Discover nine practical tips for improving your self-discipline in this article. Learn to approach self-discipline as a muscle that you can exercise and develop over time, and discover the benefits of regular meditation and exercise for boosting your self-control. Remembering your end goal and using positive/negative reinforcement techniques are also essential strategies for maintaining discipline and achieving your goals. Strengthen your self-discipline and unlock your potential with these actionable tips.
“With little discipline, you do little; with a lot of discipline, you accomplish a lot; and with unstoppable discipline, everything is possible.”
All goals require self-discipline.
Losing weight, creating an influential blog, writing a book, starting a business, learning an instrument, speaking a language fluently…require hours and hours of work. And in this long process of accomplishment, it sometimes happens that we do not feel the desire to work.
At such times, self-discipline plays a crucial role. It is what allows us to keep moving forward even when we lack motivation.
When we’ve had a long day at work and come home tired, it’s self-discipline that pushes us to work a few more hours on our side-business.
When it’s Sunday morning and it’s raining, it’s self-discipline that makes us put on our sneakers to go for a run.
When we wake up a little earlier in the morning to write a few pages of our book, it is self-discipline that gets us out of bed where we feel so good.
She’s the one who helps us make the right choices, write an article instead of watching Netflix, eat a piece of fruit instead of a donut, revise Spanish instead of playing Candy Crush, contact prospects rather than hang out on Youtube…
And each time we make the right choice, we take another step in the right direction until we reach our goals.
This is probably the most important quality to develop in order to be successful.
So in this article, we are going to see some tips for learning to self-discipline.
1. Think of self-discipline as a muscle
“Self-control is like a muscle; the more you use it, the stronger it becomes.”
When you exercise, your body creates new muscle fibers. And when you train regularly, these fibers get stronger. It is because of this that over time you are able to carry heavier and heavier weights.1
It’s the same with self-discipline. When you train to be disciplined, you create more tissue mass in your prefrontal cortex. And the more you use this part of the brain, the more you strengthen it. Over time, you are then able to resist your impulses and your desires more and more easily.
So if you want to improve your self-discipline, approach it as if it were a sport. Tell yourself that every time you resist something, you are training your brain and the more you practice, the more you will be able to control yourself.
Seeing things from this angle, you will then consider each resistance as an opportunity to improve yourself.
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2. Practice meditation daily
In 2015 the Italian neuroscientist Tomasino conducted an 8-week study on ordinary people. He asked them during this period to meditate regularly.
At the end of the study, he analyzed their brain activity and noticed that the participants had strengthened their prefrontal cortex, in other words the part of their brain responsible for self-control. In short, they found it easier to resist their desires and impulses.2
What this study confirms is that meditation is an excellent way to strengthen our self-discipline. By meditating not only do you improve your discipline but you also train yourself to be more focused.
If you too want to start meditating, try the following exercise:
Take 10 minutes in the morning to observe your breathing. With each inspiration feel the air entering your nostrils then fill your lungs and feel the air coming out with each exhalation. Concentrate on this rhythm, without forcing. When your mind wanders, calmly bring your attention back to your breath.
Do this simple exercise every day for 8 weeks and you will find that you will be better at disciplining yourself.
3. Exercise regularly
It’s easier to go for a drink with friends after work than to go to the gym. To watch Netflix warm under the duvet rather than putting on your pair of sneakers to go for a run in the cold.
Practicing a physical activity requires physical effort and willpower. Even though exercise is good for us, it’s not necessarily something we have the motivation to do.
By forcing yourself to exercise regularly, you train your self-discipline. You push yourself to do something uncomfortable which allows you to strengthen both your body and your mind.
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4. Remember why you are self-disciplining yourself.
We rarely want to be disciplined just for the sake of being disciplined. Self-discipline is a means to an end. So what is your ending? What is the reason you want to discipline yourself?
Is it to set up a project that is close to your heart?
Is it to lose weight?
Is it to learn a new language and go live in another country?
Is it to live a healthier life?
By remembering why you want to be disciplined, you will have a reason to be.
