The process to develop your self-discipline sucks.
It really does. No one likes forcing themselves to do something that they don’t feel like at the moment.
Let’s say self-discipline is like being stuck in a forest.
There’s no food. No water. The sun and mosquitos are killing you and you feel COMPLETELY exhausted. You watched survival TV shows before but it is completely different from how it really is while you aimlessly walk around until…
BAM. You fall into some mud. Your legs are tired. You want to cry and just give up. And you start to question yourself if this is really the right path.
And this is how it feels like every single day when you are forced to choose between procrastinating and getting your work done.
And you know what?
There are people out there who are willing to go through that shit every single day for dreams they believe they can achieve one day.
Everybody wants the same thing:
- Making more money
- Having an exciting life
- Traveling the world
- Eating delicious foods
- Helping other people
- Doing something every day that they enjoy.
But the difference between people who actually achieve their dreams is the amount of work that they put in.
And it’s impossible to reach your dreams if you don’t have a sliver of self-discipline in you.
You really only have two choices. Will you put in the work and sacrifice necessary to achieve your dreams? Or will you be taunted by the “what ifs” while living in your comfortable bubble?
And it all starts with a single question every single morning you wake up.
Will you put in the work today?
Who is this article for?
Mainly it is for me (Yeah sorry. I’m a pretty selfish person.)
But I know there are people who struggle with the same things I have before.
- People who desperately want to change their lives but realize they have absolutely no discipline.
- People who have attempted to work on their lives but realize they continually keep failing to maintain it every day.
- People who have dreamed of achieving something in their lives but have not put in any work.
- People who want to develop self-discipline but doesn’t understand why they keep failing.
And I went through all of this crap (and believe me. It still haunts me today but not as bad as before.)
It’s an article meant to help guide you in the fundamentals of self-discipline and how you can apply it in your daily life.
And I mean it. If you actually start applying (not just reading the article…) your life will drastically change.
But not immediately though. You won’t even feel that you changed yourself.
But I promise you that you will change if you start developing your discipline muscles.
So What is Self-Discipline And Why The Hell Should I Care?
Self-discipline is doing an action at a certain point in time regardless of how you feel.
That means telling your whiny little “voice in your head” to screw itself just so you can do some work.
And most people want self-discipline because they want to improve their lives in one of the following ways:
- Eating Healthy
- Sleeping properly
- Losing Weight
- Gaining Muscle
Anything Else Your Greedy Heart Desires
- Learning a new skill
- Playing an instrument
- Juggling 3 balls
And then they realize that it’s pretty damn hard to actually put in the time and energy to reach them (but also worthy of being goals.)
There are four components you need to go through to accomplish any goal.
And they are:
- A clear goal
- A plan for your goal
- Consistent action for your goal
- Modifying your actions until you reach your goal.
And most people can’t even reach step 4 because they don’t properly do step 3.
This is what usually happens to most people.
You feel a burst of motivation → That motivation dies down → It suddenly feels like a pain to continue → Then you stop until you feel another burst of motivation.
And the reason this happens is that your brain follows the path of least resistance.
Your brain is lazy. It loves routine and It looooves habits. And when you try to change that it will go into overdrive to stop you at any cost.
Your brain tries to sweet talk you into not going into the gym. Whispering words of comfort so you don’t have to work today. Maybe your brain will go so far and even tell you it’s okay to skip “only one day” and that you promise yourself you will work tomorrow.
And maybe you don’t fall for it right away.
But after a couple of days those words sound even more tempting until at one point you cave in which you can say goodbye to that habit you were trying to build.
So why does our brain rationalize and give us excuses to skip on these habits meant to improve ourselves?
Put this into perspective: your body does not care about your happiness at all. Nada. Zip.
It really only cares about these three things:
- Living (Food, water, safety)
Unfortunately, your body will choose to be comfortable over being happy.
Your dreams mean nothing to your caveman’s brain. Who cares about creating a startup that can change the world when you can just binge on chocolate while watching Netflix.
So it’s up to your prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain that rationalizes for you) to override that decision to watch Netflix and work on your dreams.
Which brings us to our main focus on how to make better decisions.
So if you start making the tiny decisions in our daily life that strengthens discipline rather than weakens it, you will slowly change your life.
Whichever part of the brain you use will get stronger and vice versa.
So deciding to go to the gym every day shows you prioritize your health over being comfortable.
But if you decide to continuously binge on Netflix, it will be A LOT harder to start going to the gym.
So start by making one more micro decision that strengthens your self-discipline.
This could be:
- Holding back on snacking on junk food
- Putting in one more Pomodoro of work
- Going to the gym
All it takes is just one micro decision to change your life. Just one.
