Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Understanding the path to achieving goals requires recognizing the profound significance of self-discipline. Self-discipline — the ability to control one’s feelings and overcome weaknesses — plays an instrumental role in virtually every area of your life.
From maintaining healthy habits and managing time effectively to enhancing productivity and fostering personal growth, self-discipline is the cornerstone that supports the architecture of success.
However, many individuals grapple with a lack of self-discipline.
This can lead to procrastination, impulsive decisions and detrimental habits that impede progress and growth. It can affect personal and professional life, causing missed opportunities and unfulfilled potential.
To move from aspiration to achievement, it’s important to build and practice self-discipline.
Related: Discipline Is What Leads to Success | Entrepreneur
What is self-discipline?
At its core, self-discipline refers to the capacity to pursue what one thinks is right despite temptations to abandon it. It’s about aligning your actions with your thoughts and values, even when it’s challenging. The ability to discipline yourself is key for reaching your goals.
Self-discipline is a catalyst for both success and well-being. It guides you to establish and stick to healthy habits, managing your resources — like time and energy — effectively. A person who has mastered self-discipline can overcome the lure of immediate gratification in pursuit of long-term goals, which is a key trait of successful people.
Moreover, self-discipline plays a crucial role in time management and eliminating procrastination. By training yourself to focus on your tasks and responsibilities, you can resist distractions and delay gratification, reducing procrastination significantly. This increased productivity can lead to improved performance, whether in your studies, work or personal projects.
Additionally, self-discipline has a positive impact on mental health and overall well-being. Discipline can reduce stress and tension as it promotes a sense of self-control and direction. It fosters resilience and determination, fortifying mental and emotional health.
Related: 7 Myths About Discipline You Need to Stop Believing | Entrepreneur
How to build self-discipline
Building self-discipline is a journey, not a destination. It’s about making a conscious effort to improve each day, acknowledging setbacks as part of the process and celebrating small victories. While the path to self-discipline can be challenging, the rewards are well worth the effort and struggle.
Here are 10 different ways to build self-discipline:
1. Start small
Building self-discipline can be an overwhelming task if approached all at once. Begin by setting small, achievable goals. This could be as simple as waking up ten minutes earlier each day or committing to a daily 15-minute workout.
Achieving these goals can create a sense of accomplishment and boost your confidence in your ability to exercise discipline. Self-discipline is doing what needs to be done — even when you don’t feel like it.
2. Eliminate bad habits
Habits, especially detrimental ones, play a significant role in our lives and can often undermine self-discipline. Start by identifying your bad habits — perhaps excessive social media browsing, unhealthy snacking or procrastination.
Once identified, work on strategies to eliminate them. This could involve setting specific rules (such as no social media during work hours), using apps that track or limit the habit or substituting the bad habit with a more positive one.
3. Develop good habits
On the flip side, creating and maintaining good habits can substantially boost self-discipline. Incorporate healthy routines into your daily life, like regular exercise, reading or practicing mindfulness.
An effective approach is to employ the principles outlined in James Clear’s book Atomic Habits. Clear emphasizes the importance of making small changes that add up to significant results over time. A practice as simple as keeping a water bottle at your desk to increase water intake, or reading a page of a book each night before sleep, can make a big difference in the long run.
4. Practice self-control
Self-control is the foundation of self-discipline. Increasing self-control can help reduce impulsivity, making it easier to stick to your goals and avoid distractions.
Practical tips to enhance self-control include techniques like the “pause and plan” strategy where, when faced with a decision, you take a moment to reflect on the outcomes before acting.
Mindfulness practices can also enhance self-control by promoting greater self-awareness. Tools such as meditation apps or guided breathing exercises can help cultivate mindfulness
5. Exercise regularly
Regular physical exercise is not just a boon to your health; it also fosters discipline. The commitment to a consistent workout schedule necessitates self-control and determination, key components of self-discipline.
