how to develop self discipline

How To Develop Self-Discipline And Stay Disciplined?

There are many ways to achieve success nowadays. You can type in your search engine a phrase “how to …” finishing with something you want to achieve. For example “how to discipline yourself”. Instantly you will get millions of search results leading to websites containing guides on how to achieve this. But that’s where the problems begin:  

No matter how useful guides leading to success you find, you will achieve nothing if you don’t combine it with the key ingredients: self discipline and action.

What is self discipline – definition

Elbert Hubbard gave self-discipline definition like this:

“Self discipline is the ability to make yourself do what you should do, when you should do it, whether you feel like it or not.”

This is the reason why self discipline is the key that opens many doors and makes almost everything possible to get for a human being. A disciplined person may achieve as many things as their mental capabilities allow. On the other hand even a talented, well-educated and intelligent person won’t become more than average without self discipline. That leads to the next question.

Is self discipline a skill?

Of course, because every skill is something you gain through practice. No exceptions here. There is no such thing as an innate skill to do or not do something.

We gain new habits or skills through the way we were programed while growing up. You were surrounded by people who taught you useful habits or destructive ones. Ask yourself a question: “where am I right now?”. Did your habits lead you to abundance of good things and happy life or rather there is more of what you would like to get rid of or overcome?

No matter where you are right now you can add more good to your life or start building great new foundations. Just keep reading to find out how to develop self discipline and boost your self-esteem.

What causes lack of self discipline?

The lack of self discipline in other words is a tendency to postpone important actions. And what causes this tendency? The answer was a huge surprise to me and I suppose it will be the same to you.

I found it in the great book of Neil Fiore. He wrote “Now habit : a strategic program for overcoming procrastination and enjoying guilt-free play”. I cannot overrate this book and really encourage you to read it whole. According to Neil Fiore lack of self discipline showing as the tendency to postpone actions is a way to deal with anxiety associated with starting or finishing a task. When you face a difficult or uninteresting task postponing it is a tested and pleasant way of dealing with it, sounds familiar?

Let’s dig a little deeper. You should know why you consider postponing a possible solution. You know that procrastination doesn’t bring you closer to your goal but somehow you do it. Why?

This happens because of the two biggest motivators people have. These are pleasure and pain. When you postpone your tasks because everything else seems to be more important than starting your work it’s the effect of your subconsciousness. In fact there are 3 types of messages you get internally:

1. Fear of failure

Starting a task demands exploring new environment. If you start something new there is a risk you may fail (pain). If you fail your self-esteem is in danger, because it will be a proof you are not as good as you thought. You will have to lower your self-esteem. That way postponing a task is a natural subconscious self-defense process. If you postpone a task you will feel better and relieved (pleasure). It is safe and pleasant for your mind to stay at the known level of self-esteem rather than risking a change of it.

2. Boosting self-esteem

When you postpone a task it also means you want to boost your self-esteem because someone lowered it. It could be done by someone who has greater authority than you and can give you orders. For example when an employee is told to do something he doesn’t want to do (pain) or just doesn’t like his supervisor or boss he wants to act against his will. In this case there is a simple way of regaining lost self-esteem. Postponing is expressed as objection to do the task immediately. This way the employee can create for a moment a sense of power by deciding himself when the task will be done (pleasure).

3. Boredom

Sometimes your task may seem interesting but despite this somehow you just can’t make yourself do it. You feel that you want to to this but everytime you are ready to start something distracting appears and you follow it. It may be an sms, new idea, a thought that you have to buy milk etc. And instead of writing it down so that you can do it later you focus on distractions and act on them.

But the most important thing – your work – remains untouched. So, everything else seems to be more engaging than your not enough interesting task? The mechanism here shows that through many experiences before you combined your work with boredom and difficulty. The way it looks to your subconsciousness is that again you can’t expect anything unusual here. If your mind was disappointed many times in the past it’s natural that this time postponing will probably be more fun and pleasurable than doing the work.

You see now? Pleasure and pain – most important factors of human motivation. Now we uncovered the truth about subconscious mechanisms. Get to the next part to find out how to develop self discipline by simply changing your mentality.

How to discipline yourself? – Changing mentality


First of all you have to create basics that will give you ground for techniques of self discipline. You have to create a new model of thinking and abandon the old toxic one. If you want to be self-disciplined the steps below will help you change your old mentality of a non-disciplined person.

1. Failure is good

Your results are not equal to what you are worth or capable of. These are very different things. If you see a failure in action as your personal defeat that is the real problem. It has to be separated. If you fail you are becoming smarter because you gain knowledge of what doesn’t work. Every failure is a new experience that brings you closer to your success. So, failure as a result of action is actually a key to success and it raises your value. Having that in mind should boost your self-esteem. Postponing is your true defeat. Remember that every time you will feel temptation to procrastinate.

