“Once you have commitment, you need the discipline and hard work to get you there.” — Haile Gebrselassie
At the heart of any successful person, is self-discipline. Whether it’s success in their personal lives or their professional lives, it all starts with an inherent ability for self-control through discipline. Your thoughts. Your emotions. Your behaviors. And your habits. All of them must be kept in check.
If you want to achieve those lofty goals you set, understanding how to discipline yourself is a key ingredient to the success recipe. But self-discipline isn’t something new. In fact, self-discipline has been a topic of discussion for thousands of years, and it’s been championed by some of the world’s most successful people.
Referring to our ability to succeed in life at any endeavor, Aristotle once said, “Good habits formed at youth make all the difference.” Those good habits can’t be formed without having a handle on our ability to discipline our actions and behaviors.
Theodore Roosevelt once said, “With self-discipline most anything is possible.” More recently, Jim Rohn claimed “Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.” And Robert Kiyosaki asserted that “Confidence comes from discipline and training.”
What successful people have come to understand is that discipline is the gateway to the achievement of their goals. They learned how to use discipline in their lives to achieve their dreams. They leveraged the art of self-discipline by creating a foundational set of good habits that helped them to see things through.
And so can you.
But how is discipline created or formed? What allows one person to wield what seems like total and full control over their behaviors and their actions, while others falter and fail? How can one person be so conscious of what they do on a daily basis, while others simply throw caution to the wind?
The answer to those questions lies in our habits. Since 40% of our behavior is habit-driven, if you want to control your ability to be self-disciplined, you have to control your habits.
In particular, there are 10 habits that help you to discipline yourself. If you can instill these 10 habits into your life, you can create the foundation for achieving your goals. Without these habits, you’ll just be stabbing around in the dark.
Habits: The Pathway to Self-Discipline
Considering that so much of what we do on a daily basis is habit-driven, developing the right habits will help to instill the right amount of discipline into our lives.
But where do habits come from and how are they developed? And why is that when we try to change our habits by either breaking bad habits or building good habits, we only follow through for so long before we give up and revert to our old ways?
The biggest problem, especially with habits that we’ve had for years and even decades, are the neural pathways that have been etched in our brains. Neural pathways help to link up neural networks to perform a particular function such as walking up the stairs, smoking a cigarette, or preparing a cup of coffee in a certain way.
Neural pathways help to automate behavior that’s constantly repeated in an effort to reduce conscious-processing power in the mind. This allows the mind to focus on other things that might be going on. This stems from our early days as humans, and is part of our genetic makeup, allowing for a more efficient mind that can be used towards many other things rather than the mundane.
However, it’s the supposed mundane behaviors that are repeated, which work to hold us back in most cases. We tend to have more bad habits that are detrimental to our lives than good habits that help to move us forward. Considering that those neural pathways get etched deeper and deeper over time, it becomes harder and harder to break bad habits or make even to form good ones when the bad ones get in the way.
But, if you can instill the following habits into your life, you’ll find that disciplining yourself becomes far easier. It won’t happen overnight. Remember that habits take time to form and to break. But, if you start small, and build, you won’t be wondering how you can discipline yourself any longer, since you’ll embody the particular habits that promote self discipline in life.
We spend far too much time wanting things. The habit of gratitude helps move us away from constantly wanting what we don’t have, and towards appreciating what we do have. When we do this, some remarkable shifts begin to occur.
The effects of gratitude are far-reaching. From improving our mental health, to our emotional wellbeing, and our spirituality, gratitude can do so much. But most importantly, it helps to move us away from a state of lack and towards a state of abundance.
When we live in a state of lack, it becomes downright impossible to focus on being disciplined and achieving our goals. We spend so much of our mental capacity on worrying about what we don’t have and living in a state of fear, that we forget about what we do have.
The state of lack translates into physical ailments. It produces stress and releases stress hormones such as cortisol and epinephrine, which impacts a number of systems in our body. When we stress, our digestive, reproductive, and immune systems are all adversely affected.
Spend 10 minutes every day writing out all the things that you’re grateful for. Even if you feel you have nothing to be grateful for, find something. Seek and you shall find.
When we spend a large portion of our days in a state of anger, regret, or guilt, we create more problems than we do solutions. Hate and anger consumes far more energy than love and forgiveness. When we forgive, we learn to let go of certain things.
Without the habit of forgiveness, we couldn’t achieve self-discipline. We’re too worried about how someone wronged us to even focus on discipline or achieving our goals.
