Self-discipline is the most vital component for attaining any worthy goal. It’s that drive that makes you move forward to continue. Especially if you don’t feel like it.
Excellence is not an act, but a habit. Taking action is what creates excellence: doing what must be done every single day. No amount of meditation, contemplation, or dreaming will take the place of doing.— Tom Bilyeu
It’s that ability to perform, keep your promises, and meet those deadlines essential for success.
Without self-discipline, you simply won’t have the momentum to make the progress you want.
What Is Self-Discipline?
“Self-discipline” is defined in the dictionary as, “correction or regulation of oneself for the sake of improvement; the power to control one’s feelings, desires, and actions”.
Many people shy away from it because it’s associated with self-inflicted discomfort and pain — the word “discipline” is a common euphemism for being punished.
However, the development of self-discipline is often satisfying and highly rewarding and can be developed without the denial of happiness, joy, and comfort. It’s about taking small and consistent actions to gradually develop habits that serve your dreams and goals, integrating those habits into your life, and creating a lifestyle that’s aligned with your purpose.
It’s about conditioning the mind and rewiring your brain to recognize the rewards in taking a step toward your long-term goals rather than giving into behaviors that yield short-term pleasure.
A disciplined mind recognizes the reasons for waking up early to get a headstart on the day, and ignores the pleasure that may come from a few extra hours of sleep. A disciplined brain feels rewarded with every step toward an end goal, no matter how small.
Why You Need Self-Discipline
Self-discipline is critical to achievement in every facet of life. Your career(s), hobbies, and relationships are shaped by your commitment to discipline, and the most successful people are incredibly self-disciplined. The path to success is filled with hurdles and barriers that require persistence, dedication, and inspiration to overcome.
Self-discipline is a gateway to realizing and accessing your inner strength. The ability to tap into this strength drives greater problem-solving ability when faced with difficult challenges. It enhances self-confidence and increases focus and efficiency at will. It fosters patience and compassion. Perhaps most importantly, it creates happiness and satisfaction in the pursuit of success.
The top achievers in every field developed traits that directly influenced their success by being self-disciplined.
They have self-control, adhere to the principles they’ve identified to be beneficial to success, and avoid the temptations that are detrimental to their progress.
They’ve changed their identity – successful people started off as regular people, but grew into the person who would be able to overcome the obstacles required to achieve a goal
They break goals into smaller parts – they understand the importance of mini-milestones. This keeps them motivated and confident in reaching the bigger goal. The speed of pursuit towards their goals is more important than the distance from their goal.
Self-discipline is empowering and freeing
Self-discipline empowers you to channel clear and focused thoughts toward higher aspirations, freeing you from the limitations you feel (especially the limitations we impose on ourselves), and allowing you to create the life of your dreams.
Undisciplined thoughts, which arise when you allow your mental energy to follow the path of your immediate desires, lead to unrealized goals — constantly indulging in instant gratification ultimately ends in a dissatisfied life. link to 5 habits of highly successful people? (number 4, delaying gratification)
Everybody can benefit from self-discipline.
Take these two examples:
A business person with the discipline to charge their smartphone every night empowers themself to be efficient and present with their work by eliminating the worry of a dead phone (especially in the middle of a business call).
Disciplined people who make a place for their things (from cooking utensils to clothes) save time and energy. They don’t need to sort through messes and piles to find what they need, because they take the time to create and follow a system that empowers them to be organized.
How to Develop Self-Discipline In 11 Steps
1. Envision and define your end goals and means goals
What does success look and feel like, in regards to your goal?
What steps do you need to take to get from where you are to where you want to be?
Before you go setting all of your goals, check out this marvelous video on goal setting by Vishen Lakhiani:
2. Create personal/internal value and meaning
What is driving you toward this goal? What value will achieving this goal bring to you? Creating personal value in your goals, and constantly remind yourself of your motivations and inspirations, will help you develop self discipline.
3. Find role models and mentors
Who has successfully achieved this goal, or who is working towards a similar goal? What can you learn from them that will help you along your journey? What specific behaviors empowered them? What challenges did they face and how did they overcome them?
