Self-Discipline: What Is It + 6 Tips To Achieve It
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Self discipline is an interesting thing. It’s a thing that most people covet, but few people actually want to put the work in for.
Kind of a catch-22 isnt it?
We want to have self-discipline, but it’s almost like we have to have a certain amount of it in order to achieve it!
Nobody is immune to the struggles of self-discipline (I can’t even begin to tell you how many pots of coffee I ingested writing this rather ironic article), but some people seem to have it all together.
Some people seem to have a discipline that is praiseworthy, but how do they achieve it?
What Is Self-Discipline?
Before you can worry about how to become disciplined, you’ve gotta hold up a minute.
First we have to focus on what self-discipline actually means.
Self-discipline is defined as the ability to make yourself do things you know you should do even when you do not want to.
“In reading the lives of great men, I found that the first victory they won was over themselves… self-discipline with all of them came first”. – Harry S Truman
So you’ve got a looming school project. It’s due Monday, but today is Saturday. And your buddies are throwing a party.
You know it’s going to take you some time but you really don’t want to do it.
Time to dig into that inner strength and be disciplined.
Or let’s say it’s Friday evening at work. You’re gearing up for that sweet, sweet weekend.
Right up until your boss drops a load of paperwork on your desk.
You’ve got two choices.
Pick up that keyboard and pull a Fight Club on the side of your bosses face.
(Not recommended unless you’re independently wealthy and have a great lawyer)
Or buckle up friends and get ready for a big dose of discipline. No matter what stage of life you’re in, things that require self discipline are always going to rear their ugly head.
It’s easy to say alright, you just have to buckle down and do it! You need to focus and be determined!
It’s also easy to figure that if you can’t do it, then there must be something wrong with you.
This is not the case.
“Just because you’re struggling with self-discipline doesn’t mean you have to raise the white flag and declare your self-improvement efforts a complete failure. Instead, work to increase the chances that you’ll stick to your healthier habits – even when you don’t feel like it”. – Amy Morin
Have you figured it out yet?
The simplest self-discipine definition to understand is this:
“The ability to control one’s feelings and overcome one’s weaknesses.”
Read that again.
The ability to overcome one’s weaknesses. Or, more simply put…the ability to kick yourself in the butt when needed.
How To Develop Self-Discipline
Everybody encounters things that make them say, eh, I’ll do it later.
But just like just about anything, you can train your mind to be disciplined.
“I think self-discipline is something, it’s like a muscle. The more you exercise it, the stronger it gets”. – Daniel Goldstein
Let’s dive into some simple strategies to beef up your self-discipline muscle.
Re-train your mind.
The thing about discipline is, usually when we have to utilize it, it’s because we’re being faced with something that we don’t want to have to do.
We can actually subvert these ‘deep sigh’ feelings by retraining our minds.
No, I’m not saying that you can completely reverse negative feelings into positive ones, but I am saying that we can focus less on the negative, and become more incentive oriented.
For example, let’s say that you have some menial task to complete.
Think of a reward that you can have after completing said task.
Knowing that you have that incentive at the end will motivate you to finish, and in addition when you complete the task you have the gratification of receiving your reward.
Another way of thinking about it is let’s say you want to begin working out.
There’s no other way to put it, beginning sucks.
If you work out stoically though for a week, step on the scale. Notice you’ve lost three pounds.
The reward of working out is that you’ve now dropped weight! (Or gained depending on what you’re going for.
That becomes your incentive. Instead of focusing on how much you hate working out, focus on how much you enjoy your incentive.
The more you can focus on the positive, the easier it is to be disciplined and continue in your task.
Try to focus on the feeling of completion. That feeling of relief and pride that you get from completing a task. Pride can be a powerful tool in your journey to become more disciplined.
“Self-discipline is an act of cultivation. It requires you to connect today’s actions to tomorrow’s results. There’s a season for sowing a season for reaping. Self-discipline helps you know which is which.” – Gary Ryan Blair
Don’t overload yourself.