If someone hurt you, learn to forgive them. It doesn’t necessarily mean you have to forget. Just forgive and release that negative energy back in to the universe.
By forgiving, we let go of negativity that zaps our ability to be self-disciplined. If you want to learn how to discipline yourself, forgiveness is surely one major avenue. While it might not seem like a discipline habit at first glance, it’s one of the most important ones that exists.
Think about all the people that you’re angry with or that have wronged you, and write down why you forgive them. Try to put yourself in their shoes. What would you have done in their situation? Try to find some humor in it. Try to find a lesson learned in all that transpired.
I know firsthand just how hard it is to forgive some people, especially those that have really wronged me in life. But it wasn’t until I let go of all those feelings of hurt and animosity before things really started to improve. I was so busy worrying and stressing, that I wasn’t really pushing forward.
3 – Meditation
Meditation helps to put our minds at ease. It provides us with a spiritual centeredness that acts as an avenue of growth. When we meditate, we cancel out the noise, so to speak, and realize that we’re just one of very many connected beings in this universe.
Meditation also has a big impact on our ability to be self-disciplined. It clears the mind’s palette, and sets the right tone for the day. It helps to improve our mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health all at once, allowing you to reap some of the biggest results for minimal time invested.
Meditation doesn’t take long. It can be done in 10 or 15 minutes. Keep your mind still and don’t let it wander. When it starts to wander, reel it back. Feel your energy grounded in the earth, open your palms to face the heavens, and really feel the air as it moves in and out of your lungs.
Meditation is about aligning our physical bodies with our spiritual or astral bodies. When we can align the two, we can live a more focused life by not worrying about the common things that tend to weigh us down. It helps to lighten our load, so to speak.
4 – Active Goal Setting
If you’ve followed along with my blog, you know how much I believe in active goal setting. This is different than passive goal setting. With passive goal setting, you set goals in your mind. They’re passive because they lack concrete details. You haven’t properly defined them so they live in the abstract.
Active goals are different. With active goals, they’re written out. They have a profound meaning. They’re specific and measurable. And you have a plan towards their attainment. When we set long-term goals in this manner, and we also engage in active goal setting on a daily basis, it’s far easier to achieve our dreams.
Active goal setting instills discipline because it gives us direction. It also helps us to avoid distractions by seeing just what needs to be done in a given day. Without active goals, we’re left like a ship without a sail stuck in stormy waters.
To set active goals, first you must set some long-term goals. If you have long-term goals, then you need to engage in monthly, weekly, and daily goal setting and planning. And you also have to actively track your progress towards your goals.
With tracking and analysis, you can see how far you’ve come, where you are, and how far you’ve left to go. It’s far harder to get distracted because you can see the results there before your very eyes. And your subconscious mind will find less ways to lie to you or help you cover up the truth.
5 – Eat Healthy
What most people don’t realize is that the human body spends a large portion of its energy processing and digesting foods (10-25% of it). When the diet is rich in carbohydrates, fats, and even proteins, the body is using more energy to process that food, some of which is largely useless to us.
Raw foods and fruits offer the biggest boost for energy because they require less energy to process and provide more energy for usage after the fact. This is also known as an enhanced Thermic Effect of Food (TEF) or Dietary Induced Thermogenesis (DIT).
The amount of energy we have plays a large role in how focused we are. When we’re focused, we can approach our goals with discipline. When we’re too comatose from the food that we’ve eaten, this is far harder to achieve. We spend most of our time feeling too sluggish to get anything done.
It’s important to not only eat a healthy breakfast, but to eat healthy throughout the day. To do this, you have to plan your meals and break some bad habits. If you eat fast food every day, you’re not going to have the energy to approach your goals with enthusiasm or have the discipline to follow through.
Food can change the neurochemical makeup of the brain, and has a large influence on the mind-body connection. Opt for raw, healthy, and organic foods when you can and limit your intake of junk.
6 – Sleep
Sleep is directly connected with our ability to discipline ourselves. And getting the proper amount of shuteye is a vital prerequisite to getting anything done. When we don’t get enough sleep, it affects our mood, ability to focus, our judgement, our diet, and our overall health.
When we talk about chronic sleep deprivation, the type that affects many individuals, things get even worse. Studies indicate that people who are deprived of the proper amount of sleep on a regular basis are at a greater risk for certain diseases. The lack of sleep has a great impact on our immune system.
It’s important to get at least 6 hours of sleep, no matter what. Try not to drink too much caffeine at least 5 hours before bedtime so that you don’t interrupt your natural sleep cycle. Stay away from too many toxins throughout the day such as alcohol, cigarettes, or prescription medicine, if it can be avoided.
