As someone with minor ADHD and an extremely active mind, I often use meditation to develop self discipline, to keep myself on track, to stop myself from going completely AWOL.
I’m the type of person who’ll be doing one thing (such as writing this article) and then out of nowhere I’ll suddenly decide that actually I should be doing something completely crazy like going for a swim in Lake Ontario.
Needless to say, it’s very important for me to actively encourage myself to be self disciplined.
Author and researcher Angela Duckworth describes self discipline as having “Passion and perseverance for long-term goals”. For instance, if you’re trying to lose weight, you need the motivation and perseverance” to keep going to the gym while also saying no to those Mars Bars.
One of the main ways that I personally achieve discipline is through my meditation practice. As a meditation teacher, I use a combination of basic mindful awareness and some fabulous meditation techniques to give myself a leg-up. So, let me show you how to do the same thing.
To start, let me share my guided meditation for self discipline. And after that, we’ll look at some tips along with the science of a disciplined mind.
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Guided Meditation for Self-Discipline
- Sit comfortably with good posture. Posture is always important for meditation, but it is essential for this particular exercise. Make sure you have a straight but relaxed spine.
- Close your eyes. Now, we will begin to observe the breath, but with a little bit of a twist. For this exercise we want to focus on a very specific part of the breath. We will focus on the breath as it moves through the space just beneath the middle of the nose. Imagine there is a pinprick there, and place your awareness very precisely on that space just beneath the middle of your nose.
- From time to time, your mind will wander away from this space, almost as though your mind is losing balance. When this happens, just gently rebalance your awareness on that spot beneath the middle of your nose.
- Whenever you become distracted by thoughts or feelings, label what is happening (saying “Thinking” or “Feeling” etc.) and then return your awareness to that space just beneath the middle of your nose.
- Continue to do as described above for five minutes or so before continuing to the next step.
- Open your eyes and focus on a space directly ahead of you. As you did before, focus on one very small area directly ahead of you (but not your computer / phone screen!—a blank wall is ideal).
- As you did before, whenever your mind loses balance or you get lost in thoughts or feelings, gently return your awareness to that space directly ahead of you.
- Continue to focus directly ahead of you, keeping your eyes still, for around five minutes.
- Congrats! You’ve finished our self discipline meditation! Return tomorrow to practice again (you know, because that’s the disciplined thing to do!).
Tips To Develop Self Discipline
1: Learn to Delay Gratification
Arguably the number one way to develop self discipline is by learning to say “No” to all those little things that you want in the moment. See a yummy looking cookie that you want to munch on? Say no. Tempted to jump on social media and scroll through memes for hours and hours? Say no. If you’re me, feeling an urge to pick up your cat Willow and snuggle her like crazy even though you’re trying to work, say no. Or at the very least, if you can’t say “No”, at least delay it for ten minutes or so. That way, you’re training yourself to have more self control.
2: Very clearly state your goal
It’s a heck of a lot easier to focus on your goals when you know exactly what your goals are. For instance, sometimes I’ll wake up in the morning with no real objective other than to just “Get some work done”. I have no clear intention as to exactly what it is I’m trying to achieve. Other times I will be very specific and say, “Today I’m going to write a guide to mindful self discipline, including a guided meditation, and I’ll put it on both my blog and on Youtube”. Guess which one leads to the best results? Having a clear goal, right? When you wake up, or whenever you are about to start a new task, state to yourself exactly what your goal is.
3: Meditate every day even if it’s just for five minutes
As a meditation teacher I know that it can be difficult for some people to stick to their meditation practice. Sometimes there are just too many emails in your inbox, or your boss needs you to work extra hours, and you simply run out of time to meditate. I get it. But I still urge you to meditate every day even if it is only for five minutes. Five minutes is infinitely more than none. And it can be enough time to clear your mind so that you can focus.
4: Reduce distractions
You can make it easier to be disciplined by reducing the number of distractions around you. For instance, let’s say that for your work you sometimes have to go on your phone, and on your phone you have Facebook, Pokemon Go, and a whole bunch of other apps. All those apps are vying for attention. They are all urging you to open them, moving you away from your actual goal towards something pointless like trying to find Pikachu on that virtual map. The same thing for any room you happen to be in. The more stuff there is to distract you, the less likely you are to be disciplined. So, make it easier on yourself and clean up.
Scientific research shows that mindfulness and meditation can greatly increase your delf discipline.
Perhaps the number one component of self discipline is the ability to delay gratification. It’s about being able to spend a day in candy store without eating any candy because you want to lose weight. In other words, you need to be able to say “No” to the million little things that you momentarily desire so that you can focus on our long-term goals. In other words: Willpower.
Willpower is a process that happens in a specific part of the brain called the “dorsola teral prefrontal cortex” (DL-PFC). So naturally, strengthening this part of the brain will increase self discipline. And one of the best ways to strengthen the dorsola teral prefrontal cortex is with meditation. Studies show that eight weeks of mindfulness training will fortify this region of the brain. Plus, meditation increases awareness and reduces reactivity to external stimuli, which is essential for self control.
I’ll be honest with you; I sometimes struggle with self discipline. I always have. If I’m not careful I can end up wasting so much time being unproductive, and from time to time I am known to indulge in some candies, which blows because right now I’m trying to lose weight. But thankfully, I do have some advantages. As a meditation teacher I know all the best ways to cultivate self discipline, and mindfulness is certainly one of the most effective means of doing so.
Try using the meditation above once a day for a couple of weeks. You’ll find that it calms and clears your mind, boosts your concentration, and strengthens your willpower. And because of that, it will help you to develop self discipline.
Paul Harrison BSc is a qualified meditation teacher who believes in genuine, authentic meditation. He has more than 15 years experience in teaching meditation and mindfulness both to individuals and to corporations and is the author of four books on meditation. He has been featured in Psychology Today, Breathe Magazine, Healthline, Psych Central and Lion’s Roar.
Paul studied meditation in beautiful Oxford, UK, and Hamilton Ontario Canada, and earned his degree at Staffordshire University.
Paul’s biggest inspirations include Thich Nhat Hanh, Jon Kabat Zinn, and Jack Kornfield.
“My goal is to provide the most authentic meditation sessions so you can harness the power of your own mind for personal transformation” – Paul Harrison