We know that people vary in their ability to handle things well when they are faced with conflicting desires or impulses. We also know that the road to success often requires self-discipline: choosing long-term gain over short-term pleasure. This might mean resisting a decadent piece of cheesecake in the service of losing weight, enduring the hardship of homework in order to achieve good grades, or passing up the unplanned purchases to stick to the household budget.
Research has shown that self-discipline is a crucial factor in predicting people’s future success. It forecasts who will achieve important goals versus who will wander down the path of impulsivity.
One version of self-discipline is called “grit” by researcher Angela Duckworth and her colleagues. According to Duckworth, if a person is “gritty,” he or she is not thrown off course by disappointment, failure, adversity, boredom, or plateaus in progress. While an impulsive person might use these elements as an excuse to give up, the gritty individual chooses to keep working strenuously toward challenges.
Sometimes people are quick to dismiss the idea of grit, believing that they simply do not possess self-control or self-discipline. However, it turns out that self-control is not a quality that you either “have” or “don’t have.” It is a life skill that almost everyone can strengthen with practice. As an added bonus, when you build up self-discipline in one area of your life, it makes it easier for you to extend self-discipline to other areas.
What is one small step you can take to practice increased self-discipline?