How To Get Better At Decision Making
So we need to learn how to get better at making these micro decisions. But first, let me just show you how important decisions are in your daily life.
There are approximately 22,075,000 seconds in a human average lifespan and every second that you have lived is because of a past decision.
And all those past decisions were influenced by previous past decisions which also influences your future decisions.
So let’s say it is 3 pm on a beautiful sunny afternoon and I have the decision between going to the gym and watching television.
And I say to myself “I worked pretty hard this week so I’m just gonna go relax and watch some good ol’ TV for 1 hour with my big tub of strawberry Haagen-Daaz ice cream before going to the gym.”
And I have a great time eating ice cream while watching some Tom and Jerry.
1 hour later I check the time and now I have to decide whether I will go to the gym or watch some more TV. Since I’m already watching TV I tell myself “I feel pretty great right now. I’ll go to the gym tomorrow.”
And it’s likely I never go to the gym that day. Why?
Because I decided to choose to relax and the momentum carried throughout the day where I didn’t feel like putting in work anymore.
I fell for the sweet temptation of my brain’s excuses to not work since it just sounded too good to watch TV when I was incredibly exhausted. My brain even went so far as to promise I will go to the gym tomorrow (which I fully believed by the way.)
So that one tiny harmless decisions of only relaxing for one hour created a domino effect where it felt harder to do the decisions that required willpower and discipline.
In this example, it might have been better to force myself to go to the gym before I decided to watch TV.
But it is these types of micro decisions that will influence every single part of your life.
And the first step to changing your life is to start becoming more aware of these tiny decisions that you make consciously or unconsciously.
You have to start paying attention to these tiny details. You can’t start making better decisions if you don’t physically know some of the decisions that may be sabotaging your chances to reach your goals.
And a lot of these decisions are on auto-pilot.
So here is a list of some of the things that people go through that I actually want you to start changing.
Don’t Say “I Don’t Know” And Decide On Something
This happens to everyone when you are going to go eat out on a Friday night.
It starts with your family asking “Where do you want to eat out?”
And then you reply with “I don’t know. I’m fine with anything really. What do you want to eat?”
“I don’t know. Let’s…”
And this simple decision becomes a 2-3 minute discussion on which nice restaurant you should eat. The pros. The cons. What everyone’s feeling right now. How you like pho but not feeling it right now.
When you could’ve just said any restaurants name that you wanted.
It doesn’t matter if your family didn’t want to eat there. You could’ve said Mcdonalds if you wanted a Big Mac.
What it does is force you to respond with an answer rather than passively waiting for a decision to be made.
And these micro-decisions will make it a bit easier in the future to decide on something when the stakes are a lot bigger than choosing a restaurant.
Plus it might even save you a beautiful 3 minutes of discussion choosing a restaurant.
Choose Decisions That You Know You Should Do But Decide For Later
These are the decisions that people ignore because you are just not “in the mood for it.”
Your dreams don’t care whether you are or aren’t in the mood for it. All it cares is if you put in the work necessary to realize those dreams.
And it doesn’t have to be decisions that decide whether your dream becomes a reality or not.
It can be those nagging chores that are constantly bothering you because you decided to not do it for another day like the following:
- I should practice the piano today…
- I should wash the dishes now…
- I should do some work but I’ll do it later…
And I am 100% sure one of these thoughts have crossed your mind and decided to do it later.
And in some cases, it does make sense to do it later. Maybe you have an appointment or you are going to miss class if you decided to do the dishes now.
But most of the time it’s because we are lazy.
And laziness is the enemy of discipline.
It’s these lazy actions that make it harder to discipline ourselves because we are literally telling our body that it is okay to procrastinate.
Which is a big no-no since we are trying to discipline ourselves.
Yeah, it will feel annoying when you force yourself to start doing things that you didn’t feel like doing.
But you will thank yourself later when it is going to be MUCH easier to discipline yourself when you are working on your bigger goals.
“Business Before Pleasure” (Optional)
This one is from John Carlton where he decided to finish all his work first before he could do anything fun.
And it works (from a discipline standpoint.)
It’s very similar to when your mom would scold you to finish all of your homework before you were allowed to play.
We can’t underestimate our moms who were trying to instill good decision-making habits back when we didn’t even know anything about discipline
This one isn’t mandatory but I highly recommend it if you have attempted to self-discipline yourselves and had no success so far.
Mindset of Micro-Decisions
You want to have the mindset that each micro-decision has the impact to change the course of your life when you are beginning.
You really want to take each micro decision seriously to the point that each one can be the defining moment for you.
Every time you are at the point where you want to procrastinate, you want to ask yourself…
“Do I want to break the promise to myself to achieve my goals? How badly do I want this goal? Do I care enough about this goal to overcome my procrastination right now?”