4. Identify and overcome obstacles
Challenges, hardships, and barriers are an inevitable part of the journey toward any goal. They will test your resolve. These obstacles must be transcended in order to keep moving toward your goal. What obstacles are between you and your goal?
5. Identify changes that must be made
What kind of person do you need to be to reach your goal? What are the specific habits and behaviors of that person? What qualities and skills would they have? What thoughts do they think? How can you take consistent and gradual steps to become that person? What habits and behaviors can you focus on today that would get you closer to thinking and be like that person?
6. Design conducive environments
You can be in the right state of mind, but if your environment does not support this state, you’ll struggle to develop the self-discipline you need to achieve your desired outcomes. It’s critical that your working environment supports your goals, the habits you need to form, and the consistent actions you’ll have to take to accomplish your goals.
Decision making uses a lot of energy (link), and can cause paralysis. Reduce the number of decisions you need to make progress by making adjustments in your environment.
7. Develop a plan of action and commit
Create a comprehensive step-by-step plan of action, addressing the factors listed above. Map every step — detail what is specifically required for each step, how you will take action everyday to make progress, how you will tackle obstacles, and how you will change your environment to enable your momentum. Prioritize the things you can do every day. Create milestones and rewards for each step towards your goal.
8. Track your progress
Journaling is an effective method to remain focused, motivated, and disciplined. Journaling will enable you to see how you are progressing and where you can improve. Record what’s working and what feels good. Also, detail what isn’t working and what feels bad. Look at your journal entries periodically and make adjustments that benefit your progress.
9. Be mindful of your emotions
It’s essential to learn how to interpret your emotions in ways that will help you find answers and solutions, not problems and difficulties. If things aren’t feeling as constructive as you expected, be open to new approaches.
10. Make it fun!
Find ways to enjoy the process of each task and activity. What do you enjoy about this process? What is exciting about it? How can you make this more enjoyable and fun?
11. Find inspiration
When facing adversity, inspiration becomes paramount in keeping self-discipline alive. Gather inspiration from meditation, mindfulness, books, people, quotes, movies, and current events that support and validate your progress.
Learning to Develop Productive Habits Is Essential
When people think about habits, they mostly focus on forming the behavior or the routine.
- A cue (like a trigger for the behavior to start unfolding)
- A routine (the habit or automatic behavior itself)
- And a reward (how your neurology learns to encode this pattern for the future)
Duhigg found that it’s actually the cue and the reward that really determine why and how a habit unfolds.
As he explains, most behavior originates in the prefrontal cortex (the area right behind your forehead, where thoughts occur); however, as a behavior becomes a habit, it moves into the basal ganglia (near the center of your skull).
When things happen in the basal ganglia, they don’t feel like conscious thoughts, they feel as if they are happening subconsciously (effortlessly). This is why it is so important to be sure to develop positive habits, rather than negative ones.
In order to get to this automatic stage of the neurological process, however, you need to do the following:
First, you have to identify, diagnose, and understand both the cue and the reward. Every cue falls into usually one of five categories:
- Time of day
- A specific place
- The presence of other people
- A particular emotion
- Ritualized behavior
The reward of this behavior could be many things important to you, maybe it’s the need for socializing.
Here is an example of a habit and when/why it is formed:
Cue — During lunchtime at work, your co-workers gather in the breakroom. There are always cookies in the middle of the table, and you and your co-workers generally eat cookies everyone socializes.
Previous behavior — Eats cookies to fit in and socialize with coworkers.
Reward — Gets to socialize with coworkers.
In this example, lunchtime is the cue — the trigger. What’s the reward? It’s actually the interaction you have with your co-workers.
The behavior, according to your new goal of losing weight, would then look like this:
Cue — Stays the same as before (lunchtime).
New behavior — Eat grapes instead of cookies.
Reward — Stays the same as before (socializing).
Once you’ve figured out the cue and the reward, and understand why, you can create a new habit.
So, the key to exercising regularly, losing weight, raising exceptional children, becoming more productive, building revolutionary companies and social movements, and achieving overall success in life, is understanding how habits work, and maintaining the self-discipline to follow through.
Aristotle once said, “we are what we repeatedly do.“