Discipline is often looked at negatively. As something of a punishment. One of those tedious things we have to figure out in life.
Yet finding success requires discipline. Without discipline the goals we set can be harder to achieve and take longer to achieve.
In this article I am going to share with you the two areas that you must master to be disciplined. Your mindset and behaviors.
But before we dig into that, let’s better understand the differences between discipline, motivation, and self-control.
Differences Between Motivation and Discipline
Motivation is your why behind what you are doing. It is your drive.
Discipline is about taking consistent action even when things are not as fun.
While motivation gets you started at the beginning. Discipline keeps you going when the newness wears off. And things get harder. You need both to be successful with your goals.
For example, your motivation may be: I want to save my money so that I can travel. Because traveling allows me to learn about cultures better than a book. And that is one of my passions, learning about others. This will get you started saving extra money.
Yet a few months in, the rigor of forgoing things to save money will start to weaken your motivation. This is when discipline kicks in and allows you to achieve the goal. It’s not that your passion has died, but the reality of taking long term consistent action is hard. Discipline takes over and makes sure that your motivation has some time to rest!
Differences Between Discipline and Self-Control
There is a very small difference between these two. Will power or self-control is about stopping yourself from doing something. This is when you say no to yourself.
Whereas discipline is more about forward movement.
For example, if your goal is to lose weight. Self-control is stopping yourself from eating a cookie. Discipline is making sure you get your workout each day.
Because these are so similar, my tips include both self-control and self-discipline for the behavior section.
Before you put in place any discipline hacks you must get your mindset right. If you don’t think you can – you won’t.
Your discipline mindset comes down to three components.
- Do you believe that discipline is good for you.
- Do you believe that you are disciplined.
- Do you believe that you are what you are attempting to be.
Let’s dig into each one to better understand how to change your mindset. And get journal prompts for each category.
Discipline is Good for You
Going back to the fact that discipline is what helps you meet your goal. You need to ask yourself, if it helps me get what I want, then how is it bad.
If this doesn’t help you see discipline as something good, then it might be time to dig deeper into why you are doing something. The more you understand why you are trying to achieve something. The easier it is to see how the discipline required to get there is good.
Ask yourself these questions:
I am a Disciplined Person
It is hard to be disciplined if you don’t think you are. At the same time, it is hard to think you are disciplined if you have consistently given up. It’s a catch 22 that can be hard to get out of.
To change this belief, you must start slowly proving to yourself that you are disciplined. The more that you show up as discipline the more you will believe you are. And it will then continue to get easier.
Ask yourself these questions:
Self-Identity to Goal
You need to also see yourself as what you are trying to achieve. For example, if you are trying to be an investor who is good with money. Then you need to believe that you are good with money.
Or if you are trying to train for a half marathon you need to be able to see yourself as an athlete.
If you can’t see yourself in the role of what you are trying to achieve, it will become another block to your success.
Ask yourself these questions: First pick the goal you want to explore your discipline with and then ask yourself.
Now that your mindset is on the right track, we can explore different ways to help you become more disciplined.
Self-Discipline Behavior Hacks
These tools will help you improve your discipline. You can add one at a time to start building your skills. One may jump right at you as the problem you are having. There are more journal prompts where appropriate.
Reward Yourself During the Activity
I for one never was motivated by some elusive reward for doing something down the road. Every time I set a goal to do something with a reward waiting for me, it never worked.
Think about it, most of what we do is to help us avoid negative things in life. We want to ease discomfort. By putting the reward at the end of the thing you don’t want to do. You have less incentive to do it.
Instead, I turn to fun and ease while doing the activity. So, for example, if I am struggling to sit down and work, instead of telling myself I can go get coffee at the end. I go get the coffee and then work with the coffee. I can sit down and focus every time!
What you want to be careful of is rewarding yourself and then not actually doing the work. It needs to be a motivator for you to do the task, not skip the task.