All it takes is just one decision to change who you are. Just one.
I Understand All Of This Already But How Do I Create That Lasting Energy To Work Over A Long Period Of Time?
This is going to sound cheesy but you really do need a strong why to push through any resistance you are going to have.
A moment in time where you are completely fed up with yourself and decide you need to change.
A moment in time where the pain of not changing hurts a lot more than staying in your comfortable bubble.
And you will know this moment because it’s going to physically hurt you NOT to take any action to make your goals a reality.
So you really need to understand yourself completely and why you want that goal.
If you want to become rich… maybe you just want to have the freedom to not worry about any expenses and save yourself some stress.
If you want to become a writer… maybe you just wanted to help people while having a job that can be worked remotely anywhere in the world.
For most people the answer is freedom. The freedom to choose how you live your life instead of being tied down to a 9-5. The freedom to choose how you want to spend your time without feeling guilty.
For me… the answer is boredom. I have found that being comfortable for long periods of time is incredibly boring. I know I can’t completely escape boredom but chasing your dreams through a ton of boring work is a lot better than being having no dreams and being bored. Don’tcha think?
Either way, you are going to have to become a detective to find out what you really want.
So How Do I Actually Develop My Self Discipline?
Having a strong enough why will push you to to develop the discipline you need.
But let’s say you still haven’t found out what’s driving you and you just can’t seem to push yourself to do any work.
Then you need actual strategies to maximize your chances that will make you stay disciplined.
Here are some things to consider…
Know What Tempts You
One of the reasons why we struggle to maintain some discipline is because there are things that tempt us to procrastinate.
You are trying to lose weight → But you love eating chocolate
You want to stay productive → But you need to check your emails, FB, etc.
You want to exercise → But you also like watching television
You want to stop drinking alcohol → But your Smoky Bourbon looks delicious on your kitchen dining table.
So the solution is to make your temptations a pain to do.
If you are trying to lose weight, then don’t buy any chocolate when you go grocery shopping.
So when you have the painful craving that you NEED chocolate, you have to commute all the way back to the store which gives you precious time to reconsider your actions.
If you want to stay productive and write articles, put a website blocker to block all certain websites like Stayfocused (non-affiliate) or SelfControl (non-affiliate) on Mac. You can even go hardcore and turn off your Wifi.
If you want to go to the gym, put all your clothes in your bag inside your car the night before.
The goal is to both create as much annoyance as possible to tempt you away from the bad habits and to create the least resistance to tempt you for the habits you want to build.
Create a deadline
Have you ever had that feeling where you just decided to push back that project for school until the last day? And all of a sudden… just right before the deadline… you do everything in your power to reach that goal?
But don’t you think it’s kind of incredible that all of a sudden we are able to finish a project that we were suppose to take one week all in a single day?
So if you can create artificial deadlines that you have to meet no matter what, then you will be 100% more productive.
Another cool thing to consider is that work expands to meet the deadline.
So if you give yourself a deadline of one day rather than one week to finish your research paper, you will probably get almost the same type of work if you only gave yourself one day. Except that it’s faster.
Creating artificial deadlines forces you to develop discipline muscles only if you can stick to the deadline.
You Need To Have Clear Goals
You have to know exactly what you want. If you are unsure exactly what you want to achieve then your actions are going to reveal it.
For example, most people say they want to lose weight.
Do you want to just lose weight? Or did you want to lose weight and have a sexy beach body? Or did you want to maintain the same weight by losing fat and gaining muscle? Or did you want to lose weight and stay healthy?
Cause all you have to do to lose weight is to eat less than what you burn throughout the day. That’s it.
But it’s a lot simpler than it sounds like many goals we want in life.
Take Care Of Your Body
You need to take care of the pillars of your body if you want to have any success with self-discipline.
This means getting enough sleep, eating healthy, and taking care of your mind.
It sounds super cliche but you need to strike some sort of balance if you want to sustain this for the long run.
Maybe not all the time. Sometimes you really do need to pull an all-nighter. Ideally, you never have to do this but we can never plan perfectly 100% of the time.
The main takeaway is just to listen to your body.
Because completely burning out and getting sick may take months and even years to recover because you pulled 1 too many all-nighters.
So if you’re young (like me) you can go a lot harder than older folks.
But what I recommend to everyone is to just test the waters.
If you don’t feel like working because you are feeling a little tired, see how you feel after doing 30 minutes of working.
Sometimes it’s just that little nagging voice in your head saying you should stop working. But If you feel even worse after 30 minutes, it might be your body saying it needs some rest.
I just want you to maximize your chances to maintain self-discipline over the course of your life.
You will fail at one point… and that’s okay.
