How can we achieve our goals and live life on our own terms? One of the secrets to our success dwells in developing self-discipline.
Self-discipline is not something we are born with.
It’s like a muscle, to grow and get stronger, it must be trained continuously.
People who train their self-discipline are more likely to avoid behaviors and activities that are not aligned with their values or goals.
They are more decisive. They don’t let impulses or cravings dictate their choices. As a result, they are not easily distracted by temptation.
What’s more, they get things done and finish what they start no matter what.
As a result, they feel satisfied with their lives.
Self-discipline, in other words, is a skill, and like any skill can be learned and mastered.
It’s the skill that enables us to take action when we don’t feel like it.
It’s the driving force that leads us to get our workout done instead of lying on the couch, to stick to our commitments instead of squandering time on social media, to choose delayed gratification instead of immediate pleasure, to get uncomfortable instead of settling down.
Self-discipline works when we push ourselves to do what must be done regardless of how we feel, physically and emotionally.
It’s taking action despite the hard work involved, boredom, distractions, or unfavorable circumstances.
In a nutshell, self-discipline is a prerequisite to get the life you want, it is necessary for your success.
“The first and best victory is to conquer self”. - Plato
So, if you are someone who struggles with keeping up with goals, getting things done, and living life to the fullest, and you want to write a new chapter of your life entitled SUCCESS, you may consider implementing the following 11 tips to build lasting and solid self-discipline.
1) REMIND YOURSELF OF YOUR STRONG WHY EVERY DAY
As I wrote in my post WHY HAVING A SMART GOAL MAKES THE DIFFERENCE, your WHY is the bridge between having a GOAL and achieving it.
Your why is what drives you even during tough times, when you feel knackered when the shit hits the fan when you don’t feel like doing anything except for quitting.
Always remind yourself WHY you're doing what you're doing.
Focus on the reason WHY you want to achieve your goal, instead of all the work that is required to hit your target.
The inspirational speaker and author of the book “Start with WHY '', Simon Sinek, talks about the power of WHY.
Knowing your WHY provides a compelling intrinsic motivation. It fuels the fire within to keep moving in the direction of achieving your goals.
You can learn more about the power of WHY in his TedTalk video:
Ask yourself every day the following questions:
- Why am I pursuing this goal?
- What is the underlying reason, motivation, or purpose to achieve my goal?
- Why can I not give up? What would the consequences of giving up be?
- How will my life change if I achieve this goal?
- How may I impact the lives of others if I achieve this goal?
Bottom Line: Tap into your WHY!
This will help you not to lose sight of the long-term result, to get things done, and succeed in life.
Remember, you will not like every single aspect of what you do while pursuing your goals, and so, reminding yourself of your WHY makes you unstoppable and successful.
For instance, I don’t feel like spending hours looking for the material I can use to write my next blog post, and if I focused on all the hours I work to get a single post done I would give up.
What I do is remind myself of the main reason WHY I do it.
My blog may positively impact the life of someone, make someone feel better, increase my visibility over time and enable me to live a digital nomad lifestyle, travel the world, and live wonderful adventures.
My WHY allows me to keep moving forward and yours will do the same for you!
2) MASTER THE SMALL THINGS TO MASTER THE “BIG GAME”
As I have already written in previous posts, success doesn’t happen overnight; it happens over time!
It is a bunch of tiny, uncomfortable, and boring things you do day in, day out whether you like it or not.
Let’s take into consideration the best athletes in the world for instance.
They have learned that they can achieve the ultimate goal of becoming champions only by working on the basics, thus they make sure they master the fundamentals, every single aspect of them.
Bottom Line: Fundamentals are the foundation of success and enable you to master your life - the “BIG GAME” - in the same way as they enable athletes to master their sport and become number ones.
- What are the small things, the fundamentals I have to master every day to get closer to what I want in life?
Legendary football coach Vince Lombardi once said:
“Excellence is achieved by mastery of the fundamentals”.
3) TAKE ONE SMALL STEP AT A TIME
Don’t think about the mountain you have to climb, just focus on the first step and take it.
The first step is all you have to be concerned about; because once you’ve taken the first one, you’ll be ready to take the second, then the third, and so on till you have climbed the mountain, without even realizing it.
By taking small steps each day you sidestep your mind talking you out of taking action.
As the old saying goes: “Eat the elephant one bite at a time”!
As I have already stressed multiple times in previous posts, our brain is hardwired to keep us comfortable, so every time we are about to take big steps and make big changes in our life, the survival mechanism kicks in and we are likely to be pushed back to what feels comfortable and predictable.
It doesn’t matter how small the step is as long as we’re on the right path.
Small steps taken day in, day out eventually lead us to our destination.
