Self-discipline is one of the most important life skills to develop, particularly for anyone who wants to get ahead in life.
The skill can help you achieve whatever goals you set for yourself, whether that is to exercise more, eat healthier, meditate more regularly, or quit a bad habit.
This post explains in great detail how to develop or improve self-discipline. Before I get into that, I’ll like to quickly provide a healthy understanding of what self-discipline is and some of its benefits.
What Does Self Discipline Mean?
Here’s how I like to define self-discipline: the ability to make yourself do what you should be doing.
This often means temporarily denying yourself short-term pleasures to achieve long-term success.
Developing self-discipline is like learning any skill; it requires consistent practice to develop and master it.
Building self-discipline is usually not fun, especially at the early stages. There will be many reasons (or excuses) to give up and simply continue your normal (less productive or even mediocre) life.
However, self-discipline is about trying, failing, and trying again. Many people make the mistake of beating themselves up when they fail or fall short of some expectations. But this approach is usually unhelpful.
One of the things I’ve come to learn (and which has become my guiding principle) is that there is no such thing as failure – just results. If the results I get are not what I want, I simply try again.
With this principle in mind, it is easier to stick with the process of developing self-discipline.
Benefits of Developing Self-Discipline
Self-discipline doesn’t only help you get ahead in your work or career. It can also help you in other aspects of your life. Developing self-discipline can be beneficial in the following ways:
- Increase your health: Self-discipline helps you overcome the urge to eat unhealthy foods that can lead to health issues like obesity. You will also be more likely to avoid consuming potentially bad substances for your health, such as excess alcohol and tobacco.
- Reduce anxiety: We usually distract ourselves with anxiety-related vices when we are worried, stressed, or experiencing other negative emotions. By improving your self-discipline and self-control, you are less likely to become anxious and fall into the trap of bad habits and anxiety-related issues.
- Help you achieve long-term goals: By improving your self-discipline, you have more resilience and grit to commit to long-term goals and see them through.
- Improve your relationships: Being self-disciplined can positively impact your relationship with friends, family, and significant other. Self-discipline doesn’t just make you a tougher person but also an empathetic individual. It increases your ability to consider other people’s opinions and perspectives.
That’s primarily because self-discipline lets you override your reactive and defensive tendencies and take on more objective and constructive behaviors that lead to better relationships.
- Make you feel a lot happier: Feeling happy will come naturally as you accomplish more tasks and become more productive. You will be proud of yourself and feel more in control of your outcomes.
10 Ways to Improve Self-Discipline
Whether you are struggling with motivation or can’t seem to stay focused on completing your tasks, these tips can help you improve your self-discipline so that you can enjoy all the benefits that come with the quality.
1. Identify Where You Struggle
The first step in developing self-discipline is figuring out the areas where you struggle. Take some time to reflect on your values and contemplate whether your daily actions align with those values.
It is okay to have some flaws and own up to them. This is not about judging yourself; rather, it is trying to identify your strengths and weaknesses, which we all have.
It is helpful to ask for feedback from close friends, family, and those who know you well. Some of the honest responses you will get might not be pleasant, but you’re not embarking on this self-development journey just to hear nice things about yourself, right?
Thank those who offer you feedback for their honesty, and compare what they say with the areas you’ve identified as your weaknesses.
2. Set Clear Goals
Identifying and owning up to your flaws is a key component in becoming self-aware, and it is a vital step in improving self-discipline. Don’t pretend that you don’t have shortcomings or vulnerabilities. But you shouldn’t surrender to your weaknesses with a fixed mindset that says you can’t do anything about them.
After the identification process, it is time to draw up concrete plans to overcome those weaknesses.
One of the most effective ways to do this is to set clear-cut goals. For example, a blogger who struggles with procrastination may set the following goals:
“I put off writing until it’s too late, and that makes it difficult for me to dish out quality weekly posts. Each morning, I am going to write X words before I do any other task for the day.”
Remember to delegate tasks that you truly know you can’t handle. One of the reasons for identifying your weaknesses is to know what you can overcome and areas you can find a workaround. Keep in mind that developing self-discipline won’t magically give you skills or abilities that you don’t have.
3. Get Rid of Distractions
Setting goals is all well and good, but you are more likely to smash those goals if you get rid of anything and everything that could distract you from achieving your goals.
Remove temptations from your environment, and you’re well on your way to becoming disciplined in whatever matters to you.
Look through your environment and make sure to set yourself up for success. Avoid bad influences just as much as you steer clear of distractions.
Put your cell phone on silent and turn off social media notifications if your goal is to check off as many items on your to-do list or increase productivity. Get rid of junk food if your goal is to eat healthier. Avoid bars, throw out the booze, and stay away from friends who drag you back to drinking if your goal is to stop drinking.
