For some reason, the idea of discipline has always really interested me. There are people who seem to kill the discipline game – those friends that never eat bad food, stick to their calendar exactly, train for a marathon every single day, etc…and then there are the rest of us.
I actually originally wanted to research and write about this topic because I feel like my self-discipline has majorly taken a major smack in the face lately (does that even make sense? ha – you know what I mean). In some aspects of my life – especially when I was in school – I was pretty disciplined, but in a lot of others, I felt very NOT disciplined. And I didn’t like that. It’s a self-improvement task or “issue” that I’ve been wanting to improve for YEARS, if I’m honest. So I forced myself (aka got disciplined) about learning about discipline. Because I wanted to have more of it in my life, understand why some people have it and some don’t, and then be able to share it with y’all.
Luckily, I found out that it’s kinda like a muscle – it can 100% be made stronger if you work at it aka you don’t have to be born a certain way. Here’s what I found on my journey to improve my own self-discipline broken down to pre-, during- and post-discipline, because that’s how I simplified the “concept” (I always do this…) while learning about it.
How To Develop Self-Discipline: Before You Start
A lot of discipline is actually built in the prep stage, the things you do in order to PREPARE yourself to be more self-disciplined…
I found (during trial and error and research) that it’s crucial to focus on one area at a time when you want to improve your discipline muscle. Kinda like focusing on one goal at a time – you don’t want to overhaul your entire life at once, or at least that’s not usually a successful way to improve things. So with that in mind, focus on one area of your life that you want to be more disciplined in, here are a few steps that help:
Make it personal: Find Your Why
Let’s use the example of eating healthy. Now, the surface reason to eating healthy might be to look good in a swimsuit this season aka look skinny. But you have to dig deeper. WHY do you care about looking good in a bikini? Why does being thin fall on your radar? Probably because you want to feel confident, not have anxiety about summer, stop comparing yourself to others, etc – and these are deep rooted desires. You want to FEEL better internally and you believe that will happen more likely if you LOOK better externally.
So really think deep about why you want to change something in your life. Write it out, get deep into that heart of yours (even if it’s scary or embarrassing or whatever); just let the root of the issue come up and then fuel your discipline from that part of you. Without something truly meaningful, it’s harder to get attached (or committed, rather) in a way that will actually lead to you changing your habits.
Cater it to you: Consider Your Strengths
Have you ever noticed that the majority of self-improvement or success tips are catered towards specific routines? For example, most articles talk about starting goals on a Monday, to wake up early and do things first thing in the morning, and meal prep on a Sunday, etc. I’ve probably been guilty about this in my content, but something I’m learning more and more about and am pretty fascinated by (more on this to come) is flow. Going with YOUR schedule, YOUR body, how YOU work best.
Maybe you’re a night owl and that’s when you’re most productive – so then don’t worry about becoming a morning person, it’s not for you. Maybe Mondays are your busiest day and you have a lot of responsibilities on this day – probably not the best to focus hard on changing a habit here then. If you work well with a schedule – make one; if you don’t, don’t follow one. My point being, work with your flow and use your strengths to your advantage (since you know yourself best) as you’re building discipline. Take the tips below and cater them to your life in a way that makes sense to you. There’s no perfect solution for everyone, that’s just crazy!
Create a Plan B (for when you forget why you started slash even care)
Going back to my last point, this point of the process needs to be individual to you, but in general you need to have a back-up plan or a source of motivation about what you’re trying to build discipline for. Let’s bring healthy eating back into play. Create a Pinterest board of a ton of healthy YUMMY-looking recipes for when you’re burnt out, uninspired, or feel like steering away from discipline. Put post-it notes everywhere, tell your friends and family, create a physical vision board, visualize about what your life would be like if you succeeded with discipline – whatever works for you. Just have a place you can turn to (psychically or in your mind) when you want to give up – because it’s gonna happen!
How To Do “Self-Discipline” Well
Now that you’ve prepped, – you know the deep-rooted issue of why you want to be disciplined, have your schedule and self in mind, and have a back-up plan – it’s time to actually START being disciplined.
Take care of yourself
Even if what you’re trying to be disciplined about has zero to do with health, when you feel great, you’re more useful – it’s science. Set your body and mind up to succeed – stay hydrated, get outside for walks, sleep, indulge in self-love, eat foods that give you energy, and so on. You’ll be able to focus and stay motivated much easier when your body as a machine is functioning well.
Combine a “should” with a “want”
Using the healthy eating example still. Thinking about sitting alone, eating a plate of chicken, spinach, and brown rice doesn’t sound fun to me, and probably not to you either – so make it better. Combine that “should” with a “want.” Maybe you want to spend more time with your friends – ask them to come over with their best recipes in mind, swap them, and then cook that chicken together. Maybe you want to watch a new show; get a little crazy and eat your meal in front of the TV instead of at the table. Bottom line, combine whatever you’re becoming disciplined about around something you love, and it’s going to be more enjoyable and easier.
Just like setting goals, building up your discipline little by little is usually a better recipe for success. Do something that day that leads to you being disciplined. One less cookie, one more serving of fruit. Start warming up the muscle of discipline before trying to take it to the gun show (funny joke? horrible? K moving on).
Make temptation hard and success easy
If you’re trying to eat better, having soda and chocolate in the house just won’t cut it – not when you’re first building up your discipline. If you’re trying to avoid spending money, going to the mall isn’t smart, so avoid that area of your town. And so on. Simply go through a list of what can drag you from your discipline and remove it from your life.
Then, make it easy to be successful. Stock the fridge with a fruit that you do enjoy, say strawberries – buy them washed and cut if you have to, if that’s going to lead to success. Go through your closet and organize it to make the clothes you do have more appealing, etc.
This goes for people, too – if there are people in your life who aren’t supporting you during this journey and lead to bad decisions, take a step back from them. At least while you’re fragile in building your discipline.
Improve Your Self-Discipline: Post-discipline
Keeping it up and sticking to it is the hardest part…
Now let’s quickly talk about after you feel disciplined – you’re in a groove and have a system that works for you. Congrats! There are just a couple things I want to mention about actually STAYING disciplined:
Put it on the calendar – right now – to check in with yourself on your discipline muscle every two weeks. It’s sooo easy to fall off of something, especially during summer travel and all that, so just do yourself a favor and prepare. Are you following everything from earlier in this article still? Maybe you need to remember why you started or remove some discipline toxins from your life again. Be self-aware then re-adjust if needed, and don’t give up just because of one non-disciplined day.
Let it sink in
Lastly, give yourself some freakin’ credit. I think so many of us are very hard on ourselves and kinda jump from one goal to the next without appreciating it. It’s a small little thing, but I think it’s oh so important when you’re making a positive change in your life.
So there you have it, tips on improving your self-discipline. I hope they help!
I’d also love to know your experience with discipline. Have you struggled? What’s helped you?