In other words, break your goal into small, doable steps.
Instead of trying to change everything at once, focus on taking one step consistently and master self-discipline with that goal in mind.
Remember, inaction creates more inaction; on the contrary actions inspire further actions, till momentum takes off and moves you towards your goals.
Bottom Line: It's not about going from doing nothing to getting everything done, it’s about getting started and taking the first step instead.
How can you make taking the first step easier for you?
The next tip shows you how.
4) APPLY THE 5 SECOND RULE
Renowned motivational and keynote speaker Mel Robbins talks about the power of the 5 SECOND RULE.
The 5 SECOND RULE is a straightforward tactic that enables you to get in motion and take action despite how you feel.
You must count down from 5 to 1 and then GO, get in motion and take action every time you catch yourself being hesitant to start something you know you should do.
“There is a window that exists between the moment you have an instinct to change and your mind killing it. It’s a 5-second window. And it exists for everyone.
If you do not take action on your instinct to change, you will stay stagnant. You will not change.
But if you do one simple thing, you can prevent your mind from working against you. You can start the momentum before the barrage of thoughts and excuses hit you at full force”, stated Mel Robbins.
You can learn more about the 5 SECOND RULE in her TedTalk video:
Bottom Line: Just countdown 5-4-3-2-1 and then force your body to get up and move in some sort of way.
5) GET USED TO FINISHING THE SMALL TASKS IN LIFE
Most people are really good at starting something but they are not as good at finishing it.
How can you brainwash yourself into getting to the end of whatever you start?
Force yourself to finish the small easy tasks in your daily life.
There’s no way you can achieve big accomplishments and finish big things in life if you don't get used to finishing the easy stuff.
Human beings are creatures of habit.
Remember, the way you do one thing is the way you do everything!
How can you start brainwashing yourself?
- When you wake up, complete the act of sleeping by making your bed.
"If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter. If you can't do and finish the little things right, you will never do and finish the big things right". - Admiral William H. McRaven
- When you finish your meal, complete the act of eating by washing the dishes and putting them away.
- When you wash your clothes, complete the act of washing by ironing, folding, and putting them into the drawers instead of leaving them around to get dusty.
By finishing these simple tasks you are literally training your mind to finish every single thing you do.
It's not going to change your life in the next weeks or months, but over time you will notice that you've developed your discipline to the extent that finishing the tough tasks will not be a problem.
Bottom Line: If you don’t train yourself to finish the simple tasks, you're not going to finish the big ones, you’re not going to achieve your big goals.
6) GO THE EXTRA MILE
“Today, do just a little bit more. Turn going the extra mile into a habit - it is what lifts most successful people above the crowd”. - Bob Proctor
Force yourself to do more than you planned.
So don't just be content with finishing something, do a bit more!
Let’s look at some examples to make it clearer.
- You have planned to run 5 miles, but - when you are about to reach your goal - just keep going.
- You have planned to write an article of 1000 words, but - when you are about to reach your goal - keep writing till you reach 1100 words.
Going the extra mile enables you to achieve the next level of your self-discipline and ingrains in you the attitude to perform at the highest level.
Bottom Line: If you want to be successful at anything, it’s going to take extra effort, so the sooner you get used to going the extra mile, the sooner you are ready to make the extra effort.
7) PLAN AHEAD
When you plan what you are supposed to do to get stuff done you are more likely to be disciplined and achieve your goals.
- How can I make what I am pursuing easier for myself?
Let’s have a look at some examples to clarify what I mean.
- If you are someone whose goal is to eat healthy food, you may consider preparing a daily menu so that you know what you are going to have every day.
Another tip you can follow to develop the discipline you need to stick to your goal may be to devote one or two days a week to prepare all the meals for the entire week.
This meal planning system makes it easier for you to stay on track to pursuing your goal, i.e. eating healthy.
- If your goal is to regain shape, you may plan how many times a week you go to the gym, what kind of exercises and number of series and repetitions you want to do, how long each session of your workout lasts, etc.
So all you have to do is show up at the gym and follow your plan.
Isn’t this easier than just going to the gym and having to figure out and decide everything once you are there?
Bottom Line: plan ahead what you are supposed to do so that it is easier to show up for yourself and get things done.
8) DESIGN YOUR ENVIRONMENT AND REMOVE TEMPTATIONS
Research has proved that our environment affects our choices.
Furthermore, it plays a huge role in training self-discipline.
If you put yourself in tempting situations it’s far more difficult to take the steps that enable you to get closer to your goals.
So make it easier for yourself and use the environment to your advantage.
It helps you make automatic and self-reinforcing decisions so that you can focus on priorities and decisions that matter the most.
