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Cultivating the Discipline of Motivation

Changing habits requires discipline. If you want to improve your "modus motivationalis," self-discipline can make that happen.

Discipline starts with your mindset, and an acknowledgement that you are human. It does not mean setting out on the treacherous path to "Perfection." It does mean cultivating persistence, tempered by patience with yourself.

The great news is that motivating yourself is so rewarding that it becomes a self-fulfilling endeavor. Although most people believe it takes 21 days to change a habit, I'm convinced it's much more of a challenge. My definition of discipline is "doing those things you know you need to or should do until they become a habit" - whether in 21 days or 18 months.

Overcoming habitual behavior takes some forethought and a little creativity. With those ingredients, we can ease the transition into new, ever more positive patterns of behavior and success.

1. Make a written commitment.
What we write down, we do. There is real magic in taking a thought (a chemical-electrical event in the brain) and performing the physical act of putting that thought or idea into writing. I am one of many people who stay on track by putting our goals on the bathroom mirror — where they always confront us twice a day. Writing down your goals and reading them aloud at least two times each day is your first step to accomplishing them. Each and every morning, as you review the day's schedule, ask yourself, "Is what I'm about to do going to get me closer to these goals?"

2. Don't forget "Why."
You want to change yourself, learn something new, conquer an unknown territory on your personal or professional landscape. If you don't have enough "why," the odds are against you. Articulating "why" is the next step in getting you through the rough spots ahead. Write that down, too. Include an incentive for your inevitable success.

3. Select sayings that inspire.
Whether it's as simple as a slogan like "Do It Now" or as complex as a passage in a book, find several inspirational messages that will get you through the lapses in self-motivation.

4. Enlist allies.
Who will join your "camp?" Who will help hold you accountable? I highly recommend that you have your written goals signed by your coach, mentor or support person. This not only encourages them to help you, but it makes your goals "public"—giving your supporters the right to follow up with you.

5. Create a campaign.
Now you know what you want to do, why you want to do it, who will help you and how you will stay on track. Put it all together into a campaign for success. Carry index cards with your chosen inspirational messages. Make sure you have ready access to your goals and why you're pursuing them. Tape record messages to yourself and play them on your commute. Create a screen saver with your goals or motivational quotes. Surround yourself with your motivational messages.

6. Plan for backsliding.
How will you get back on track when you miss a way station on the road to self-improvement? Write a list of techniques to help you refocus and rededicate yourself to the original goal(s). Call one of your allies. Prepare to forgive yourself immediately. See what your successes have been so far, and focus on them.

7. Celebration and continuation.
Reward yourself. When you realize your goal has become a habit, give yourself the incentive you promised—and build on your victory. Take a moment to write your reflections on "What I learned in this process." Then it's time to go back to Step 1, and start again on a new endeavor. There is an old saying, "Life would be great if it weren't so daily." Well, acquiring the discipline to achieve your goals is a daily effort. Daily discipline is the ultimate key and is available to literally everyone. We always find the time to do the things that are important to us. Written goals, read daily, are constant reminders of what's really important to us.Major breakthroughs start with small motivations—applied with discipline. You deserve to enjoy the successes of building a future from daily victories.