It’s not a discouragement. It’s more like you are slowly taking one step towards the goal you want.
And that’s typically how most people succeed. By falling and getting up over and over and over again until they find one way to let them succeed.
The same thing is true about disciplining yourself.
Don’t beat yourself completely every time you fail. Just recognize how you failed and then fix it for the next time so you don’t make the same mistake.
Find A Mentor (Optional)
If you have the chance to follow someone who has lived through your ideal lifestyle do whatever it takes to follow him… even if you have to work for free.
There are just some things that you can absorb just by being around him that you can’t get by just reading books.
You also have the guidance of someone who has gone through many failures and has the experience to lead you to the right path.
But sometimes it is incredibly hard to find someone like that and even harder to find someone willing to take you under their wing.
But some of his habits might rub onto you (including his discipline habits) so take whatever you can if you get this chance.
Measure Your Progress
What most people don’t realize is that you tend to forget a lot of stuff over the week.
Because we are so focused on our daily life that we forget to look at the bigger picture and then we forget how much work we have actually gone through.
But data doesn’t lie. If you can track how much work you have done the past month then you have a benchmark of where you are and where you can improve.
So if you can only work for 2 hours a day of pure focused time, then maybe next week shoot for 3.
Friends to keep in check if you fall into bad habits
You want to make sure you hang out with the right group of people because you are more likely to be disciplined if you hang around other self-disciplined people.
Even better if it’s people who have walked different paths of success.
Or they can just be good people who have good values and are fun to be around.
Whoever you are with most of the time will influence who you are as a person.
Habits To Help Cultivate Self-Discipline
There are certain habits to help you cultivate self-discipline if you are starting from ground zero.
Because we want that tiny voice in our head that nudges you to procrastinate to be completely silent.
And one of the best ways is to continuously get out of our comfort zone!
So we practice habits that continuously do this so that at one point you won’t flinch when you want to procrastinate.
Yes… I know they feel terrible. That foreboding thought that you are going to hell when you watch a stream of cold water rush through the shower.
And then thinking about staying in that shivering freezing hell for a couple of minutes.
It’s not that bad after a couple of minutes though and you start to slowly get used to it.
And what happens is that you train yourself physically and mentally with the water that you can deal with things that you dislike.
And then you feel great afterwards (and cold.)
Plus there are tons of benefits I noticed taking cold showers such as…
- Better hair
- Better skin
- Feel refreshed after taking one
Waking Up Early And Getting Out Immediately
It’s nice and cozy in your little cocoon where you don’t have to deal with the world in your warm, inviting bed where you never want to leave and deal with the world.
It’s going to suck but isn’t that what building self-discipline is all about?
Who knew that sitting down not and not thinking of anything will develop your self-discipline. If you haven’t tried it yet you are going to struggle for just 5 minutes,
You don’t realize how much chatter your mind goes through when you are doing physically nothing willingly.
I’d say this is the easiest method to train your self-discipline muscles actually.
I recommend you should start meditating or do some form of meditation mainly just to clear your mind for the day and to help to start to develop your discipline muscles.
Exercise (I Recommend Running Without Music)
Let’s put exercise into perspective here. You are knowingly and willingly tearing your muscles and throwing yourself into discomfort because you know it is good for you and you feel great afterward.
If you want to develop the body of your dreams…
You are going to need the discipline of
- Going to the gym 3-5 times a week
- Maintaining your calories every day
- Changing your diet to eat more whole foods and nutritious every day
I have found out that jogging without music is meditation to the next level. I used to not be able to run without music because it was boring. YOU want to be bored in your life.
Sometimes you don’t need more noise in your life.
And I hated running. It was painful. It felt forever, especially when there was no music. I did it anyway.
It is like training your self-discipline on steroids.
You focus on the pain for 20-30 minutes or however long you jog for. And you are forced to listen to all the pain in your body, including all that chatter in your head saying it wants to stop running and start walking.
It sucks. It feels terrible during the moment. But afterward, I feel amazing and did my daily training of self-discipline.
Learning A New Skill
If you want to learn something new you are going to have to set some time aside and train it every day. And that requires self-discipline. It is also a fun way to have some self-discipline.
The amazing part of self-discipline is that it applies broadly and to everything in your life. If you can do one of these habits, it makes it easier to develop self-discipline for something else.
No one in the universe cares about you. It really is all up to you to develop your self-discipline muscles all on your own.
This means no one is going to tell you what to do. No one really cares if you fail. And this means you just have to go out and do it yourself if you really want it.
It’s not a secret what you want. Chances are you already know what to do but there is something holding you back.
Just take the plunge and start developing your discipline today. Your future self will thank you and will be the first step in your journey to creating the success you want in life.