What if you already have motivation and talent to get you to your goal, but you’re somehow stuck and can’t force yourself to move forward? What do you need to get you to something you want to achieve? Good habits which in turn develop great self-discipline.
I’ve struggled with self-discipline my whole life. And no, it doesn’t mean that I had troubles at school or that my parents had to constantly ground me when I was a child. In fact, I was very agreeable and easy-going back then. Instead, I never could find the strength to finish anything that I started.
And now, as I’ve become an adult, this problem from my childhood remained with me. Moreover, it seems to have grown along with me, but in a more negative sense. I pushed myself through college, acing in every subject, but I literally had to force myself, which exhausted me a lot.
After finishing college, the ugly truth hit me right in the face: I had so many passions, plans, and aspirations, but I somehow couldn’t achieve any of them because I lacked a certain quality. And that quality was self-discipline.
What is Discipline?
Psychologists define discipline as “the ability to expand energy toward a goal on a consistent, repetitive basis”. This definition is correct to some extent, although, I would make some changes based on my own life experience.
To me, it’s an ability to expand, maintain and distribute energy effectively and consistently in order to achieve a certain goal. It’s true that discipline is built on the basis of repetitiveness, but the ability to maintain and distribute it is important as well.
Discipline or Willpower?
Here’s my experience with willpower: although it’s an effective tool to force yourself to do something, it always presupposes a certain struggle. Meanwhile, discipline doesn’t require that kind of sacrifice. Instead, it is more of regulation of self for the sake of meeting a goal and self-improvement.
For more reference, take a look at what the American Psychology Association has to say about willpower. Psychologists see willpower as a limited and exhaustible resource, warning that it runs out faster than people think.
However, discipline is more oriented at how you perceive the energy which you want to use to achieve the goal. You don’t have to force yourself. Instead, you manage this energy in a way that is comfortable for you and fits your abilities. There’s no struggle in it.
Adopting Good Habits that Cultivate Discipline
I learned that discipline is not just a trait of character. It’s a habit that becomes a trait. It needs to be trained on a regular basis to finally become a part of your nature.
There are certain good habits you can adopt to cultivate discipline. They help you maintain that energy in a very creative, and yet highly effective way. Here are 10 habits that helped me a lot to become more disciplined.
1. Learn How to Harness Your Weaknesses
Before even talking about becoming more disciplined, you need to understand who you are and what traits keep you off from achieving something and being disciplined in general. Otherwise, you’ll have to resort to willpower again, which, as we already know, can get exhausted quickly.
When I first started my journey to becoming more disciplines, I learned that my curiosity doesn’t allow me to focus. There’s nothing wrong in curiosity, but I realized that the desire to learn everything at once keeps me off paying close attention to what I really want.
That’s how I learned that harnessing your weaknesses is necessary to become more disciplines. It’s a daily activity that needs to be repeated on a daily basis to later become a habit.
There’s one thing to remember here: you don’t need to push your weaknesses away and deny the kind of person they make you. Having a weakness is absolutely normal. You just need to disengage yourself from them for some time. That will allow you to fully immerse in whatever you need to do, and you can indulge your weaknesses later.
2. Eliminate Distractions
Eliminating distractions is similar to harnessing your weaknesses, but it’s not the same. I’m talking about physical distractions that literally force you to procrastinate. They are your weaknesses too, and for better discipline, you need to learn how to keep them away.
Here’s what I recommend to do:
- Make a list of your distractions. Put those that affect you the most at the top.
- Think about why you allow these things to distract you. Maybe, if you realize the reason, it will be easier for you to keep them away.
- Don’t force yourself. In the beginning, you may still indulge a bit, but after you analyze your distractions, you’ll be able to gradually move away from them.
You can also use your distractions for your benefit. For instance, I used apps on my smartphone and/or laptop to keep me away from them for a certain period of time. Here are the apps that I used that might help you as well since phones and laptops are common sources of distractions:
- Tomato Timer
This is a desktop app that uses the Pomodoro technique. This strategy allows you to divide your day into sections by setting a timer. The apps that use this exact technique are also available for smartphones.
- Forest App
By far, this is my favorite smartphone app. By setting a timer you plant a seed that grows completely when the time runs out. If you touch your phone while the timer is running, you’ll kill your tree. This is a great motivation to keep your phone away.
3. Wake Up Early
Having a habit of waking up early is a positive change that transforms you. By doing this you create a time zone for yourself when you can work on whatever you want without being disturbed, even by your weaknesses and distractions.
On my way to becoming more disciplined, the habit of waking up early was the first one I adopted. Although it was quite hard for me to wake up at 5:30 AM, I quickly realized, how much time I get my hands to do what I’ve planned to.
I do understand how hard it is to wake up early, especially if you’re used to sleeping till noon. To help myself wake up faster, I switched from a traditional alarm to something more exciting:
- Snap Me Up: this is a selfie alarm clock and it won’t shut up until you take a selfie. It’s a great fun way to wake you up.
- Alarm Clock for Heavy Sleepers is a great solution for those people who often don’t remember how the switched the alarm off. To do it, you need to solve a math problem or any other kind of puzzle. Cool, right?