It also does not have to be a thing you motivate yourself with. It could be you turn it into a game and have more fun around the required activity.
We are all different. If you try and force yourself to do something in one way. And that is at a direct conflict with how you function - then it won’t work. No discipline trick will work if it goes directly against how you are designed. So, take some time to learn about yourself. How do you function best?
For example, one piece of advice that you hear a lot is that you should put what you need done on your schedule. I personally struggle with a detailed schedule every day. If I put something on my schedule it does not mean it will get done. (Unless it involves another person and then I am there!) That approach just does not work the way my mind does. Instead, I must allow flexibility. So instead, I create a list of what must happen this week. Then allow some flexibility to the when it happens.
The more you know yourself, the better you can run your life in a way that works best for you. This makes discipline much easier because it is designed for you.
Managing Self-Control Activities
If what you are doing requires a lot of self-control, then prioritize that for the start of the day. We do have a finite amount of willpower. So, schedule your absolute must do’s for the start of the day if they require you to do something that you don’t enjoy.
For example, if you need to workout because you are fighting type 2 diabetes and you do not like exercise. Then this shouldn’t be left to the end of the day. Your willpower will be depleted.
Automate as much as possible.
The less you need to think about and manage, the more you will get done. If you can set something up once it is hard to miss doing it. This is a great option for those things that you really dislike but understand the value.
For example, if you have set a savings target, then automate the transfer. Don't make it so you have to manually move it every time.
Find an Accountability Partner
It is easy to make excuses to yourself. It is harder to make them when you are reporting it to someone else. Find a friend who will help keep you in check. Or if need to hire someone.
Create Visual Reminders of Your Tasks
Plaster notes all over your home, your car, your phone. Any place that you see often and that impacts your goal. If you are continually looking at a note that says what you are trying to achieve. Or what you need to accomplish today, then it is harder for it to slip from your mind. I keep notes above my desk on different goals that I am working on. When I am ready to bail on something that needs done, I just look up and remember why I am doing it.
When you don't want to do something tell yourself to go for 10 minutes. Often the hardest part is getting moving. But once you have started all the resistance goes away. I do this with my work out. When I don’t want to do it, I tell myself I just need to do 10 minutes. Then if I want to quit I can. I very rarely ever stop at the 10 minutes.
Change Location or What You Are Doing
Sometimes we are bored and need a change. I will often change where I am working for the day. Or try a different type of exercise. Ultimately here you need to remember your goal - why you are trying to be disciplined.
It’s okay to deviate from the how you do something if it is still moving you towards the goal. Being rigid in how you achieve something will ensure you don’t achieve it on tough days.
If you find that your discipline issues occur because of problems that arise. Spend some time planning for them. Often, we can anticipate the problems related to a goal. Instead of being caught off guard, make plans.
The best place to start with this is to create a list of reasons you don’t accomplish what you had planned. Then start to create ways to prevent that. For example, if you are training for a half marathon and your most common excuse for not getting a run in is how cold it is. Then buy more cold running gear. Or if it’s because you get stuck at work, then schedule your runs for before work.
Be your own coach to help yourself figure out why you don’t want to do something. I constantly ask myself questions such as:
How will I feel if I don’t do this?
How can I make this easier?
What would happen in 20 years if I don’t do this?
Will I regret not doing this in 10 years?
It's hard to stay disciplined when you're feeling run-down or burnt out. Make sure to take care of yourself by getting enough sleep, eating well, and taking breaks when you need them. By prioritizing your own well-being, you'll be better equipped to stay disciplined. I know when I am stressed and burnout my discipline is the first thing to go!
Remember, discipline is a skill that can be developed over time. Give yourself time to make mistakes and learn as you go.
By incorporating these tips into your routine, you'll be on your way to becoming a more disciplined person.
Download the Journal Prompts!
Download the journal prompts that are in this article, plus some bonus ones on resistance!