Does life seem harder now than previously? And do you currently struggle more than in the past to maintain a positive mindset and be self-disciplined enough to follow through on commitments and achieve goals? You are not alone if you answered “yes” to both questions.
I received an email recently from Brendon Burchard, founder of the High Performance Institute, in which he shared some recent data. “Our latest research found that people are really struggling with self-discipline, mindset, and dealing with adversity right now,” he wrote.
I took that information to heart and want to address it. Here’s why…
Almost everyone experiences adversity at some point. It might appear as illness, loss, debt, relationship issues, accidents, or something else entirely.
Speaking for myself, I’ve faced a fair amount of adversity in the last five years. My marriage almost ended, my husband and I experienced high levels of financial stress, my mother’s health failed and she died, my husband had a stroke, I discovered I had kidney function and heart issues, and, most recently, I dislocated my shoulder. That doesn’t include challenges I’ve faced related to my children and learning just this week that our home needs an expensive new roof, which is not an expense in our current budget.
I’ve learned through these difficult experiences that being self-disciplined and having a positive mindset are essential in times of adversity. Life comes with challenges, but you get through them more easily with self-discipline and mental strength.
What is Self-Discipline?
Self-discipline means having the ability to master your thoughts, actions, and emotions and having the tenacity to persevere even in the face of difficulty. Common examples of self-discipline include working out daily, focusing without distraction, maintaining a rigid diet, positive thinking, choosing to feel joyful and grateful, or getting up at four in the morning.
Consider my former marriage issues, and you will see how this trait is helpful in times of adversity. I was ready to ask for a divorce but decided to try one more time to make my marriage better. This time, I focused on myself—not my husband—and worked on being more self-disciplined. I managed my negative thoughts about my husband, took more loving action toward him, and became conscious of, and then decreased, my tendency to express anger and resentment toward him.
Once I mastered these things, I found it easier to navigate our relationship issues and keep an open and positive mindset about my husband and the possibility of saving our marriage. That’s when the relationship began to improve.
However, first I had to increase my self-discipline despite the challenges posed daily by my marriage. I had to be tenacious and not give in to old emotional, behavioral, and mental habits.
What is Mindset?
My efforts to be a self-disciplined person shifted my mindset. Mindset is your mental attitude, which colors how you see everything in your life—including adversity. Your mental attitude is formed by your consistently repeated thoughts, which become beliefs. They become the lens through which you see the world.
For instance, a person with a positive, growth-oriented mindset might see their challenges as ways to learn and grow. Another with a negative and set mindset might see them as Divine punishment or their tendency for bad luck.
The difference in how each person perceives adversity results from differences in their mindset. And the person with a positive mental attitude can move through adversity with more ease and grace.
The Connection Between Self-Discipline and Mindset
If you are mentally and emotionally self-disciplined, you create a positive mindset that helps you deal with adversity. And if you are self-disciplined about your actions and behaviors, you deliberately and tenaciously move through adversity, thus creating the outcomes you desire.
And here’s the good news: anyone can improve their self-discipline and mindset. That means you can lessen your struggle with tough times.
Now that you better understand self-discipline, mindset, and adversity, let’s explore why more people are struggling with all three. Then, I’ll offer practical tips for strengthening your self-discipline and mindset so you tackle adversity with ease and confidence.
Why Adversity is on the Rise
As Burchard said, the experience of adversity seems to have risen for several reasons in the last few years.
First, the COVID-19 pandemic significantly impacted all aspects of people’s lives worldwide. It caused illness, death, social isolation, financial difficulties, and mental health challenges. Millions of people lost their jobs, businesses, and livelihoods, and many continue feeling challenged to get back on their feet.
Second, many people have been forced to adapt to the rapid pace of technological, social, and economic changes. This often has meant constantly upgrading skills to keep up with the changing times or altering career paths. Some find it hard to keep pace even with phone, app, and computer program upgrades, which adds stress to their lives.
Third, social media and online platforms have created a comparison culture. For instance, you see someone on Instagram and weigh your success against what you see in that person’s feed. Comparison leads to increased internal pressure to conform to societal norms or reach higher levels of success. Also, the comparison culture creates a sense of inadequacy and low self-esteem if you can’t meet your self-imposed standards.
Fourth, politics and global issues have created significant turmoil in many societies, leading to increased overwhelm and anxiety. People who stay abreast of the news often feel uncertain about the political arena, worry about environmental disasters, stress about the economy, and fear war. All this negatively impacts mental health and well-being.