4. Start Your Day with Exercising
Exercising is a habit. You’ll find that it’s true when you start doing it every day. One day you wake up and won’t be able to imagine how you can live your day without even a short exercise.
That’s why exercise is a great teacher of discipline. I experienced it myself when I started doing short exercising sessions every morning. The benefits, which these sessions brought along, didn’t compare to anything else that I tried to discipline myself. And that’s because the foundation of regular exercises is keeping up with the routine.
To become more disciplined with the help of regular exercising, you don’t have to go to the gym. When I started my journey, I didn’t have money to invest in the gym, so I started with simple smartphone apps. Here are some that worked perfectly for me:
- 7-Minute Workout. This app offers you various kinds of full-body workouts that don’t take more than 7 minutes. Also, there are also great challenges that are tailored to your physical form.
- Daily Yoga. I found that doing yoga is a great way to calm your mind and get more confident. Doing everyday yoga sessions with this app made me understand myself better and become more focused.
5. Make Healthy Diet Your Habit
You might wonder, what your diet has to do with becoming more disciplined. Here’s the answer: irregular meals and high consumption of junk food deprives you of the nutrients that help your body and brain function. Then, no matter how hard you exercise or how early you wake up, you won’t be able to function properly.
I learned it the hard way, being a renowned junk food eater. Irregular meals, rich in sugary and fatty food soon made me realize that I get tired quicker. This is when I made a conscious decision to change my diet completely.
I created a challenge for myself:
- 1 month without simple carbohydrates, including sweets and pastry;
- 1 month switching every drink for water;
- Introducing 3000 g of fresh fruits and vegetables to my diet daily, and
- Drinking fermented milk products every day.
Not only this challenge solved some of my health problems, but it also helped me become more mindful of what I do with my life. Hence, the more disciplined I became with my food choices, the more disciplined I’ve gotten in general.
6. Work on Self-Organization
Being one of the most important good habits, self-organization is the essence of discipline. Your ability to distribute your energy is the foundation of becoming more disciplined.
I acquired self-organization habit gradually by learning how to plan my time. While those timer apps that I mentioned before helped me with my time-management skills, I worked on how I should organize everything that I do and not get completely exhausted.
By far, becoming more organized was the most difficult habit to acquire. Here are some important lessons that I learned:
- You need to choose a planning tool that works for you and fits your needs. I find planning apps being the most effective, while other people think otherwise. Apps like Evernote that work both on smartphones and laptops, can be of great help.
- Assess your abilities before you start planning. You may have tons of motivation to do a huge load of things in one day, but you’re likely to end up doing nothing. Start small and gradually increase the number of daily tasks. Don’t stress yourself out.
7. Become More Mindful
Mindfulness is a new trend, and yet no one seems to understand what it is.
I learned that mindfulness is your ability to pay attention to the things that happen at this very moment. Why are you procrastinating? Why are you put off the things that need to be done?
Understanding the answers to these questions at the very moment, when they are happening, will give you an understanding of how you can become more disciplined.
I realized that my lack of mindfulness comes from my college years when I had no time to notice anything around. This is a common problem among students, to be honest. “Students are always in a rush, skipping many things that happen around, which makes them less focused and mindful”, says Philippa Rogers, a psychologist and a writer at Rated by Students.
Mindfulness is a habit you need to become more disciplined. It will give you the ability to understand your thoughts and emotions as they occur, which will give you the power to control them.
8. Rely on Actions
We often tend to wait until the time is right. The truth is that the time is never right. The moment when you feel most confident might never come, and all you’ll be left with is the regret that you haven’t started acting as early as possible.
Becoming a more actionable person is the way to embrace yourself and your abilities. I realized that discipline requires not only thinking how you should maintain and distribute your energy but put it to action as well!
If you don’t start acting, how will you find out whether you’re on the right path or not? Being a well-organized person is good enough, but being an actionable well-organized one is even better!
9. Adopt a Habit of Journaling
Documenting your success is a great way to keep track of your achievements and is also a good exercise to become more disciplined.
On my journey to better discipline, journaling was one of those things I started first. I documented everything: my achievements, my failures, what I learned and what I should do to move forward.
Journaling is easy and can be done in a format that fits you best. For me, it was a notepad or a note-taking app on my smartphone. You can buy yourself a pretty notebook and write everything down.
One thing to remember: journaling has to be done on a daily basis. This way you’ll be able to see how effective you are on your journey to becoming more disciplined.
10. Embrace a Gratitude Mindset
Lastly, expressing gratitude is the most rewarding thing you’ll ever feel. Being grateful is also one of the most important things in life that gives you motivation and power to achieve what you truly want.
A habit of being grateful comes to you when you understand how hard you’ve worked on becoming disciplined. You become grateful for all the lessons, failures and achievements that made you the person you want to be. Adopting this habit as early as possible will lead you through any hardships, and you’ll be able to build strong self-discipline as the result.
I wanted to write this post to help those, who struggle to find the strength to become more disciplined like I once did. Self-discipline doesn’t come easy but if you form good habits, you’ll achieve it in no time. I hope that my story, as well as some actionable advice, will inspire you to achieve greatness. Good luck!