Exercise also generates a sense of accomplishment that can spill over into other areas of your life, promoting the creation of new habits and the achievement of small goals.
6. Establish a specific goal-setting process
Self-discipline thrives on a clear vision. Setting short-term and long-term goals provides direction and focus. Ensure your goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound (SMART) to make them effective.
Short-term goals can act as stepping stones towards your long-term objectives, breaking them down into manageable chunks, which makes the process less daunting and more achievable.
7. Step out of your comfort zone
Self-discipline involves regularly pushing beyond your comfort zone. Facing new challenges or trying unfamiliar tasks can bolster your mental fortitude and adaptability.
Whether it’s public speaking, learning a new skill or taking on additional responsibilities at work, stepping out of your comfort zone promotes growth and enhances discipline.
8. Limit social media and junk food
Minimizing distractions and unhealthy choices are essential for self-regulation, an integral part of self-discipline. Spending excessive time on social media can lead to procrastination and time mismanagement.Likewise, frequent consumption of junk food can impact your physical well-being and weaken your self-control. Establish boundaries on social media use and opt for healthier food alternatives to support your self-discipline journey.
9. Practice self-awareness
Self-awareness is the foundation of self-discipline. Being cognizant of your strengths, weaknesses and triggers can guide your behavior and decision-making.
Regular introspection or practices like journaling can help you better understand your patterns and reactions, enabling you to make conscious changes that strengthen your self-discipline.
10. Use apps and tools
Technology can be a powerful ally in your quest for self-discipline. Time management apps can help you track and manage your time better, while to-do list tools can assist in organizing and prioritizing tasks.
LinkedIn can be used for professional growth and networking, keeping you focused on your career goals. Podcasts offer a wealth of knowledge and motivational content for self-improvement and discipline.
Additionally, habit-tracking apps can help you in establishing and maintaining good habits.
Related: 14 Ways to Improve Your Self-Discipline (Infographic) | Entrepreneur
How do you overcome obstacles while building self-discipline?
Building self-discipline is a gradual process, demanding sustained effort and the capacity to navigate various hurdles. Chief among these obstacles are perfectionism and the fear of failure.
Inculcating self-discipline means accepting that mistakes and setbacks are inherent components of the journey, not detours. They’re opportunities to learn, refine and grow. Instead of striving for unreachable perfection, it’s more pragmatic and productive to aim for continuous progress.
Affirmations can be a crucial tool in combating negative self-talk, a main roadblock in the path to self-discipline.
Crafting positive self-dialogue and practicing affirmations can operate as a quick “pick-me-up” and help to foster a positive growth mindset. This mindset encourages a belief in your potential to improve, amplifies resilience and sustains motivation even in challenging times.
Strategies for boosting self-discipline
When the journey becomes steep and you feel a lack of self-discipline, having effective strategies can be a lifesaver.
Employing simple techniques like the “5-second rule,” where you countdown from five and then compel yourself into action, can initiate momentum. Alternatively, the “two-minute rule” suggests that if a task takes two minutes or less, you should accomplish it immediately.
These strategies aren’t just about getting tasks done; they’re about creating a rhythm of action that discourages procrastination and inspires productivity. Over time, these small, consistent actions can build into a robust and resilient habit of self-discipline, transforming your work and every area of your life.
Related: 8 Ways to Create the Discipline Habit | Entrepreneur
Fueling your goals
Self-discipline is a vital component of achieving life goals. Its significance extends to all areas of life, affecting personal growth, success, mental health and overall well-being.
It’s important to remember that building self-discipline takes time and requires patience, consistent effort and resilience. It involves overcoming obstacles, facing fears and continually striving for improvement.
Embrace the journey of self-discipline today — start small, be consistent and remember that each step you take is a step closer to becoming a more self-disciplined person. Commit to your self-improvement journey and let the power of self-discipline lead you to your goals.
If you’re interested in learning more about achieving goals, check out the other resources currently available at Entrepreneur.