How can I learn to become more disciplined?

I love this question! And this is why: when it comes to matters of self-discipline, people often treat it as some sort of self-imposed punishment. It sounds uncomfortable, unnecessary, and harsh. In my opinion, it’s just a matter of shifting your mindset. Instead of seeing it in a negative light, think of how it can positively affect your life.

For me, self discipline means two things:

One, it’s a path to achieving mastery over your life.

And two, it gives you freedom to express the best version of yourself.

That is a powerful way of looking at it, don’t you think?

Now let’s take a look at how it can be done.

Here are 7 tips for instilling self-discipline into your life so that you can master the skills you need to, and so you can become the best version of yourself.

Tip 1. Take care of your essentials.

Before you embark on your path toward any type of achievement, it’s important to cover the basics. According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, that means meeting the first level of physiological needs such as food, shelter, and clothing. Here is the first opportunity you have to practice self-discipline.

  • Food: Eat not just to be full, but also to stay healthy and maintain your brain’s optimal performance.
  • Exercise: Physical exercise is critical to performing well in every area of your life, so make sure to make it a daily habit.
  • Sleep: When you’re sleep-deprived, you’ll never be able to function at optimal levels, both physically and mentally. Be sure to get enough sleep.

Tip 2. Use your willpower the smart way.

When we wake up and start contemplating the day, we tend to get overwhelmed with the amount of things we need to do, so we end up procrastinating and postponing our tasks. That’s a critical mistake, because we all have a finite amount of willpower that takes us through the day. If you want to focus on priorities, work on them early.

  • Do that task that you’ve been putting off all week before lunchtime. It’s going to take much less time than if you leave if for the evening.
  • Write up a plan for the school or work week ahead of time. That way you won’t panic when a deadline is approaching.
  • Finish up homework you’ve been putting off because you’d rather do something more fun. You won’t need to stay up all night making up for lost time.

Tip 3. Start making commitments to yourself.

Commitments aren’t just promises you make to other people. You can (and should) make them to yourself. A great way to begin is to define a very specific goal you want to achieve in a certain time frame. Here are a few examples of what you can commit to:

  • I am committed to focusing on my studies in the next 30 days so that I can pass all three of my exams with top marks.
  • I am committed to finding a job in 6 months that is both a good fit for my skill set in and is in a company whose values I share and respect.
  • I am committed to building my physical endurance by running 4 times a week for 3 months so that I can be prepared to participate in a 5K race.

Tip 4. Make a new habit stick by keeping it simple.

Every habit we’d like to acquire needs self-discipline, time, and repetition. Does this sound intimidating to you? Maybe so because you positioned it that way: you feel like you “should” be doing something difficult when you’d rather be relaxing. If you are reading this, chances are you feel that it’s time to make some kind of change in your life: start working out, stop eating out so much, get more sleep, find more time to spend with family, watch TV less. To simplify a change you’re trying to make, start with tiny steps:

  • Do a mini-workout at home for 10 minutes this month before you buy that gym membership.
  • Start going to bed 15 minutes earlier than usual to give yourself time to de-stress and relax with a good book or soothing music.
  • Prepare and pack your lunch the night before so you don’t rush in the morning or eat junk food when you get hungry at noon.

Tip 5. Start saying NO more often.

Have you ever found yourself running out of time to do what you need or would like to do? It probably means you’re wasting time and energy on things that are not that important in the long run. Start building up your “no muscle” in small ways each day:

  • Just because there’s leftover cake in the fridge doesn’t mean you should eat a double portion for the next three days. Put it away or freeze it for another week.
  • When you’re in the middle of finishing up a project and a friend calls to invite you to a party, it doesn’t mean you should drop everything and go. It’s okay to politely say no.
  • When you’re in a dilemma about whether to commit to something or someone, think about your priorities. Be aware of what is important to you, so you’re less likely to ignore what is key to your personal and professional growth.

Tip 6. Anticipate that you’ll experience resistance.

When you expect everything to go well all the time, you’re likely to get disappointed every now and then. It’s a much better idea to plan ahead for those moments when you’re lazy, tired, or in a bad mood and nothing seems right.

  • First, tell yourself that whatever it is you’re feeling, it’s an emotional reaction and it will pass. Don’t give in to the urge to make decisions in that mindset.
  • Second, resist the urge to give up doing something that you know is good for you. Just because it feels uncomfortable now doesn’t mean it won’t have a positive impact on your life.
  • Third, nurture a growth mindset: instead of telling yourself that you are “just not good enough” to take on a new language or start practicing karate, give yourself the time to learn new things. You’ll be surprised how much you can do when you keep an open mind.

Tip 7. Believe in yourself.

It doesn’t matter what stage of life you find yourself in at the moment. You can be a college student, a parent of two, a university graduate looking for a job for the first time, or an entrepreneur embarking on a new venture. Believing in yourself is going to be a critical factor in helping you achieve your goals, no matter how small or big they are.

  • Start thinking about your acts of self-discipline in terms of the big picture of your life. Although it may feel like sacrificing some things right now, what does being disciplined afford you? If you are focused on something, how can it add up a year from now?
  • Put yourself in the driver’s seat of your life journey, instead of letting situations and external factors dictate how you will act. Don’t allow yourself to get carried away for emotional reasons that you lose track of why you started working on a goal to begin with.
  • Most important of all, believe. Believe you can do it. When you do, then self-discipline will become a skill you can apply to many areas of your life: your education, your career, and even your relationships. It will guide you and keep you focused on your future, and everything you want to achieve and become.
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