2. Perfection is bad

Perfection is a killer for action. The more perfectly you want to do your task the more anxious you become, because high expectations are easy to fail. And you don’t want to fail, but be great right? This vicious circle will definitely make you postpone action, because postponing gives you the feeling of safety. Give up dreams of perfection as soon as possible and focus only on reasonable actions. Finding the greatest recipe that will let you avoid every possible mistake would take all your life before you could be sure enough to start.

3. Make decisions faster

Sometimes you don’t take action because have two or more ways of doing a task. You may think that time will bring you the right answer which way is better. Time is passing, you try to decide but don’t want to make a mistake choosing the wrong way. In the end you will have to choose some way for doing a task when you start facing the nearing deadline.

If you let yourself postpone acting too many times, finally you will face a critical moment when ground will be shrinking beneath your feet. You will have to choose the fastest and acceptable way to finalize your task. So, why not doing it from the beginning without any pressure at all? Make a choice at the beginning and choose a way that seems most reasonable at the moment of making the decision. If you make a mistake at the start you will probably still have enough time to correct it.

4. Take responsibility

Stop thinking in terms of what “I have to” and “I should”. It means that your motivation comes from the outside. That makes you weak because you have to surrender to it. This is very discouraging. Start saying “I choose to do…”. When you are a decision-maker you feel a lot different and better. You can quickly boost your self-esteem by deciding to possess the power of choice. Only you can decide in what direction your mental and physical strength will be focused. If your mind is filled with good thoughts there is no room for doubt or negativeness. Control your mind, because if you don’t it will control you.

Related: 25 Inspirational quotes and sayings

How to start developing self discipline instantly? – Techniques and training


In the previous paragraphs you could get familiar with the basics of what causes the lack of self discipline and how to overcome it on the level of your consciousness. These basics alone show how you can change your mentality to leave old bad habits and start creating new ones that will work in your favour. Remember that your consciousness sends strong signals to your subconscious mind. The longer you feed it only good thoughts the stronger your subconsciousness gets and serves you in the best possible way. I write more about autosuggestion in my article about achieving success.

Now you are about to discover several techniques that will show you how to put psychology into practice. You will find out how to develop self discipline by changing the way you used to plan and work so that from now you will be able to feel undying energy to act.

The best form of work is a state when your work feels like entertainment. In this state you don’t feel obliged or forced to do your tasks but you go through them with engagement and ease. You are energetic and motivated with no need of having someone to tell you what should be done.

It may not be easy to find a job like this but do everything to find out what your purpose in life is. It’s a great feeling when you know you do something you were made for. But until you find your destination it may take time in your journey and you will have to accept the inconvenience of a current not dream job.

Even though it may not be what you like doing there is a way you can use to make your work much more enjoyable. All you have to do is to implement several techniques listed below.

1. Guilt-free entertainment

Use guilt-free entertainment. It occurs that people work much more efficiently when they devote more time to entertainment. It also means that you have to have time for fun even though you may be extremely busy. So, when you work focus on your work, and when you play focus on your play.

People who freeze in a state of mind that they need to work more very often become victims of postponing. They fall into a vicious circle of planning to work long and hard. At the same time they feel very discouraged by a picture of an enormous amount of work that will never end. When they have in mind thoughts like this no wonder that every possible occasion to postpone acting is reassuring and more interesting. So, they postpone action but every now and then do some of their work because of guilt of laziness.

There is a far more better way of acting called guilt-free entertainment. It means that when you plan your day you plan everything except work. It was created by Neil Fiore and described with all the details in his book I mentioned earlier. I really encourage you to read this book as soon as possible. I present this technique in a nutshell here. Put into your daily and weekly plan only these activities:

  • time for sleep, eating;
  • free time, time for your entertainment;
  • meetings;
  • health-oriented activity;
  • other routine activities;

Now you will see how much time is left for work. That way you don’t fall into a trap of thinking “I have all day or week for work”. Everything you put into your calendar has to be done free of guilt. Between your planned activities you can find time for work.

Your task is to put into your calendar blocks of time you spend on work. But… you can do it only when you have worked for at least 30 minutes without a break. After a block of work like this you are entitled to take a break you or do an easier task. Every day sum up hours of effective work and think of what you achieved.

You also have to remember about several limitations like:

  • can’t work more than five hours a day;
  • you have to play, do physical exercises or dance at least one hour a day;
  • can’t work more than twenty hours a week;
  • you have to have at least one day a week totally free from work;
  • your goal is to start 30 minutes effective work;
  • start with small parts of work;

When you have limitations and have to respect all non-work activities in your plan the point of view changes drastically. Time left for work is limited and you can see it clearly. You have one choice left: use your time effectively starting with 30 minutes blocks of effective work.

