Accepting that you have a weakness helps you to take the next step against it. But if you’re denying it to yourself, you’ll keep believing that you don’t have any problem and so you don’t need to take any action.

Throw it out!

Whatever temptation is staring you in the face, throw it out. You don’t have to literally throw stuff out but you need to remove all removable temptations from your environment or take yourself away from the environment of temptation. If your goal is to stop taking alcohol, how about giving out all those alcohol bottles in your fridge?

Create extra steps.

There are some temptations you cannot throw out. In this case, what I do is to create extra steps. For instance, if I don’t want to visit Twitter for a while, I uninstall it from my phone. It’s not like I don’t know the way to the Play Store to install it back but the extra step of going to install it gives me time to rethink my decision. If you’re trying to focus on work and not get distracted, you can form a habit of turning off your phone while working. The extra step of turning it on and waiting for it to boot gives you time to rethink that decision.

Create newer habits to replace the old ones.

Self discipline is mostly about forming habits that will bring you closer to your goal so you will definitely need to create new habits. For instance, if your regular habit is going to Cold Stone every time you go to the mall, how about changing that and going to Fruity Life instead? If you’re trying to quit alcohol, how about going on a mission to drink more water?

Start small.

Try starting with one or two habits. Jumping into too much at once will leave you feeling overwhelmed. Don’t wait for a perfect time otherwise you’d never get started. Just start small and with time you’ll be able to improve.

Keep your eye on the prize.

At every point where you have to choose between what you want now and what you want most, keep your eye on the prize. The prize is what you want most not what you want now and hopefully someday, what you have will be what you want most.

Rinse and Repeat.

You can only make a habit out of self-discipline by repeating healthy actions over and over again. If you fail, just rinse and repeat.

Care for yourself.

Remember that self discipline is not punishment. It is actually you trying to make yourself better so if you’re killing yourself to achieve it, you’d be missing the point. Take breaks. Be mindful of your health. And get enough rest.

Never forget that self discipline is a process. There’ll be a lot of rinse and repeat. There’ll be a lot of trying, failing and trying again. There’ll be some setbacks. What is important is that you never back down. After every failure, show up again. After every delay, be even more patient. And after every setback, keep moving forward.


Tomi of Lagos.

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