Overall, the benefits of getting enough sleep are far-reaching. Aside from helping you to be more disciplined, it will improve your memory, curb inflammation and pain, lower stress, spur your creativity, improve your grades, sharpen your attention, help you avoid depression, and limit your chances for accidents.
7 – Exercise
Exercise is a keystone habit. It acts as a cornerstone to a life filled with good and positive habits and free from bad habits. Want to know how you can truly discipline yourself? Instill the keystone habit of exercise into your morning routine.
I can’t begin to express the benefits of exercise. I’ve talked about it several posts and books that I’ve written. But, then again, many people extoll the great benefits of exercise. Yet, not everyone makes exercise a priority in their lives. So why not?
While many people are busy running around, trying to get things done in the day, they’re failing to take the bull by the horn when they don’t exercise. Many people think that they can’t build up this habit or they have too much to do to worry about, rather than exercising. Well, that’s where many people are wrong.
By instilling the keystone habit of exercise, not only can you become more disciplined, but you can improve your life in a number of ways. First, exercise reduces your levels of stress and pain by releasing endorphins and neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin.
Second, exercise improves health by increasing blood flow and oxygenation of the body’s cells, helping to fight off diseases and boost the immune system. And, of course, exercise increases our ability to focus on the task at hand, allowing us to lead a more disciplined life.
To instill the habit of exercise in your life, start small. Begin by walking around the block for 5 minutes in the morning. Just 5 minutes. Do that for one week. Then, increase it to 10 minutes and do that for a week. And continue with this pattern. Eventually, exercise will become a full-blown habit.
8 – Organization
To be self-disciplined and achieve our goals, we need to be organized. Organization is a habit that needs to be wholly embodied, not only in your professional life, but also in your personal life. This includes organizing the items in your home and office along with the items in your mind.
An organized life is a disciplined life. Start small if you label yourself as completely scattered. Begin by organizing one small space each day. For example, start by organizing your desk drawer. The next day, move onto organizing your medicine cabinet in your bathroom. And so on.
Do one small thing a day to improve your organization. That’s all it takes.
Like all the other habits, the habit of organization can be slowly built up over time. It requires some effort and attention, yes, but it will pay off enormously in the long run. When the physical space around you is organized, your mind becomes more relaxed, stress free, and able to focus.
In turn, you can be more self-disciplined when your life is more organized. This includes keeping lists along with organizing your drawers. When you’re done using something, put it back into the place where it belongs rather than just leaving it out.
It’s the little things that we do on a daily basis that have a large impact on the quality of our lives. Pay attention to the small stuff and you’ll reap large benefits.
9 – Time Management
Most people that know me know that I’m a big proponent of time management. When you’re running 5 separate businesses, you almost have no choice but to effectively manage your time. Without the habit of time management, it would be virtually impossible for me to get anything done.
When we can properly manage our time, we have room for the stuff that matters. Namely, we have room for the activities that will help us achieve our goals. In order to achieve our long-term goals, we have to perform actions that might not be urgent, but are most certainly important.
In time management, they call this the Not Urgent but Important quadrant of activities, also known as Quadrant 2. However, where most people spend their time is with the Not Urgent and Not Important activities, also known as Quadrant 4. Also known as the time-wasters.
However, our ability for self-discipline is largely derived from our ability to effectively manage our time. The prominent time managers of the world are also some of the most successful people in their respective fields. Why? Because they use time as a benefit rather than a detractor.
Since we all have the same amount of time in the day, we can’t waste it. It’s the great equalizer. If you want to effectively manage your time, be sure to read this post.
10 – Persistence
Of course, no set of discipline habits would be complete without persistence. Persistence is that certain habit that helps us to not give up. Even when we do fail, it allows us to get back up again. Without the habit of persistence, self-discipline would be largely impossible.
Why? Because achieving our goals is hard. Getting discouraged is easy. And giving up takes far less effort than continuing to push through, especially towards something that inflicts a lot of pain before it provides us with any pleasure.
But that’s just what it takes. What we need to do is realize that even the most famous people who succeeded in life have failed many times over. Failure is an important stepping-stone in life. Without failing, and failing big, we couldn’t achieve the lofty goals that we set for ourselves.
There are certainly many ways to instill this habit, but the best way is to really come up with some profound reasons as to why you want the things in life that you do. When our reasons are strong enough, they can get us through just about anything.