Why it Seems Harder to be Self-Disciplined
Several circumstances make being self-disciplined seem more difficult—with or without increased levels of adversity.
For instance, digital distractions likely lure you away from your good habits. The advent of smartphones, social media, and digital devices bombards you with distractions that derail your self-discipline. In fact, social media platforms are designed to capture and hold your attention, making it difficult to resist the urge to check notifications and browse through endless feeds. The constant stimulation that comes with digital devices also makes it hard to stay on task and focus on your goals.
In addition to digital distractions, you might experience entertainment overload. The rise of streaming services, online gaming, and social media has made it easy to indulge in endless hours of entertainment. But constant access to entertainment makes it challenging to prioritize goals and responsibilities over binge-watching your favorite Netflix show.
We also live in a world of instant gratification. Almost everything is available at the click of a button. Thus, we expect instant results, making it challenging to be patient and persistent while facing adversity. The desire for instant gratification also leads to impulsive decision-making and a lack of self-control.
How to Develop Self-Discipline
If you see the value of developing higher levels of self-discipline, here are three tips to improve your self-mastery.
1. Know what you want to create. Knowing what you want life to look like on the other side of adversity is important. So, make a plan and a timeline of how to achieve the results you want.
2. Establish a routine. Routine is essential to self-discipline because it helps you create structure and consistency. Also, routines enable you to establish habits and consistently take action toward creating the post-adversity results you desire.
3. Avoid temptation and distractions. Self-discipline helps you avoid temptations and distractions. Set boundaries or rules for yourself, and stick to them; be self-integral. (You can even reward yourself when you succeed!)
Why It Feels Harder to Maintain a Positive Mindset
Why is it so hard today to approach life and its challenges with a positive mindset? There are a few reasons…
People today live with high levels of stress, overwhelm, and anxiety. This makes it difficult to focus on the positive aspects of life. It’s easier to dwell on negative thoughts and feelings.
If you tend to focus on things like politics, wars, comparisons, and loss, you increase your negative mindset and lower your emotional state. Habitual negative thinking impacts your psychological and physical health, leading to depression, anxiety, and even physical illness. This is especially true if you don’t have the tools —like self-discipline—to move through tough times.
Also, the constant barrage of information and stimuli from social media and technology supports a negative focus. With access to 24/7 news cycles, social media feeds, and other digital distractions, you will likely become overwhelmed and consumed by negative information and headlines.
In today’s world, change happens at an unprecedented pace. We are faced with new political and economic factors and social movements driving significant shifts in the global landscape seemingly daily. So much uncertainty and change feel unsettling and cause anxiety and negativity. It also makes it challenging to maintain a positive mindset when facing unknown and unpredictable situations.
Overcoming the Challenges to a Positive and Effective Mindset
If you feel like it’s difficult to cultivate a positive mindset—especially since you don’t have the self-discipline to focus on the positive in the face of diversity—try the following strategies:
1. Cultivate gratitude. Make a conscious effort to focus on the positive aspects of life and practice gratitude for what you have.
2. Limit exposure to negative stimuli. Enforce limits on how much time you are exposed to negative news and social media feeds.
3. Develop a growth mindset. Cultivate a mental attitude that sees challenges and setbacks as opportunities for growth and learning.
How to Move Through Adversity
You may not be able to prevent adversity, but you can learn to move through it gracefully and quickly. In addition to the self-discipline and mindset tips above, here are three ways to do that.
1. Find a support system. Support groups and group coaching programs foster community and often consist of individuals who share common experiences. A community can help you feel less alone in your struggles.
2. Get one-on-one support. If groups are not your thing, try one-on-one coaching or therapy sessions. Find an expert practitioner who makes you feel you are not alone in your challenges.
3. Engage in self-care. Self-care is crucial when you experience adversity because you have to be emotionally, mentally, and physically strong to navigate challenging times. So, prioritize your well-being by engaging in activities that relax the mind and body, such as exercise, meditation, sleep, or dance. Taking care of yourself reduces stress, anxiety, and depression.
Adversity is Inevitable—Suffering is Not
Most of the time, you can’t avoid adversity. But there is no need to suffer through tough times.
Instead, learn to deal with adversity in ways that help you come out the other side more easily and effectively. Increasing your self-discipline and improving your mindset…now…not when adversity knocks on your door. Be ready so you can persist and rise above whatever challenges you face.
How do you get out of the unhappiness gap? Tell me in a comment below. And please share this post with a friend or on social media.
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