I was reading a book the other day called, Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength by Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney. The book talks about the latest research on willpower and how we can improve in this important area.
It is interesting to read about the connection between willpower and parenting in the chapter called, “Raising Strong Children.” The authors talk about the various elements required to properly discipline a child.
They talk about severity, speed and consistency. They say, “Instead of encouraging virtue, harsh punishments teach the child that life is cruel and that aggression is appropriate. The speed of the punishment is much more important.”
They go on to say, “By far the most important aspect of punishment – and the most difficult one for parents – is consistency.”
If you follow the systems and habits approach to improvement you likely have come across your own challenges with consistency. But if you have stuck with your small steps long enough you probably also have experienced the great value in consistency.
Consistency breeds automation. If we take a behavior and do it over and over consistently, it will turn into a new habit.
The authors argue that this same approach leads to developing strong children. Raising children is no easy task, and it is easy to be inconsistent in how we discipline our children.
But the more we use the same principles we use in the systems and habits approach to improvement, the more we can develop consistent, fair, quick punishments that will help teach our children right from wrong. It will also help from reinforcing the wrong behaviors such as giving in after a toddler throws a tantrum.
The authors sum it up by explaining, “Consistent discipline tends to produce well-behaved children.”
But what about us? What about using the same concept to help us improve and reach new levels of success? Can we improve our own self-discipline by looking at the same variables?
Can it be that the more consistent we are with self-discipline the better we will get?
I would argue that, yes that is true. The systems and habits approach to improvement is all about this consistent self-discipline to help us create new routines and systems in our life that will help us grow and improve over time.
This is the core of behavior modification and can help you achieve all sorts of goals and objectives and become who you want to be. It can help you avoid destructive habits such as smoking and it can help you develop new positive routines such as exercising. It can even help you improve your communication skills or better develop your ability to lead others.
Many of these things can be learned and changed. We have the ability to make them into whatever we want. The key is that we have to be consistent in our approach, just as consistency is the key factor in disciplining a child.