Let’s look at some examples:
- If you need to work on something, but you know you waste too much time on social media you could leave your phone in another room and prevent yourself from using it till you have got things done.
It may be even more effective to give your phone to someone else and instruct them not to give it back to you till you finish your task.
- If you want to start eating healthy, stop buying junk food, and fill your kitchen cupboards with healthy food and your bookcase with books about nutrition and diets.
- If you want to start running, get your trainers and running clothes out so when you wake up you are ready to go for your run.
- If you want to stop drinking alcohol, apart from not buying it, you may stop hanging out with friends for whom getting drunk is the main way to have fun.
- How can I design my environment to support me in taking action aligned with my goals?
With that in mind, though, having something that tempts you at hand from time to time is a great exercise to train your willpower and test your level of self-discipline.
Bottom Line: Your environment can prevent you from making reckless and impulsive decisions and ease your journey towards your objectives. Make sure your environment is conducive to the goals you’re trying to accomplish, thus, stop putting yourself in situations that are tempting and distracting except for some rare occasions.
9) FIND A MENTOR OR COACH
Is there anything better than to learn from someone who has already accomplished what you are trying to achieve?
I don’t believe so.
Mentors or coaches support the development of your self-discipline, besides helping you have a SMART GOAL and walking you towards it.
They give you feedback and constructive criticism that set you up for success.
They show you the adjustments to make to keep moving forward.
They identify aspects of your performance that must be improved, and the necessary skills you need to acquire and develop to follow through.
What’s more, mentors or coaches hold you accountable to show up for yourself, to do whatever it takes to go the distance.
Way too often we are not self-disciplined because nobody is checking on us, and because there’s no money to pay.
Instead, if you have to pay for a mentor or coach who guides you, trust me, you are more likely to be disciplined to take action and persevere till you reach your goals.
Bottom Line: Find a Mentor or Coach, pay them to teach you, and hold you accountable to show up for yourself.
10) FORGIVE YOURSELF
It’s of paramount importance to realize that during your journey towards achieving your destination you will mess up more than once.
You will have ups and downs, great victories, and dismal defeats.
As I wrote in one of my previous posts AIM FOR EXCELLENCE AND NOT PERFECTION, it’s not about achieving perfection, but about progressing towards excellence!
When you mess up when you make some mistakes, don't judge yourself, don’t fall into the negative thought cycle of self-criticism which leads you to think you are NOT GOOD ENOUGH, which in turn may lead you to give up.
Make adjustments and keep moving instead!
Remember, at the end of the day it doesn’t matter if you fall, what truly matters is to get up and take the next step.
It's about winning more battles than the ones you lose.
Give yourself permission to mess up from time to time, we are human and we are not meant to be perfect.
Bottom Line: Accept you are doomed to encounter failures during your journey towards your destination, learn from them, rather than shitting on you.
Pull yourself together, acknowledge the lesson and move on.
11) REWARD YOURSELF
Self-discipline does not mean that you must be entirely cold turkey, hardcore, or a drill sergeant.
As a matter of fact, when you give yourself zero wiggle room you are more likely to burn out, get frustrated, and this can result in you going back to the old unproductive way of living.
While practicing and developing self-discipline, make sure you schedule specific breaks, treats, and rewards for yourself.
- Are you on a diet? If so, you could choose one day of the week when you treat yourself with your favorite guilty pleasure.
- Are you into working out? If so, allow yourself to have a day when you are a couch potato.
- Are you building your own online business from scratch? If so, take at least one day off from your laptop to just relax.
- Are you trying to save money and curb your shopping spree attitude? If so, allow yourself a splurge at the Mall on the weekend, but make sure you don’t bring any credit cards, only cash 😉
Bottom Line: The journey of developing self-discipline and achieving goals can be really challenging, you deserve a treat!
So, set up reward systems to help you out to become more disciplined.
Make sure you have something to look forward to.
By giving yourself rewards you trick your brain into creating more motivation and self-discipline.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Remember, everything takes time, so does building your self-discipline.
The good news is that self-discipline can be mastered like any other skill, all you have to do is to keep practicing it.
As the old saying goes: “Practice makes perfect”.
Don’t be in a rush, give yourself time to build solid and lasting self-discipline by applying the above 11 tips.
I hope this article has given you the motivation and inspiration to develop this useful life skill.
If you have gained any value from reading this post, would you be open to spreading the information it contains and sharing it with your friends?
I would appreciate it and you might feel proud of giving others inspirational and life-changing advice.
If you are someone who really wants to succeed in life, make sure you don’t miss reading my post - HOW TO SUCCEED: TRAIN YOUR WILLPOWER MUSCLE.