Self-discipline is the ability to do what you think is right or admirable despite the fact that there are so many reasons not to do so.
In order to achieve self-discipline, you have to learn how to resist temptation, which includes managing your feelings and working through perceived weaknesses.
Not everyone’s approach will be the same. However, here are some good starting tips for how to be self-disciplined.
The Importance of Self-Discipline
Before you can practice self-discipline, you have to believe that it’s a worthy trait to have. Here are some of the reasons that you might want to develop self-discipline:
- It’s one of the biggest things that you require to be able to reach your goals.
- If you can stay focused over a period of time then you can go deeper into things that interest, inspire, and enliven you.
- You build self-esteem when you’re able to improve your self-discipline.
- Studies show successful people practice self-discipline. Therefore, it could lead to improved success.
Why Is It So Difficult to Achieve Self-Discipline?
If self-discipline were an easy thing then we wouldn’t be here talking about it. But what exactly makes it so hard to achieve self-discipline?
First of all, we all have bad habits.
It’s hard to break out of those. Just because you want to lose weight doesn’t mean you automatically find it easy to stop eating junk food. If you have a habit of eating a midnight snack every day, developing the self-discipline not to do that is naturally going to feel challenging.
Second, we don’t like being uncomfortable.
Sometimes feeling good in the long term means feeling bad in the short term. For example, you might want to get self-disciplined about using the Internet less, and you’ll be glad that you did, but the restlessness of first quitting those screens doesn’t feel good.
Your brain can come up with so many reasons not to do the things that feel hard. Notice and challenge your own excuses.
How to Become Self-Disciplined
Okay, so it’s hard but it’s possible. Here are some tips to start building self-discipline:
- Get clear about your goal. Make it a SMART goal. Start small, be specific, and make it measurable if you want to have success.
- Get clear about the “why” behind your goal. Oftentimes we make goals just because we think we should. However, you have to have a deeper motivation than that. When you know why you want to learn how to become self disciplined, sticking with it becomes easier.
- Make a detailed daily plan with step-by-step instructions. Lay out your whole day in advance. If you’ve already made your decisions about the day in the morning then you just need to follow the plan. This helps you avoid decision fatigue, which eats away at self-discipline. (For example, you don’t have to decide after work if you do or don’t want to go the gym; your plan says you’re going.)
- Identify and delete your temptations. If you want to lose weight then get the sugar out of your house. If you want to reduce screen time then set up a WiFi blocker for certain hours in your home.
- Identify and boost your supportive resources. If you want to eat healthier, stock the fridge with green veggies. If you want to read more, put a stack of books on every table in your home.
- Practice exercises that develop your focus. No matter what your specific goal is, you’re going to require focus. This is a muscle worth building.
- Start over as soon as you find yourself slipping. It takes time and energy to develop the good habits of self-discipline. You’ll mess up. Don’t use that as an excuse to stop trying. Instead, double down and start again with renewed vigor.
How to Keep Self-Discipline Going Over Time
Learning how to be self-disciplined is one thing. Learning to improve self-discipline and keep it going over the long term might be harder.
Here are some additional tips to keep self-discipline going over time:
- Add habits that support good self-discipline. If your goals weren’t related to food, sleep, and exercise then take a look at those areas. You need to eat right, sleep right, and move your body enough in order to be in optimal health for achieving greater goals.
- Learn more about yourself. What works for one person’s habits doesn’t necessarily work for another. For example, check out Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies to explore how some people need outer accountability for self-discipline whereas others do not.
- Identify what’s working and what’s not. Tweak your habits to set yourself up for continued success.
- Look for self-discipline guidance that align with your values. For example, if you follow a yoga path, learn about niyama which is the self-discipline arm of yoga studies.
- Continue reading and learning about good habits and self-discipline. Books, podcasts, blogs, and inspiring Instagram accounts can all help keep you on track with daily tips and reminders.
Working with a therapist is one of the most powerful ways to become self-disciplined and keep up with the habits. It offers accountability, support, tips, and the opportunity to break down the deeper blocks that prevent self-discipline.