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  • Writer's pictureKirsti Gwynn

The Self-Discipline Myth

There’s a dangerous idea circulating right now that goes something like this: 

All of those things you’ve been meaning to do: now is the time to do them. And if you don’t do them? Well, no more excuses about not having the time... the issue is clearly that you’re just not self-disciplined enough.


Please don’t believe this for one minute, friend. This statement reflects what we so often get wrong when talking about self-discipline.

Self-discipline is not actually a stable personality trait: we don’t either “have what it takes” or not. Rather, how self-disciplined you are is a direct result of your emotional state.

Neuroimaging studies show that when we’re feeling more positive emotion, we physically have more brain access to areas involved in self-discipline, planning, and even motivation. 

When we’re under stress, it’s the opposite. 

In fact, scientists go as far as to say that the amygdala in the brain performs a “brain hijack” whenever we’re under stress: robbing us of our ability to exercise self-discipline.

Isn’t it true that when you’re feeling run down, anxious or depressed, it’s 100 x harder to get motivated, to follow-through, to do what you said you’d get done?

And the you that’s patient, in control, and feels inspired to go for your goals... that’s the version of you that comes out when you’re feeling your happiest, isn’t it?

Now is not the time to judge your levels of self-discipline, self-control, or ability to follow through. 

If you’re feeling anxious right now, as so many people are, then it makes sense that self-discipline is down.

Be gentle with yourself about that.

This is the time to nurture yourself and invest your time in finding ways to bring a sense of calm and stability into your life.

That is the way - the only way, but also the most gratifying way - to unlock your most self-disciplined self.

P.S. I've just released an online course called Coronavirus: Coping with Anxiety and Social Isolation, specifically designed to help you to cope better with the ways Coronavirus regulations and social distancing are affecting your life, work, and ability to feel connected to others. Check it out here.


30 Days to Wellbeing During Covid-19 (9)
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