Do you get the gist? Great!
You’ll be more focused on accomplishing your goals if you have fewer distractions.
4. Visualize Your Outcome
Here’s something I do almost every night before I drift off to sleep. I take some time to contemplate what my outcome will look like. But most importantly, I visualize what it will feel like.
Go ahead and try it tonight. Ask yourself, “What would it feel like when I accomplish X?”
Here’s the deal.
Your brain doesn’t know the difference between what’s real and what you are merely imagining. If you provide the right feeling, your brain assumes it is real and rewires itself as if you are actually experiencing it.
How does this help you become more self-disciplined?
Visualizing your outcomes increases the positive feelings associated with accomplishing your goals, allowing your brain to crave more of those good feelings. This increases the likelihood of repeating the actions that will lead to the results you seek. It also reduces fear, reluctance, and self-doubts that may stop you from smashing your goals.
5. Take Baby Steps
One of the biggest mistakes you want to avoid is trying to transform yourself overnight. Habits don’t form overnight – not even in a week or two. You’re not going to make a habit stick simply because you practiced something for 21 days.
A better approach will be to start small, taking baby steps. This will help you to avoid burnout. Consider focusing on starting one new habit per week. For example, go a whole week without turning on social media notifications until you complete your morning tasks.
Note that you are starting a habit by creating a daily ritual, and I’ll get into more details in the next tip. But that doesn’t mean the habit will stick in just one week.
Instead, it allows you to focus on one habit at a time. After a week of success with the first habit, you can add another habit you want to develop.
6. Practice Diligence Every Single Day
If you want to avoid feeling overwhelmed and intimated when trying to develop self-discipline, stop focusing on the entire task you have at hand.
Like taking baby steps, break down your goals into smaller tasks, and make sure to complete those daily sub-goals without excuses. Giving your undivided attention to mastering just one thing makes you better at it and develops self-discipline in that regard than trying to accomplish everything in one fell swoop.
For example, complete a 15-minutes workout session 4 to 5 times a week if you are trying to get in shape. This is a better approach than trying to power your way through an hour of daily exercise, 7 days a week. That’s hardly a sustainable workout plan, don’t you agree?
7. Practice Prioritizing
Not all tasks have equal levels of importance, meaning you have to organize your tasks to prioritize the most important ones. It will be a lot easier to complete more meaningful tasks this way.
Here’s another tip for prioritizing your tasks. Start with those things you like the least. As you check them off your to-do list, you will be relieved and look forward to more enjoyable tasks.
8. Take Care of Yourself
It’s easy to think that developing self-discipline means burning the candle at both ends. But overworking and killing yourself to achieve self-discipline will only increase stress and the risk of health issues.
Of course, it is okay to put in extra hours of work once in a while. But doing it for weeks on end is definitely not the way you want to live.
A huge part of self-discipline is taking time out to take care of yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally. Get enough rest and sleep. Create time to nurture and build your relationships. Eat healthy foods and take breaks throughout the day.
Remember to practice meditation and mindfulness exercises. These will not only improve your overall well-being but can also help you become more productive.
9. Forgive Yourself When You Slip
Do people with laser focus and extreme self-discipline ever slip up? Yes, they do! Everyone makes mistakes now and again, regardless of their level of self-discipline.
There are days you’ll feel like sleeping in and cringe at the thought of getting up to exercise. Some days you’ll not only crave but also eat all the junk foods you know you shouldn’t be eating. And even if you spend all morning scrolling through your social media page, learn to forgive yourself.
Mistakes are inevitable; you only make matters worse if you allow yourself to wallow in self-pity, negative self-talk, and self-blame.
So, what does self discipline mean? It means giving your best shot, failing, picking yourself up, and trying again!
10. Get Someone to Hold You Accountable
Find a trusted friend, colleague, or partner and tell them what you are trying to achieve. You are less likely to give up on your goals if someone is holding you accountable for achieving your goals.
Consider mutual accountability – holding your friend accountable while they hold you accountable, too. Create a time when you will meet, compare notes, and urge each other on.
However, an unsentimental professional coach or mentor might be your best option if you really want to take self-discipline up a notch. This is particularly the case if you are trying to develop expertise in a field.
Here’s my honest recommendation: bookmark this post and come back to it after a couple of days.
Reading this post once can get you all fired up, but trust me when I say that the feeling you have right now won’t last forever. Make it a habit to read a few tips in this post once or twice a week to keep your fire burning.
What does self discipline mean? Now, you know the answer, and you’ve seen how to improve it. Go ahead and put what you’ve read into practice, and have fun doing it!