Alright. So you’ve managed to start training your mind into the disciplined work machine you always knew it could be.
Time to kill off all that work you’ve been neglecting.
As a matter of fact, you’re such a beast, if you just put your nose to the grind stone for oh, say…eighteen hours you can knock it all out at once!
Let’s slow down just a bit.
Discipline is great, but it doesn’t mean that you fail if you don’t grind straight through every task right till the bitter end!
Schedule yourself breaks.
Just like your muscles, your brain gets tired after extended periods of working. Making sure that you don’t over stress your mind is very important to making sure that you complete your tasks in the most efficient way possible.
“No matter how strong or strong-willed you are, you cannot live a stressful, maxed-out life without that pace eventually biting you in the butt. It is necessary to take breaks, set parameters, and be kind to yourself if you want to continue making an impact in your little corner of the world.” – Cynthia Mendenhall, author
Breaking every now and then has many beneficial effects. Taking breaks:
- Helps keep you focused on the task at hand
- Allows you stay more creative for longer
- Allows you to step back and see the bigger picture
- Prevents fatigue and the mistakes that stem from it
- Keeps you from getting burned out on a task
- Improves overall project results
So schedule regular breaks. For every milestone you pass in the tasks you’re doing, take a few minutes to yourself. Get up and walk around, take a bathroom break, or go socialize for a few minutes in the break room.
You’ll be amazed at the effect it will have on your work.
You also want to avoid going overboard. You know the saying, “all things in moderation?” That applies here as well.
While self-discipline is great, you actually need to rest. You need fun in your life too. Throwing yourself fully into anything is unhealthy and will yield you negative results.
Remember the worth of your work.
Something we all do all too often is we forget that there is a reason that we’re doing the things that we’re doing.
These reasons go deeper than: Well, I do this because I need money and that’s what my boss told me to do.
Remember the reason you have a job is because you perform an important and vital task. Nobody is trying to spend money on having something done that doesn’t need to be.
So focus on the value of what it is you do. Maybe you aren’t a surgeon or a N.A.S.A engineer. It doesn’t matter what you do, if you get paid for it, it’s because someone needs it done.
Think about what comes undone if you were to not complete your task. Remember that you do important work every day.
If your self-discipline isn’t work related, don’t focus on the task itself, focus on the reason it’s important to you. This goes back to retraining your mind.
Something that I find I have a hard time with is distraction. How can we expect to complete something we already don’t want to do when things we really want to do are staring us in the side of the head?
More and more as times change people are finding creative ways to make a living from home. The allure to this is obvious.
Who doesn’t want to be able to wake up in the morning (or heck, even the afternoon) and “go to work” in their pj’s?
No one I know for sure.
Having the freedom to be as comfortable as we want to be, not having an irritating commute, or simply not having to deal with others in a traditional office would be ideal for many people.
There is a flip side to that, though.
“The most dangerous distractions are the ones you love, but that don’t love you back.” – Warren Buffet
Where do we keep all the things that we love? At the house. Usually within easy reach. In other words, in prime distraction range.
How am I supposed to finish up on my work when that show just got added to netflix? Besides, I’m at my own house! I’m in charge here!
Let’s take a step back again.
It’s fairly difficult to stay focused when all of your favorite distractions are boring into the side of your head.
We have to do what we can to mitigate the amount of readily available distractions. Try some of these things to try help avoid distraction.
- Use headphones to “get in the zone” and tune out the world
- Set up a place to work and only work
- Try to keep non work-related devices out of easy reach
- Make your workspace comfortable, but not cozy. No sleeping on the job.
Setting up your workspace, especially when working from home, is a great way to avoid the distractions that are trying to break you self-discipline.
Don’t be afraid of setbacks.
In all this self-discipline, don’t forget that while we may have avoided breaking your keyboard over your bosses head (great choice, by the way), there will be times when you find that your self-discipline will falter.
We are all working toward better self-control and self-discipline. It may sound cliche, but nobody is perfect.
So on the inevitable occasion when you find that your self-discipline has failed you, use it as a learning experience.
