How to Develop Incredible Self-Discipline

If I were to tell you there was one trait, that if developed could bring about tremendous happiness and success in your life, what would you think of? The ability to make money, or maybe public speaking? What about sales?

Yes, all of these are important skills to learn. But there is one underlying skill, that if mastered can make all the other ones easier. Have you guessed it yet? That’s right, self-discipline!

What is Self-Discipline?

To me, self-discipline is a habit. Something that is not inherently manifested by a chosen few, but a trait cultivated through hard work and dedication.

Self-discipline means doing and not doing certain things for the sake of improving and reaching a goal.

It deals with controlling our desires, actions, thinking, and emotions. Mastering ourselves is the true outcome of a self-discipline practice.

When someone has high levels of self-discipline, they push through even when they don’t want to. They are so focused on a goal, that how they feel that day doesn’t matter.

A core component of a self-discipline practice is pushing off immediate gratification, desires, distractions, and pleasure. But in the end, the satisfaction is well worth all the sacrifices made along the way.

Some may be wondering, why bother with self-discipline?

If it requires so much focus and sacrifice, what’s the point?

Shouldn’t we all just try to live each day with as much pleasure as possible, I mean life is short right?

Well, I would argue that the happiness felt from the cultivation of self-discipline and the rewards it brings is by far greater than any immediate desires.

Why is Self-Discipline Important?

Mastering ourselves is a tremendous accomplishment. The ability to control our minds and emotions is powerful and comes with a high level of self-discipline.

Developing self-discipline is such an important aspect of success in anything.

No matter what your goal is, there will be certain activities you don’t want to do, and days where giving up seems like the best option.

This is where self-discipline comes into play.

Having the capability to force yourself to perform even when every part of your being wants to quit indicates a true champion.

To help you understand just how important self-discipline is, check out these five benefits gained from strong self-discipline.

"No matter what your goal is, there will be certain activities you don’t want to do, and days where giving up seems like the best option. This is where self-discipline comes into play."

5 Benefits of Strong Self-Discipline:

  1. Creates good habits. Habits shape our lives, both good and bad. Developing good habits is a great way to put yourself on the path to success. With self-discipline, it becomes easier to keep yourself accountable and create good habits.
  2. Helps you focus. The ability to focus helps get things done in a quicker and more efficient manner. Self-discipline helps us focus on a task and work hard at it until completion.
  3. Increases self-confidence. As your self-discipline improves, a new sense of confidence will be felt. This will be due to the pride felt in mastering yourself, and the knowledge you now have. Being able to control our minds and emotions gives us confidence that cannot be gotten anywhere else.
  4. Helps to achieve mastery in a skill. To become great at anything, many hours of practice must be done. Such work takes great self-discipline to stick with. It requires someone who can force themselves to repeat a simple task over and over until a skill is mastered.
  5. Overcomes procrastination. Procrastination is success’ enemy. We often say we’ll do something tomorrow, then tomorrow turns into the next day, and so on. Self-discipline provides us the power to overcome procrastination and do what we know must be done.

By now I hope you understand just how important self-discipline is.

Luckily, it is not a trait we need to be born with. Like many other skills, self-discipline can be practice. In fact, it’s really the only way.

Self-discipline can be gotten only through consciously practicing. Willingly testing yourself and cultivating this incredible skill.

Here are four steps you can take to begin practicing and increasing your self-discipline today!

4 Steps to Develop Self-Discipline

Step #1: Find Your Motivation

Before we begin to work on self-discipline, there has to be motivation. This is what will push you through the tough times and keep you focused.

Motivation is what drives us to set goals, face challenges, and perform the necessary hard work. So, we must decide what our motivation is for wanting to develop stronger self-discipline.

For me, I was initially driven by the desire to become a better baseball player. I decided during my freshman year of high school that baseball was the sport for me.

To become a better player, I needed to get stronger, faster, and refine my skills. The time needed to be put into each area, which required immense amounts of self-discipline.

After school, I began weight training and then going to the baseball field to work on my skills. Over time, I became incredibly disciplined with my work-ethic. This was carried throughout my college years, and I continue to implement such focus and discipline in my life today.

Through my experience, I learned how important motivation is to self-discipline. If we have a reason to hold ourselves accountable then we will take the steps necessary. Then, through repetition, the self-discipline will become habitual and natural.

Motivation can be extrinsic or intrinsic.

"Before we begin to work on self-discipline, there has to be motivation. This is what will push you through the tough times and keep you focused. Motivation is what drives us to set goals, face challenges, and perform the necessary hard work."

Extrinsic Motivation

Extrinsic motivation is when we are driven by external desires and goals.

Those of us motivated extrinsically usually seek rewards or are looking to avoid punishment. Either way, the reason for performing an action is due to something outside of ourselves.

Some examples include:

  • Playing a sport to receive accolades.
  • Doing the dishes to avoid getting in trouble with your parents or spouse.
  • Doing well in school to receive a scholarship or get into a good university.
  • Weightlifting because your coach requires you to.

Intrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic motivation is the opposite of extrinsic. Working towards a goal or achievement is driven completely by internal desires.

If we display this motivation category, then the activity itself is the source of joy and fulfillment.

Rather than being motivated by an award or to avoid punishment, being able to perform the task is motivation enough.

Think about those people who love what they do, even without being paid or receiving any recognition. That is clear intrinsic motivation at work.

