How To Develop Self-Discipline

by Raven Ishak

Have you ever wondered how people become so successful? Were they born with magical powers? Do they know the secret of life? Something's gotta give. While life would be easier if all of that was possible, in reality, these people are probably successful because they've learned self-discipline. Self-disciple is about having the determination to do what you know you need to do to improve yourself. Or in other words: you force yourself to run at 5 a.m. because you know it's the right thing to do, even though you want to cry on the inside.

"Learn to hear and challenge your thoughts. How can you discipline what you don't know? Learning to first [step] and [hearing] what you're telling yourself allows you the opportunity to then challenge whether those thoughts are true or helpful. If not, you have the chance to change them. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a wonderful way to do this," says clinical psychologist Christina Hibbert in an interview with Bustle over email.

It's time to say bon voyage to your less-disciplined life. You're the captain of your ship and as long as you're determined to continue to move forward, you will notice the positive change in your life in no time.

1. Start With A Modest Goal

Don't feel pressured to be the most disciplined person in the world on day one (does anyone like that even exist? OK, Beyoncé doesn't count). Start by taking small steps instead. And once you finish one goal, go on to the next one until you feel more comfortable with the process. "Once you have accomplished the goal (getting to work early, avoiding the social media sink hole, being on time for meetings, writing a certain number of words a day), then give yourself a pat on the back and commit to one more day. Once you have been consistent for a few days, the behavior will start to become [a] habit. Humans are creatures of habit — and it won't take long for self-discipline to become the new reality. It may take work for the first few days/weeks, but eventually it will become your new 'zone,'" says CEO of Skinfix and SweetSpot Labs Amy Gordinier-Regan in an interview with Bustle over email.

2. Complete The Hardest Assignments First

Instead of avoiding the hardest assignments, try to complete them first so the rest of your day is easy breezy. "If you have many tasks to accomplish in a day, start with the one you want to avoid [the] most. This will make you gain confidence quickly and help the rest of your day roll down hill easy as pie. If the task is too big, chunk it up. Breaking down big goals into manageable parts help you stay focused and keep [you] from being overwhelmed. A common technique is to use a timer," says director of therapeutic technology Dr. Scott Lloyd in an interview with Bustle over email.

3. Learn How Schedule Your Work

While it's OK to get sidetracked every now and then, try to create a system where you have a list of everything that needs to be accomplished so you don't lose track of what your goals are. "If you're working with long-term goals, use the ABC's to schedule [them]. A is for [it] has to be done today, B is for [it] would be nice and C is for if I were my most awesome version of myself. Update the goals before bed so you wake up ready to roll the next day," says Lloyd.

4. Get Rid Of Temptations

If you want to be more disciplined, you have to get rid of your temptations. Even though snoozing on the couch instead of running is tempting, or that social media app is addicting, keep them out of sight so you can focus on what's most important. "Put away the phone and close the Reddit and Facebook tabs and make a promise to keep bringing your mind back to the task at hand. You don't have to finish it, just make it a priority. You'll end up getting more out [of] your brain as you hack your attention span. After 45 [minutes] most of us feel a little groggy, so if we stop before, we can gas up the tank before we're stuck on the side of the road," says Lloyd.

5. Do What Comes Naturally

If you have a hard time being disciplined, start with things that come naturally to you to help ease yourself into the process. "If you want to eat more vegetables start with something you're already eating and eat more of it. Use grandma's rule. Behavior theorists have formalized what grandma always [knew]. You will eat your peas if you know you get dessert later. So when [you're] at the gym, think about the body you'll have when [you're] done, or the vacation you'll take in August. Just don't reward yourself with something that backtracks your goals like a gallon of ice cream or a shopping spree that makes that rent check a little light," says Lloyd.

6. Don't Overthink It

If you give up every time you mess up, then you won't get anywhere fast. Be kind to yourself and don't overthink it. Ease your way into this new system and soon it may become a habit. You really have nothing to lose. "Stop thinking! Certain things are nonnegotiable, I really don't like going to bed early, but I also really don't like being cranky irritable and nonproductive. There's a great quote about this: 'Suffer the pain of discipline or suffer the pain of regret.' So true," says director of clinical health psychology at Behavioral Associates Michele Barton Ph.D in an interview with Bustle over email.

7. Hold Yourself Accountable

Even though you want to be kind to yourself, you also want to make sure that you hold yourself accountable. That means if you "accidentally" watched three hours of New Girl, you should try to make up for that time by working your butt off the following few days. "It’s great to establish goals and create an action plan. However, if there is no accountability built into that process, the effort is likely to fail,” says member of the International Coach Federation and principals of Ibis Coaching, LLC Yvonne Acquafredda in an interview with Bustle over email. “I ask my clients three key questions: Who or what can help you accomplish the actions you’ve identified?’ What might stand in the way of your success (and how can you overcome those things?), and most importantly, how will you keep yourself accountable? The great thing about accountability in a coaching context is that you develop the method that works best for you."

So what kind of methods work? "Some people prefer lists, others rely on trusted friends to help them achieve their goals. You decide upon and commit to use your own method of accountability. Your [career] coach will check in with you at each session to ensure that the process is working, and help you identify something else if it is not,” continues Acquafredda.

8. Write Down Your Progress

One of the greatest ways to hold yourself accountable is by writing down your progress. This process allows you to log all the steps you've taken. And when you're having a rough day, you can review your progress to see how far you've come and how well you're currently doing. "[One of my clients] use journaling as an accountability measure. Another client uses her calendar to hold herself accountable. She makes an appointment with herself as a way to check in and verify that she has done what she said she’ll do. But I think the most creative accountability method comes from a client who puts a stone in her pocket. She has a medium-sized smooth stone that she keeps on her desk. When she commits to an action, the stone goes in her pocket and doesn’t come [out] until the action is complete. The weight of the stone is a constant reminder to her,” says member of the International Coach Federation and principals of Ibis Coaching, LLC Lil LeBlanc in an interview with Bustle over email.

9. Create Healthy Habits

You will most likely feel better about trying to be more disciplined if you're taking care of yourself first. "When you make something a habit — a regular part of your daily routine — it actually frees up your brain. You no longer have to decide 'Am I going to do this today or not?' You just do it, and your brain is less stressed and freed up for other more important decisions," says Hibbert about creating healthy habits.

10. Remind Yourself Of What's Actually True

"Once you've proven what's true, it helps to remind yourself [why you need to continue to do it]. For example, if you've learned that if you get up and go for a walk when you're tired then you'll have more energy. Plus, [you'll] feel great because you exercised, then remind yourself of this fact. 'I'll feel so much better if I just get up and move' is a powerful way to keep yourself disciplined," says Hibbert. The only way you'll know something is true is if you continue to do it. Don't hesitate to do something that will benefit you. Tell yourself positive affirmations to help you stay disciplined and focused.

11. Set S.M.A.R.T. Goals

"Set goals that are Specific, with details to help you achieve success. Measurable. Attainable. Relevant to who and where you are at the time, and Time-bound. SMART goal-setting can help you change the things that stand in your way," says Hibbert. Because you're the only person who can alter your future, you don't want to stand in the way of it by making poor decisions. Use this system to set smart goals and make yourself more disciplined for a stronger, better you. You deserve it.

While it might take some time to be more disciplined, it's totally worth it. All you have to do is write down your progress, hold yourself accountable, and set smart goals. Trust me, you're stronger than you think. You got this.

Images: Pexels; Bustle