Self-discipline isn’t something that we’re necessarily born with or inherently have. It’s something that can be up one day and down the next, and it can also depend heavily on the situation. It is, however, an attribute that can be generally strengthened and improved.
Below are 9 extremely effective self-discipline tips to help you do just that, so that you can consistently make positive progress on a daily basis towards your goals:
1. Set specific goals
Self-discipline is the attribute that keeps us making sacrifices in life, putting forward effort, and doing what needs to be done, regardless of how difficult or distasteful it is.
But let’s face it, no sane person does all these things without a good reason. That’s where your goals come in. Your goals give you a reason for making sacrifices and effort today. They represent your future payoff, which is what you’re working for.
And the more appealing and compelling they are to you, the more effective they’ll be. This is very important.
If your goals are vague and not well thought-out, they won’t do much for you. Imagine having to work out hard five days a week and follow a disciplined eating program, week after week, for a year or more. And your reason for doing it is because “you want to lose 20lb”.
When the going gets tough and you’re really not feeling like going on, is that goal honestly going to push you to keep going? Not likely. If you’re goal was “to get into shape so that you’ll have the energy to take your kids to the park and play with them”, well that’s a bit more motivating.
The more meaningful your goal is to you personally and the more you want it, the more self-discipline you’ll have. If you don’t really want your goal badly enough, it means you haven’t thought about it enough. Or it’s just too vague. There’s a science to setting effective goals, just Google “SMART goals” and you’ll learn all about it.
Of all the self-discipline tips, this one is definitely in the top 2 in terms of importance. Be sure to take the time to do it well!
2. Connect with your goals
It’s all well and good setting specific, effective goals for yourself, but they won’t be much good to you if within a month they’re all forgotten.
You need to make time to connect with your goals as often as you can, preferably each day, to keep them fresh in your mind and to keep yourself excited about reaching them. Without this they’ll slowly lose their effectiveness over time and your self-discipline will very quickly suffer.
So how do you connect with your goals? Firstly by reading through them (yes, you MUST have your goals written down). Your goals may change over time and that’s fine, you can feel free to update them whenever you wish.
Secondly, you should visualize them. Visualization is the programming language of your subconscious mind.
By using creative visualization you instruct your subconscious mind on what you want to achieve, and it will then set about helping you reach your desired outcome. It will also keep your desire for the goal strong and fresh.
I mentioned earlier that setting goals is one of the most important self-discipline tips, well this tip is vital to keeping your goals relevant so it’s just as important.
3. Don’t be a child
I once saw an experiment where a group of young children and a group of adults were all asked to choose between having some treat right away, or two treats the next day. Most of the adults chose the two treats the next day, but all of the young children chose to have their treat right away.
Children have many very admirable qualities, but their inability to delay gratification isn’t one of them. Part of growing up is developing the ability to put off a small reward now, for a much larger reward in the future.
This is what allows us to earn a living and to save money for a nice home and car. It also helps us avoid unhealthy lifestyle habits that might satisfy us in the moment, but harm us later on in life. Unfortunately, instant gratification has a lot to answer for in our society.
Developing the habit of putting off instant gratification in any area of your life will help you to improve your self-discipline in other areas as well. You can start with small things and over time gradually move on to more and more difficult challenges.
It’s a good habit that can be strengthened over time, just like any other habit, and it will contribute significantly to your overall self-discipline.
4. Find a role model
Finding a role model isn’t something that many people would necessarily expect to see in a list of self-discipline tips, but is something that’s commonly done for motivation just the same.
By finding someone that’s somehow associated with what it is you’re trying to achieve, and is someone you look up to, admire or aspire to be like, it can be very motivating for you. If your goal is to lose weight and get into shape, it might be a fitness model, an athlete, or some other fitness celebrity.
Motivation is an important factor in keeping you on track to your goals because when you actually want to do something, or you’re in the mood for doing it, then it requires little or no self-discipline to do it. So at the end of the day this has the same effect as actually having a lot of self-discipline.
Emulating your role model or somehow feeling a connection with her, by traveling the same journey to your goals, for example, can work wonders for bolstering your self-discipline and keep you making the right decisions each day.
5. Get comfortable with the uncomfortable
One of the greatest obstacles to achievement for many people today is the fact that they’re too averse to discomfort. It’s simply a natural byproduct of the convenience and comfort of modern life.
Even following all the other self-discipline tips in this list, you’ll still struggle to maintain rock-solid self-discipline and make progress until you’re able to break free of your relationship with comfort when you need to.
Doing what needs to be done day after day to work towards a goal often isn’t easy. Getting out of your warm bed early in the cold winter mornings to work out, sticking to your healthy foods while friends around you are eating sweets and drinking alcohol, making time in your busy daily schedule for exercise – all these things are very challenging and test you each and every day.
But the less tolerant you are to these small daily challenges and inconveniences, the more you need to rely on your self-discipline and the more likely it is that you stray from your path sooner or later.