Here are some examples of intrinsic motivation:

  • Doing schoolwork out of a love for learning.
  • Cleaning your car because you like to have it look nice.
  • Reading for your own entertainment.
  • Playing a sport because you find it enjoyable and fun.
  • Weightlifting and exercising to stay fit and healthy for yourself.

This is the first step towards developing incredibly strong self-discipline. You must first determine the motivation behind wanting to build it in the first place.

Step #2: Take Small Steps

The second aspect of building strong self-discipline is to begin taking small steps.

Do you remember in the previous section where I mentioned my experience with self-discipline? It was in high school when I really began to develop the habit. Well, it wasn’t something that happened all at once.

Over the course of months and years, I began to be more and more disciplined. It is something that I continue to work on today. The key behind it, though, is small steps over a long time period.

Our brains love habits and routines. This is both good and bad. It is great because it means that we can program our brain into a new routine and stick with it. But bad if we are stuck in a negative habit.

With self-discipline, you do not want to overwhelm yourself. If you do, then it will likely lead to failure and frustration. That is where small steps come into play.

You can also think of this as setting little goals for yourself. By doing this, over time you will become more and more self-disciplined. And the more you become disciplined, the more your motivation rises to keep progressing. That has been my experience.

Example of building self-discipline through small steps

Here is an example to help explain how taking small steps can work.

A woman would like to become more self-disciplined with her exercise and nutrition. It would be a big change from her normal routine to start going to the gym five days a week and eating completely clean food.

So, she begins by taking small steps.

The first week she goes to the gym once and changes one of her meals in favor of a healthier option. Then, the following week she repeats this.

Fast track a few weeks and the woman begins to feel like going to the gym twice per week. Also, healthy eating has made her feel so good that she decides to swap out another meal.

Now she is going to the gym twice a week and eating two out of her three meals a day in a healthy manner.

Two months down the road the lady decides that two days is not good enough. She is seeing results with her exercise and nutrition that are making her crave more. So, with her new self-discipline, she jumps in headfirst.

The woman is now going to the gym four days a week and eating healthy for all of her meals.

You see how by taking slow, small steps the lady was able to develop her self-discipline over time.

That is the power of using small steps and goals to work on your self-discipline.

Step #3: Keep a Discomfort Journal

The third step in developing self-discipline is all about keeping yourself accountable.

I’m sure you have heard people say that the first step towards progress is outside of our comfort zone. It really is the truth.

Building self-discipline is no different. It requires us to continually test ourselves, pushing ever further outside what is comfortable.

But this is very difficult to do. Our minds want to keep us safe, and the work that needs to be done can be perceived as dangerous. All kinds of excuses and reasoning will go on in your head.

To curb this, and make sure we are taking the steps towards building self-discipline, a journal can be kept.

Not just any journal, but a discomfort journal!

What is a Discomfort Journal?

Basically, this is going to be a journal you keep every night or week, depending on your schedule. In it, you will write down what you did that pushed you out of your comfort zone.

By forcing yourself to perform certain activities, you will be developing your self-discipline. And the discomfort journal just helps you to hold yourself accountable.

The reason it is important to do things that make you uncomfortable is due to the discipline it takes to perform them.

Keeping yourself a journal to track progress is a great way to ensure that you are pushing yourself each and every day. Slowly building up that self-discipline.

"I’m sure you have heard people say that the first step towards progress is outside of our comfort zone. It really is the truth. Building self-discipline is no different. It requires us to continually test ourselves, pushing ever further outside what is comfortable."

Step #4: Practice Saying NO!

No is a very underused word.

We often feel guilty about telling others no, and we seldom tell ourselves no enough.

However, if you wish to build truly incredible self-discipline, then no must become a frequently used word in your vocabulary.

When thinking about saying no in terms of building self-discipline, there are two facets. Saying no to others and saying no to yourself.

Saying No to Others

Constantly saying yes to people can drain us. It can become a time-waster, and often we say yes just out of the fear of saying no.

Through practicing saying no to others you do yourself a huge favor.

More time can be spent on your own work, dreams, and goals. Also, your confidence and sureness in yourself will grow by saying no.

As you become more disciplined in saying no, you will begin to only do the things that line up with your ideals. This makes you a much more authentic person.

No more time will be wasted doing things that you do not want to do, just because you felt like saying yes was the only option.

Saying No to Yourself

There are many distractions that can present themselves to us on a daily basis.

One of the toughest things for us to do is say no to ourselves. Especially when it is saying no to something pleasurable in favor of something we need to do.

However, if we want to build self-discipline then it is a habit we must adopt.

Do you want to eat healthier? You must say no to junk food. Do you want to exercise more? You must say no to watching tv after work instead of going to the gym. Do you want to become more productive? You must say no to procrastination.

No is a powerful word that is incredible in working towards a goal. Begin saying no to yourself daily and you will see your self-discipline rise.

Final Thoughts

Better self-discipline is something we should all strive to build.

It will lead to a happier, and more successful life. You will find it easier to create new habits and focus. Self-confidence will grow. Skills can be mastered much easier, and procrastination overcome.

By following the four steps outlined above, I believe anyone can build incredible discipline in themselves.

I would love to hear your opinions on self-discipline. Do you think it is a skill we are born with or one that can be practiced and developed?

I hope you found this article helpful, and please reach out to me with any questions you have regarding self-discipline or any performance psychology-related topics.

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