I bet it’s so much different from what you have heard throughout your entire life, right? The main technique used here is reversed psychology that works in your favour. Your goal is to reward yourself frequently for short and effective work. And the more blocks of effective work you have the more opportunities you have to boost your self-esteem and reward yourself.

2. Focus on starting

Focus on starting – don’t think about the whole task and finishing it. All you have to think about is when and where you can start the highest priority task. When you focus only on the beginning you focus all your energy on one thing. That way you leave all distractions behind and increase the chances of succeeding.

3. Spend 30 minutes on working before a longer break

One more great technique that will increase your self discipline – before you go to take a rest or do your routine pleasant activity spend 30 minutes working on your most important task. If you repeat this sequence every time you will have an opportunity for you will to build specific nerve connections. Knowing that after your work there is a reward you will be encouraged to star work more often. This new habit will significantly increase your productivity, make you feel that work is easier and let you use your free time without guilt.

How do you practice self discipline? – Further tips

All of the techniques of how to develop self discipline are great and give tremendous results. But there are a few things at the end which you have to add to achieve the greatest results.

1. Self-control

Self-control is on of them, because you have to decide what are the boundaries in which you let yourself act. It means that no matter how good techniques you learn if you don’t make a decision to work persistently on your discipline nothing will change. You are aware of what serves you well and what is bad for you. Choose wisely between them because what you focus on expands. Everyday try to replace one activity of zero or low value with something valuable that will put you towards better self discipline.

2. Long-term perspective

Pursuing success is a lot easier and effective when you look at your life in the long-term perspective. Sometimes short-term actions may stand in opposition to long-term goals. If you don’t know your final goal you can make stupid mistakes and deal with unnecessary stress  just because of the lack of long-term thinking. Successful people are farsighted. They look ahead as far as they can, defining what type of a person they want to become and what goals they want to achieve. Do the same and combine it with the following technique of the reverse calendar.

3. Reverse calendar

For long-term goals use the reverse calendar. It means that big tasks with a deadline should be planned from the final stage (in the future) to the beginning (today). Find the future date in your calendar and mark it. From that future moment start planning crucial parts of your work until you reach today. These parts should be considered as day, week or month periods. This technique will demand that you’ll think over what kind of resources you need and obstacles you may encounter. The better your planning is the higher your chances are for finishing the task before the deadline. Long-term planning tells you what to do now and where your actions lead to.

4. Take care of your inner energy

Sometimes your energy level will decrease. It’s normal because every person has their ups and downs. In moments like this it is important to remember that easy choices give hard life, but hard choices make life easy. Don’t let yourself give up on your dreams, because giving up is not an option. Instead take a break and look for motivation listening to motivational speakers. Les Brown is one of my favourite coaches that I love listening to and I can honestly recommend his speeches to you. Listening to someone else who speaks with determination and energy will boost your self-esteem and stimulate your energy to act. Feed your spirit and mentality regularly with positiveness so you can keep the level of your motivation high.

5. Perseverane

We all have a natural tendency towards laziness and looking for shortcuts. Having this in mind you should always remember that there is no such thing as long lasting success achieved quickly. Lasting success is possible only if you impose self-discipline on yourself and will stick to it for a long time. Success demands a good strategy and persistent work. To be more precise here – not necessarily hard but persistent work. Treat it as a price to pay for success you are chasing, but however high your price may seem don’t get overwhelmed.You probably heard in your life that practice makes perfect. It’s no different in this case. You can create a habit of self-discipline. It means that what seems to be hard at the beginning later will be easy and become your new norm.

6. Take care of your body

Achieving successes is similar to getting and maintaining physical condition. You can’t achieve a state of your body when you can say “I can stop taking care of my body because it’s in a great shape now”. You know what would happen months later. Maintaining self-discipline is the same kind of struggle. Bear in mind that your self-control also needs frequent exercise and improvement.

I believe you can put into practice all of the ideas and techniques I explain in this article. For example when you make New Year’s resolutions or any resolutions your self discipline habit will be priceless.

If you look for great self-discipline books that will let you explore this topic I really recommend you the two authors below. I hope they inspire you to become what you are really capable of.

  1. Neil Fiore “Now habit : a strategic program for overcoming procrastination and enjoying guilt-free play”
  2. Brian Tracy “No excuses!: The Power of Self-Discipline”

Share your thoughts below and let me know what you think.

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  • Thanks for the article, I have sent a link to it to a person who has a problem with self-discipline. I would like to point out that there is one paragraph that is repeated* and I found also a couple of sentences with syntactical errors that make them hard to understand.

    * starts with “If you let yourself postpone acting finally you won’t be able…”

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