self discipline

Self Discipline: 12 Steps to Make it a Habit

This guest post is all about how to develop self discipline and use it effectively. You can’t be “on” all the time, and you don’t need to be in order to be productive and get things done. See what else the article discusses…

Developing self discipline isn’t easy. Here’s a perfect example:

“I’m going to start the keto diet tomorrow because I want to lose 20 lbs for my wedding. I’m trying to be more disciplined about how I eat.”

Does that sound familiar? Most of us like to talk about how we’re going to work on our self-discipline regarding fitness and finances or just life in general. We all know that we should improve our self-discipline to get better results and get more done. We don’t know where to start, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when developing self-discipline. That is why I wanted to address this topic today based on years of research and to try everything out personally.

How can you build self-discipline? Let’s look at 12 ways to develop self-discipline even if you’ve already tried everything. People have accused me of being disciplined in the past. Often, I don’t know how to respond. Why? In my mind, I feel like there’s always more to get done. I’ve done my best to test out different ideas and try to create a disciplined life to get more done and save more money for what I want to do.

In this article, we’re going to look at what you need to know about self-discipline and the different ways that you can develop self-discipline right now, even if it feels like you’ve tried everything.

What You Need to Know About Self Discipline

Most information out there on self-discipline is just annoying and unrealistic. It’s easy to feel discouraged when advice surrounding self-discipline in a self-help book feels condescending. In the perfect world, we would all wake up at five in the morning, meditate for 20 minutes, and then go through our day without any interruptions or temptations. In reality, this isn’t what happens at all. Life comes at us quickly. We start the day off with the best intentions and still waste time or not getting much done.

There are two things that you need to know about developing self-discipline:

  1. You’re not a bad person if you have cravings or are not constantly feeling disciplined. You’re not a robot, and that’s okay. Don’t let anyone on social media shame you for not being perfect.
  2. You can always work on your discipline. You don’t have to stay stuck at your current level. That is a skill that can be developed and worked on overtime. Nobody’s born being 100% disciplined, just like nobody’s completely undisciplined.

Are you ready to get started?

12 Ways to Develop Self Discipline

I’ve put together the best tips that I could find, along with actionable quotes from books and authors that have helped me develop self-discipline over the years. Here are 12 ways that you can develop self-discipline.

1 – Set Small and Realistic Goals

Are you setting realistic goals? Have you thought about starting small to make some progress? Too often we fail to stay disciplined because we set unrealistically audacious goals. We don’t even know where to start or how to begin, so we end up doing nothing. In the book “Essentialism” the following point is brought up on setting small goals:

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The trick is to set small and realistic goals to not set yourself up for failure.

2 – Stop Trying to Do So Many Things at Once

Social media has convinced us that we need to be the hardest workers in the room who constantly work on various projects. That couldn’t be further from the truth. To develop self-discipline, you need to ruthlessly eliminate it from your life and figure out what you need to focus on. In the classic book “The One Thing” Gary Keller brings up an excellent point on accomplishing your goals:

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Try to focus on one thing at a time so that your mind isn’t all over the place. It’s much easier to be disciplined when you’re only working on one important thing.

3. Change Your Environment

Did you know that your environment could be holding you back? There’s a reason so many people work out of coffee shops; or why CrossFit classes are such a hit. According to James Clear in “Atomic Habits,” it’s more important to change your environment than it is to try to rely on will-power:

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When you want to improve your self-discipline, consider changing the environment. Here are a few examples of how you can make this happen:

  • Don’t keep a bag of chips on the table when you’re trying to lose weight.
  • Have a specific space for work so that you’re not trying to finish that article while you’re on the couch watching the evening news.
  • Hang around with people who are working on similar goals.

4 – Make It Easy to Stay on Track

Whatever you do, try to set yourself up for success by making it easy to stay on track. The trick is to set everything up so that you don’t have to struggle to stay disciplined. How can you make your goals easy?

  • Know yourself.
  • Work within your limits.
  • Focus on progress over perfection.

On that note…

5. Hold Yourself Accountable

Are you being held accountable? The truth is that most of us can’t stay disciplined on our own. We need people around us that will keep us accountable so that we have a responsibility to do what we said we would do. How can you hold yourself accountable?

  • Hire a coach so that you’re financially committed.
  • Find co-workers/friends on a similar path.
  • Make your goals public.
  • Write your goals down everywhere.
  • Use a planner to track your progress (or a vision board to help you see the outcomes!).

It would help if you were held accountable to ensure that you’re going to follow through.

6 – Know What You Want to Do

Too many of us set vague goals. We want to be healthy or wealthy. We wanted to be more disciplined, but we don’t know what that discipline looks like.

Direction is much more important than speed. Speaking of motivation...

7 – Never Rely on Willpower or Motivation

Willpower is the last thing that you should rely on. You won’t always feel motivated. You won’t always feel like doing the right thing. The trick is to change your environment, hold yourself accountable, and set small goals so that you never have to worry about being motivated 24/7.

8 – Ignore the Noise

There’s no easy way to say this. You have to avoid the noise. You have to find ways to ignore the noise to focus on what matters to you. You can’t develop self-discipline if you allow any of the following to distract you:

  • Everything that’s happening on the news
  • Notifications from 8 different social media apps
  • Arguing with strangers on Facebook
  • Getting upset over every comment that you read

In the book “The Daily Stoic” this point is brought up on focus and attention:

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You’re going to get pulled in every direction. You have to do whatever you can to block out what doesn’t matter so that you can accomplish your goals.

9 – Think of Why You’re Doing This

I’m not one of those corny motivational people. I want to remind you that it’s important to remember why you’re trying to accomplish that goal that requires you to develop self-discipline. Here are a few things to consider:

  • You want to lose weight to be healthier so that you can live longer to meet your grandkids.
  • You want to pay off that debt so that you can finally quit your job.
  • You want to save up so that you can take your partner on that dream vacation.
  • You want to grow that side hustle so that you can follow your dream of being a writer.

That leads to the next point.

10 – Find What You Enjoy Doing

Too many of us focus on goals that we don’t even care about.

You’ll develop more self-discipline when you focus on goals that interest you and keep you excited.

11 – Celebrate Your Wins

Being disciplined isn’t just about saying no to everything. It’s okay to celebrate along the way. I’ll even say that celebrating small wins is essential to developing self-discipline for the long run. We all need to look forward to something.

12 – Identify Obstacles That Are Holding You Back

You have to figure out what’s holding you back from being more disciplined. The goal is to eliminate your obstacles so that you can replace them with more productive activities.

When things aren’t going your way, you must take a step back to identify the barriers holding you back to know what you need to work on to develop self-discipline.

What if you find yourself still struggling with self-discipline?

It’s pretty much impossible always to feel motivated. You won’t always do the right thing, and you’re going to make plenty of mistakes. There’s nothing wrong with admitting that you’re human. The goal will always be for progress over perfection.

The key message to remember is that it’s important to focus on the next small task in front of you instead of worrying about 20 different things that you have to do. You won’t develop self-discipline overnight. That will take some time and effort. Good luck with developing more self-discipline. Don’t forget to enjoy the ride.

This article originally appeared on Your Money Geek and has been republished with permission.

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