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How to build self discipline & rigour?

"I know what to do to be successful in my role. I see the benefit of effort in getting there. The only problem is - I don't stick to anything beyond 5 days.
I know I need to proactively schedule these meetings with my directs. I do for 2 days in the beginning of the year and then I stop. Later every offsite looks like we are starting from scratch. I can be a better leader if I can stick to things I need to do. "
I want to exercise - I get up at 6AM for 3 days and give it up the fourth day.

These are the words of some senior professionals languishing on their inability to stay "consistent" and do things with "rigour". This is a fairly common coaching conversation and usually the pattern in the story goes like this:

 If I could stick to <> I would become <>. But I don't.

An offshoot of this story is the self-labelling that happens as below:

  • I lack self discipline & rigour

  • I procrastinate

  • I am not good in execution

When we dig deeper - there is always a search for a technique that will magically help people stick to their committed actions.

There are several hacks, of course but they may not sustain over time.

Its because its not the technique that's the problem. It's how someone thinks and feel about themselves:- their mental models and beliefs that stand in the way of getting actions to closure.

Below are joint discoveries during the coaching conversations on this subject:

  1. Identity has a huge bearing on whether we stick to actions - How do I define myself?

Each of us have a version of self concept - which describes who we think we are and what we really value in that.

This comes from the sum total of all experiences we have had in life so far and our reflections and lessons learnt on them.

Sometimes the influence of self concept on our actions is conscious and sometimes it's not.

What is very interesting to notice is that - we stay consistent to it all the time.

For eg: In our mind, if we think that we are strategic/big picture thinkers and it's our thinking that adds more value to others, then there is hidden bias for thinking vs doing.

So we may be reading, researching more on futuristic stuff more and may de-prioritise doing.

2. Body & mind influence our ability to take actions: How does my body & mind support the action?

Based on our genetics and conditioning, we may have different energy patterns - for eg, some people have high energy mornings, while some others work best in the night.

Some people need to sleep longer while some get charged with power naps.

When you have an action to take, ensure that it (action) is working well with how your energy works for you. Sometimes, managing your energy differently can help you to do the actions that you want.

3. Drives & motivations push us/pull us back: Is there an organic drive to make this happen?

Every change has a cost. When one is motivated, then we are willing to pay the cost.

Sometimes we say we want something but are unwilling to pay the cost of it.

That shows up as lack of action - but rather its a lack of will to bear the cost.

For eg: Person X will not exercise because getting an extra hour of sleep is more important for his functioning. When someone does not do the action, they are always trying to do something beneficial to them instead.

4. There is always a critical number of "trials": How many times will I bounce back from lack of action?

Many of us give up easily when we miss an action step.

It takes around 21-48 days to build a habit - that means we will do an action on auto-pilot after repeating the same for that many days.

If someone misses a day, it would take a little more time. However it would still happen.

The only way it will not happen is to give up too soon without bouncing back from inaction. One of the ways that one could set up for successful in completing actions, is to try it for another day.

So while designing actions, stay consistent to your identity, mental models and your motivations.

This will help you stay true to your actions.

What do you do to make your action plan stick?

#executivecoaching #discipline #rigour #leadershipcoaching

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