Remember that achieving your goals is impossible without a little self-discipline. By integrating this well, you will find the energy to discipline yourself because you will know that it goes hand in hand with the accomplishment of your goal.
5. Use positive/negative reinforcement
Positive/negative reinforcement is a well-known way to encourage behavior.
Positive reinforcement is rewarding yourself for doing a good deed. For example, if you force yourself to go to the sport while it is raining, a positive reinforcement would be to prepare your favorite meal once your session is over.
By associating your good behaviors with something positive, you will be encouraged to reproduce them.
Negative reinforcement, on the other hand, punishes bad behavior. A good example of negative reinforcement is that of Thomas Frank. To force himself to get up early in the morning, he programs the following tweet every day on Buffer:
It’s 6:10 and I’m not up because I’m lazy! Reply to this tweet to win $5 (provided my alarm didn’t have a problem). Limited to 5 people.
If he doesn’t wake up at 6:00 a.m. to unsend, that tweet is automatically posted and he’s forced to pay his followers for not getting up on time.
Lacking discipline has direct consequences for him.
The idea with positive and negative reinforcements is therefore to associate self-discipline with something positive and indiscipline with something negative. By using these two forces to your advantage, you will be encouraged to act in the right direction.
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6. Have a healthy lifestyle
Our ability to be self-disciplined depends a lot on our energy level. You only have to see our level of discipline after having spent a tiring day. Generally we have the motivation to do nothing. It is much more difficult to get down to doing something that requires effort.
To be self-disciplined, you must therefore maintain a high level of energy. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is essential. You need to eat as healthy as possible, take breaks, get enough sleep, and avoid alcohol and drugs.
These are things we all know but tend to overlook.
7. Make self-discipline part of your identity
Everyone identifies with values and acts according to them.
If altruism is important to you, you will help your neighbor at the slightest opportunity. And if you consider freedom to be paramount in your life, you will look for ways to be more free and independent.
By integrating discipline into your values, you will also act according to them. You will tell yourself that since you are a disciplined person, you must act with discipline. Just as a person who considers himself altruistic, will tell himself that he must act with altruism.
To embed discipline into your values, you must begin by acting with discipline. Only when you have enough control will you begin to see self-discipline as part of who you are.
Let’s say you start running 3 times a week, for example. At times you won’t feel like it and you’ll have to force yourself to put on your sneakers, get out of your house and take the first strides.
Overtime and after pushing yourself enough times, you will start to think that you are a disciplined person. If all those times you managed to run when you didn’t want to, it’s probably because you’re the kind of person who doesn’t give up and who knows how to show willpower.
When you start having this kind of thinking it will mean that you have integrated discipline into your identity. You will then be encouraged to continue doing so to be aligned with your identity.
8. Optimize your environment
Self-discipline requires effort, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t make your life easier. By optimizing your environment, you can make self-discipline easier.
Using Freedom to eliminate distractions such as Facebook, Instagram and Youtube can help you control yourself. Preparing your gym stuff the day before, to be encouraged to go to the gym the next day also facilitates self-discipline. And getting rid of the bad foods that are in your cupboards and your fridge can help you promote healthy food.
Creating an environment that pushes you to make the right choices isn’t cheating, it’s acting smart to spend less energy disciplining yourself.
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9. Give yourself flexibility
It would be great to be able to be disciplined all the time. To be able to make the right choice every time. To always have the will. To always have energy. But the truth is that we are humans and humans are imperfect.
There will be times when you have weaknesses. That you eat a donut instead of a fruit. That you stay a little later in bed. Whether you come home from work in the evening and watch Netflix rather than work on your project. And that’s totally normal.
The most essential thing is that you are not flawless. What matters is that you stay on the correct track. You may allow yourself those moments of weakness as long as you are travelling in the correct way.
Doing the right deeds 80% of the time is always better than not doing them at all. So be indulgent with yourself.
In conclusion, training your self-discipline is probably the most useful thing you can do to achieve your goals. With a good dose of self-discipline many things become possible. Follow the advice in this article and you will be able to exercise better control over yourself.