To condition yourself to discomfort you should develop the habit of avoiding comfort all of the time, or not doing things the easy way all the time.
For example, take the stairs instead of the escalator, walk to the shopping center instead of driving, carry your shopping inside in one trip instead of two, work out early in the morning when it’s cold, even when you could work out later if you wanted to. You get the idea.
A few times each day, go out of your way to do something inconvenient or uncomfortable, to build up your mental strength and tolerance. In this way you’ll be better prepared to handle moments of weakness on your path towards your goals.
6. Embrace the pain
To most people, being sore is considered a bad thing. To some, soreness from working out can be annoying enough to make exercising miserable, and can even lead some people to quitting.
As crazy as it may sound, there are a number of fitness enthusiasts, on the other hand, who actually enjoy the feeling of being sore after a hard workout. This is a psychological satisfaction stemming from the knowledge that they’ve done something to benefit their health and their physique.
This is a great mindset to develop since it can really help your self-discipline for working out. Embrace the soreness rather than resenting it, you’ll soon start to consider it as somewhat of a badge of honor – something that’s hard-earned and therefore something you’ll feel proud of.
Psychologically it will eventually make you feel good, since you’ll have mentally made a connection between the soreness and personal growth.
The same goes for the pain of making the healthy food choices while those around you aren’t. While they’re being led by instant gratification and you’re not, feel proud of yourself. Wear the pain as a badge of honor.
It isn’t about considering yourself superior to others or comparing yourself to them. This is your journey and it’s about you, not them. Be proud for your improvements. What other people do or say really doesn’t matter.
7. Don’t overdo it
Following these self-discipline tips to keep yourself on track is all well and good, but it’s important to understand that you’re not a machine. Like any other person, you’re not infallible and you can slip up from time to time.
Expecting perfection from yourself is a sure way to sabotage your success. You’ll only encounter unnecessary frustration, misery, and more often than not, failure.
No amount of self-discipline will stand up forever if the fitness program you’re following is too strict, so it’s important that you set a plan for yourself that’s sensible and sustainable. Expecting to be able to maintain military-grade self-discipline is one of the most common reasons for people failing by giving up.
It’s better to start with a conservative program that’s relatively easy to follow, and then make it stricter if necessary, than to begin with something impossible right from the word go.
So certainly trust in your self-discipline and work on improving it, but don’t expect too much and overdo it.
8. Back yourself
A great strategy for helping yourself to follow through on your goals is to make them known to other people. By making your intentions public you basically back yourself to “put your money where your mouth is”, so to speak.
Keeping your goals entirely to yourself makes it way too easy for you to talk yourself into believing that it’s OK to quit, that you’ll start again more seriously at some future time, that it’s better to extend the deadline for your goal, and so on. You won’t be accountable to anyone and you won’t feel the pain of embarrassment when you back down.
The more incentive you give yourself to succeed, the stronger your self-disciple will be.
A word of warning, however. Choose carefully who you confide in with your goals. Telling the wrong people will only invite criticism, nay-saying and general negativity. You want to share your goals with people who are close to you, who will support and encourage you, and who want to see you succeed.
It’s also a huge bonus if they’re someone you feel as though you don’t want to let down or be embarrassed in front of.
9. Remember your exit strategy
One thing that can very quickly undermine people’s self-discipline is the belief that they’re going to need to be highly self-disciplined forever.
Exercising self-discipline on a daily basis isn’t easy (hence the need for self-discipline tips such as these), and the thought of having to do it day after day for the rest of your life can really take the wind out of your sails. You’ll start telling yourself that it’s not worth it, that life’s too short, and so on.
Fortunately however, it simply isn’t so.
When you take on a fitness or weight loss program, or any type of self-improvement program for that matter, you’re changing your habits and your lifestyle completely. It’s not the new lifestyle that’s difficult however, just the change from one to the other. All change is painful, as they say.
This is why it’s not uncommon to hear people remark that they can’t wait to work out, or that they can’t stand the smell of fast food, once they’ve adopted the fitness lifestyle. Their habits have changed and the new ones have become the new normal for them.
So be encouraged by the fact that you’re not going to need to rely on a high level of self-disciple for a long time. Once you’ve adapted to your new lifestyle your life will be much easier and from then on you’ll only need a very minimal level of self-discipline to stay on track.
The unfortunate fact is that we all need to exercise some level of self-discipline in life if we ever want to achieve anything. The good news, however, is that the need for self-discipline is usually only a temporary thing. Once you’ve managed to change your habits it’s then much smoother sailing.
These 9 self-discipline tips will help you to change your lifestyle and reach your goals. Implement them as much as possible. Remember, it’s what you do consistently that matters, and consistency requires lots of self-discipline.
If you have any of your own ideas and strategies for improving your self-discipline I’d love to hear about them, please leave your comments below!