Being successful can look very different from one person to the next. But the way in which you get to that success is exactly the same. Discipline.
Discipline means doing something even when you don’t feel like it. Things like getting out of bed without hitting snooze on Tuesday — after a glorious (and rare) four-day weekend. Or dragging yourself to the gym every morning before work because that is the only time you have in your day to do it without interruptions.
“THERE’S A REASON THEY SAY: THE STRUGGLE IS REAL. BECAUSE IT IS.”
The answer to improving and meeting goals in every area of your life is discipline. But you already know that. You already know why you should be disciplined.
Disciplined people are healthier. Disciplined people are happier. Disciplined people are more active. Disciplined people have more self-control. Disciplined people have less stress. Disciplined people are better multi-taskers. Disciplined people reach their goals quicker.
With all those perks, why wouldn’t you want to be disciplined?
Here are 11 ways you can start to develop discipline today. You don’t have to dive into all of them at once.
Pace yourself so you can be proud of what you’ve accomplished instead of beating yourself up for not being able to do everything at once.
1. Be Clear About What You Want to Accomplish
What are your plans for the future? Do you have a clear idea of what you want and where you want to be? The first step in being disciplined requires you to figure that out. If you don’t know where you are going, you won’t know where to start to get there.
Make a list of your weekly goals, your monthly goals, your quarterly goals, your yearly goals. Even your three-year goals. Then you can look ahead and plan accordingly. Feel free to put your wildest dreams on the list, because disciplined people have a way of getting there.
2. Be Clear About Why You’ve Set Those Goals
Once you’ve made your list of goals. Make a list right next to them of why they are important to you. You are more likely to follow through on a long-term plan if you have good, valid reasons why you want to achieve the goals you’ve set.
If you are trying to lose 10 lbs so you will be the skinny sister, that goal may not be enough to get you to pass up the chocolate cake. But if you are trying to lose 20 lbs so your wedding dress doesn’t have to be altered before the big day, it may be a little easier to walk past the sweets.
3. Know Your Weaknesses and Distractions
You probably don’t have to look too deep inside yourself to know what your weaknesses are. That list is probably very similar to your distractions. They are the things you find yourself gravitating to when you are avoiding real life.
Weaknesses and distractions can range from food to television to social media to sex. What activities are you participating in when you are actively procrastinating or when you are trying to make yourself feel better?
People can also be distractions. You know that friend you always call to meet you for lunch when you have a hundred things to do? That friend is a distraction. Make a mental note of it. Once you figure out your distractions, you can move on to the next step.
4. Eliminate Your Weaknesses and Distractions
This is definitely easier said than done. But when you want something bad enough, you are willing to make the sacrifice. If pasta is your weakness and you eat it everyday, cut back slowly. Give yourself a timeline. Three times a week this week. Twice a week next week. Once a week the following week. You can even stay there if you want to. After all, you went from pasta 7 days a week to once a week. That is an accomplishment.
The same goes for television and social media. If you don’t want to stop altogether, give yourself a time slot to do those things that fit into your busy schedule. Don’t spend so much time watching tv and social surfing that you have to work double time to finish important projects.
5. Be Accountable
In the long run, you are the only one you are affecting by not being as productive and disciplined as possible. The world doesn’t care if you watch Stranger Things instead of studying for an exam. The only person it is going to affect is you. If holding yourself accountable is hard for you, it is OK to recruit help.
Remember that friend who always says “YES” to lunch? I bet they would be more than happy to be your “accountabilibuddy.” Tell them, “If I call you for lunch, please don’t say yes unless I have done everything on my list for the day.”
“FRIENDS HELP FRIENDS GAIN DISCIPLINE.”
If working out is your brick wall, recruit an athletic friend to join you on your daily exercise routine. They will be working out anyway, why not let them harass you into doing what you know deep down you really want (and need to do)?
6. Prioritize Your Lists
You’ve done the work. You’ve made the lists. You’ve thought of a plan of action. Now it’s time to prioritize your list. What’s the most important thing? Which will take the most time? Which is the easiest? Which takes the most effort? Put them in numerical order. And check them off.
These lists can also be split up into daily, monthly, yearly, etc. Each day, take a look at the whole picture before starting your day. Intend to check every item off your list and work earnestly to do it. Keep in mind, it is a process. If you don’t make it through the list, just add it to the next day. The world will not end because you didn’t complete everything today.
7. Track Your Progress
Having a visual aid to show you exactly what you’ve accomplished and what you’ve missed is a great tool in staying the course. You can use actual pen and paper, but who does that anymore? You likely have a smartphone in your hand right now. Let’s be honest, you’re probably reading this on your smartphone.
There are hundreds of productivity and time tracking tools. Find one that’s right for you and download it. RescueTime is an EDGY favorite. We’ve mentioned it time and time again on various platforms (and they don’t even pay us to say that). If your goal is food related, there are apps for that too, such as MyFitnessPal and Fitbit. You are much more conscious of your choices when they are staring at you disapprovingly.
8. Compete with Yourself
Friendly competition at the office is nice, even healthy. But keep in mind who the real competitor is. You are your own worst critic and you are your biggest competition. So set out to be better today than you were yesterday. You don’t have to win by a landslide. Just stay on track to do one more thing today than you did yesterday. Or to do one more thing differently.
Maybe you need to have a more positive attitude. Put that on your list of things to do and then do it. There’s a reason books have been written on the power of self-talk and positive thinking. Because it works. Change your mind, change your life.
9. Focus Daily
You have to focus daily. Instead of getting out of your own head like people tell you to, get inside your own head. What is it that you want today? Tomorrow? Next year? Think about it. Dwell on it. See yourself doing it. Meditate. Focus on your breathing. Focus on the good things in your life.
Stop giving power to negative thoughts and negative people. Set out to do something. Focus on what it will be like when you get finished with it. Then do it. Didn’t that feel good?
10. Take Care of You
You know, above everyone else, what it is that you really need. You know where to find it. You know how to do it. You have to be your own best friend. You have to make sure you get enough rest. You have to make sure you are eating well and not skipping meals. Most importantly, you have to make time to laugh.
Life is going to go on whether you are happy or miserable. So why not choose to be happy and take care of yourself. When you are well and happy, you infect those around you with wellness and happiness. So, go ahead and say no to the after work drinks if you know you need rest. Put firm boundaries in place that nobody can cross, including yourself.
11. Reward Yourself
You’ve got your lists. You’ve downloaded a new app or two. You have your goals posted on the refrigerator or at the front of your brain. You know what you are working toward and you are working hard. When you reach one of those goals, go ahead and reward yourself.
I wouldn’t recommend rewarding your diet with a huge piece of chocolate cake. But, how about a new, nice fitting sports shirt? One that shows off your accomplishments. Or better yet, reward yourself with that beach trip you’ve been putting off. Great effort deserves great rewards.
“THERE ARE NO MAGICAL SHORTCUTS TO BEING DISCIPLINED. YOU HAVE TO WAKE UP EVERY DAY WITH A MINDSET TO WORK ON YOURSELF.”
It’s easy to throw in the towel before you’ve really given yourself enough time to get in the groove of being disciplined and productive.
The experts used to say that it takes 21 days to break a habit or start a new one. The number has now changed to 66. So you have to give yourself a couple of months (and a few days) to really get your system of discipline in place.
Pick one or two or all eleven of these ideas. And get to work acccomplishing awesome.