If you want perspective on human behavior, take a trip to the grocery store for some quarantine shopping. Standing in, say, a quarter-mile, hour-long line, it’s easy to see who’s practicing discipline — and who isn’t.
This isn’t an indictment on the bare-faced, gloveless meanderers who, once in the store, pull up right next to you to grab a can of beans. Well, maybe it is a little bit.
But it’s also an observation about how hard it is to break habits. Even though social distancing is proved to save lives and, in many states, wearing a mask in public is a legal requirement, plenty of people are blowing it off.
After all, the new guidelines are awkward, hard to stick to, and frankly, a pain in the ass. But then again, so are a lot of things that are in your best interest.
Improved self-control will help us now, and into the future. But does it have to be painful?
Behind every successfully achieved goal or habit is discipline. But wrapped up in that word is also punishment, which can make committing to a new practice feel like a joyless prospect.
Better to take on a Buddhist view of discipline, which removes severity and frames it as a structure to help you let go of behaviors that no longer serve you. As Pema Chödrön puts it in When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times:
What we discipline is not our “badness” or our “wrongness.” What we discipline is any form of potential escape from reality. In other words, discipline allows us to be right here and connect with the richness of the moment.
The downfall of willpower is not that it can be depleted, but instead, that emotions can easily sabotage it. Present moment awareness allows feelings to exist without letting them call the shots.
Embrace implementation intentions
To lead a healthier, safer, less stressful life, you’ve got to make conscious choices. When you set goal intentions, you’re dealing with the destination, not the journey. Implementation intentions, on the other hand, help you predetermine the details:
Going in with a plan will help give you the mindset and the self-control necessary for the situation. You will also save energy by not having to make a sudden decision based on your emotional state.
All you need are simple if/then statements, like “If I’m in a store, then I’ll avoid packed aisles,” or “If I grab my keys to go out, then I’ll put on a mask.” Take that last line out of context, and you’ve got the mantra of a modern-day superhero. While self-discipline is a commitment to serve yourself, it’s most impactful when it also helps serve the best interests of others.
10 Powerful Ways to Master Self-Discipline (Entrepreneur)