How to develop self-discipline

If you are looking to develop self-discipline, this article can come in handy. For the past several years, I have been promising myself that I would shed a few kilos and get back in shape.

And for the past several years, I have never been able to keep that promise. Though there were periods–a few weeks at a stretch–where I was totally committed to the cause, I would eventually lose my way and end up not achieving my health goals. After drowning myself in regret and frustration for a few weeks, the cycle would commence again.

I am sure many of you are in the same boat. And if you look for reasons why we can’t stick to our plan, the biggest one would be a lack of self-discipline. This is the single biggest factor that causes us to simply not do what we need to do to get the results.

Do you get disappointed when you don’t see early results during your journey to meet your goal? Do you lose heart at the first instance of experiencing discomfort?

Self-discipline is what will help you get over such things that pull you back. Self-discipline is the ability to make you do things regardless of how you are feeling emotionally or physically. Remember: unless we put in the hard work, we will not get results.

So, the question is: how to develop self-discipline? Are there ways and means through which we can develop massive self-discipline?

Of course, there are. Remember that every problem has a solution!

Here are some ideas that can help; these are ideas that I have been trying out with decent success. There may be more, and you may have your own little tricks. Please feel free to share them in the comments section.

Here goes:


How to build self-discipline: In a nutshell

  1. Define your goal clearly: Define the ‘What’ and ‘Why’
  2. Place reminders: Reiterate importance
  3. Remove distractions: Create environment for success
  4. Fall in love with systems: Enjoy the process
  5. Don’t feel like it today? Just do 1 thing: Try not to have a zero day
  6. Build focus: The thing about focus
  7. Monitor your progress: Measure and improve
  8. Reward yourself: Enjoy the outcome

Each of these topics are elaborated below.


Let’s get into the details of each of the above. Here goes:

How to develop self-discipline

  • Define your goal clearly: This is where you define what it is that you want to achieve, and why. The ‘why’ is extremely important since that is what will help overcome situations where you lose heart or question yourself during the journey. It will help generate intrinsic motivation.
  • Place reminders: Placing reminders on why the goal is important to you, pictures of people who have achieved similar goals, quotes that can motivate you in various places where you will encounter them during the day will help keep you on course. This technique has certainly helped me in reiterating my commitment to goals.
  • Remove distractions: The idea here is to make it easy for you to stick to the work you need to do with focus. And for this, you will have to remove distractions that can throw you off track. For example, if you are trying to stick to a diet, stay away from videos of food bloggers on Instagram. (This one has been tough for me, especially since I rely heavily on my phone for a variety of activities from productivity to wellbeing.)
  • Fall in love with systems: This is straight out of James Clear’s best-selling book – Atomic Habits, where he writes that to achieve your goals, you need to focus on the system or process and not the end goal itself. Sticking to the process day in, day out will eventually help you meet and beat your goal.

Read more: https://jamesclear.com/goals-systems. This technique has really helped me.

    • Don’t Break the Chain: A related technique to help stick to your process is Jerry Seinfeld’s ‘Don’t Break the Chain’–where you hang up a calendar and draw a big ‘X’ over the day you did what you were supposed to do. And try to make sure you draw an X every day so not to break the streak. This programs the mind to do the task every day, and motivates you to continue doing it. Try it, it really works!
  • Don’t feel like it today? These ideas can help:
    • Just do 1 pushup: There are days when we just don’t feel like doing what we set out to do. For example, the comfort of your bed holding you back from doing your workout in the morning. In such situations, this article by Steph Guise’s ‘Just do 1 pushup’ can help.

Read his article here: https://stephenguise.com/take-the-one-push-up-challenge/. In this one, he writes about how he overcame his resistance to exercising by telling himself that he only had to do one push up! That took all the anxiety and friction away, and of course, he went on to do several more.

I love this one for its simplicity and effectiveness.

    • The 5 second rule: Made popular by Mel Robbins, this is a simple technique to get yourself to do stuff by beating your brain. Yeah, by counting down from 5 when you feel an instinct or desire to do something, you kill any self-doubt or hesitation that your mind tries to work up. Read more about it here: https://melrobbins.com/5-second-rule-everyday-courage/ .

Watch her TED talk on the topic here: https://www.ted.com/talks/mel_robbins_how_to_stop_screwing_yourself_over?language=en.

Check out her book here: https://amzn.to/2R1Vvtz. I have tried this a few times, but it hasn’t really worked for me. I guess I will need to try a few more times.

  • Build focus: The Pomodoro technique can be effective to build up your ability to focus–it is a simple technique by which you decide to work exclusively on one thing for a set period of time (which could initially be 10 minutes, and you can work it up to more time).

This has helped me a lot in getting stuff done.

    • This, coupled with Brian Tracy’s tip for prioritizing important tasks–Eat That Frog–helps me get things done. The two statements ‘If you have to eat a live frog at all, it doesn’t pay to sit and look at it for very long’ and ‘If you have to eat two frogs, eat the ugliest one first’ are indeed gems when it comes to being guidelines for productivity.
  • Monitor your progress: As you work on your goals, pay attention to how you are feeling along the journey. If things are going well, you may feel happy, proud, and energized. This goes a long way in reinforcing the virtues of hard work and self-discipling that you displayed and will come in handy for the next goal that you pick up.

Even after following all these techniques, if you are feeling demotivated, or keep questioning yourself on why you are doing the things you are doing, maybe you should to re-evaluate the ‘Why’ part of your goal–to review whether the reasons why you started on this path still holds true.

If they don’t make sense anymore, there is absolutely no harm in discontinuing your journey and picking a more important goal to focus on.

Otherwise, forgive yourself, get up and move forward.

  • Reward yourself: The most satisfying part of the journey–once you have achieved your goal, you should give yourself a pat on the back. And probably a great dinner at a fancy restaurant. Don’t hold back–as we have seen, achieving a goal is not something everyone can do. So be proud and happy about what you have done.

Oh yeah, last but not the least – love yourself. Stay positive. Life is a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t go too fast if you don’t feel like it. Find your pace. Hope you enjoyed this post on how to develop self-discipline.

Here’s wishing you success in achieving whatever it is that brings you happiness.

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