Don’t get down on yourself, motivate yourself with it. Look back on other experiences where your resolve got the job done. Maybe the old you wouldn’t have kept trucking.
Recognize your own growth in moments like these.
Make a personal note through your failure that you don’t like how it feels and propel yourself to even greater heights.
“Nothing is ever a setback. If anything, it just motivates you for what’s next.” – Christina Aguilera
Set goals for yourself.
“Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.” – Pablo Picasso
The importance of setting goals for yourself in your quest to self-discipline is paramount.
You shouldn’t expect to do really anything without first setting clear, achievable goals that you can strive toward.
Just like everything else, to set forth in this journey without clear goals is basically asking for failure. Of course, these goals should challenge you, but they should never demoralize you.
So say you want to work on eating fast food less.
You shouldn’t expect to stop cold turkey!
Set goals. First Focus on not eating fast food every day. This allows you to meet an without feeling shame whenever you do eat fast food.achievable goal and feel the sense of achievement.
Doing this you can set a series of goals that eventually end with you loving your new fast foodless life!
The same can be applied to other things as well.
Let’s say you carry a little extra weight, and it’s time to trim up.
If you expect to look like Chris Hemsworth in a week, you’re going to have a bad time. But say you make a reasonable goal of losing two pounds a week, you can be happy with the fact that you crushed them lbs.
“I think goals should never be easy, they should force you to work, even if they are uncomfortable at the time.” – Michael Phelps
Self-Discipline In A Nutshell
Self-discipline is one skill in life that, no matter what it is you do, will always be beneficial to living a happy, healthy and productive life.
It will lead you to more opportunities, better friendships, healthier relationships and will raise you to heights you never thought possible.
Remember we are all works in progress.
There is always room for improvement, and there is even some space for the occasional set-back.
Never forget to ask yourself how to become self-disciplined.
Never stop learning and growing.
Remember to set your goals and celebrate yourself when you crush them. They will be the platforms you stand upon to reach the next level.
“You can do anything if you set goals. You just have to push yourself.” – RJ Mitte
Don’t let your setbacks set you back. Remember that we all fail sometimes. We gotta use our setbacks to motivate ourselves to reach the next level
Always be sure to prepare yourself for the distractions that aim to hold you back in your search to better yourself through self-discipline.
These distractions will come in many forms from electronics to people. Nobody is saying to rid your life of them, just know that there is a time and a place for all of them. Recognise that time and place.
Always remember that the things we do have worth.
Focus on that worth. It becomes far more difficult to continue at a task that seems completely unimportant.
Final Thoughts On Self-Discipline
Time is the most important commodity we have to spend.
We are only human beings. We all have our limits. Remember the benefits of taking a step back and taking a break.
The importance of a simple, periodic break cannot be overstated.
Make sure that your time is most efficiently used by making sure you don’t overload your mind.
There will be times to turn on the after-burners and power through. Solid practice in self-discipline will make these times easier and flow better.
As a friend of mine always says, respect the limits of your mind and body.
“There is virtue in work and there is virtue in rest. Use both and overlook neither.” – Alan Cohen
Train your mind like a muscle.
Don’t forget to reward yourself for the success that is to come in your life. You earned it. You deserve it.
It may seem like a small thing, but those little pick me ups are incredibly important in re-training your mind into a disciplined machine.
No one person is able to achieve more discipline than another. We may see somebody like Ghandi and think this is something we cannot achieve, but it is not true.
Use the people that strike you as incredibly self-disciplined as long-term goals to aspire to.
They all started somewhere, and we can achieve the same thing they have.
I’m glad to have written this piece. As I set myself to reach new heights, I will always focus on the important themes penned here. I hope it helps you all as well.
Hey! I'm Noah Riggs.
Noah is the founder of Busy Living Better and has built a life he loves, despite growing up poor. He shares exactly how he started his six-figure business, became financially stable, and lives his best life so that he can help you do the same. You can read more about how he did all of this before the age of 23!