How to Build Discipline

Regardless of who your idols are or which successful people from the past or present you may admire, one thing they all have in common is that they demonstrate(d) discipline in the life. Discipline is not the magical motivation to do something that others don’t want to do, it is the determination to push through and do something that you may not feel like doing at all. Building discipline is what will enable us to create consistency in our routines and to establish mastery in one or more areas of our lives. Discipline is one of the most useful skills that you can develop in your life. Here are 8 tricks that I use to stay on the more disciplined walk of life (most of the time).

1. Define your Why-Power

You don’t have to live for very long to realise that willpower is unreliable. Flailing like coastal weather, willpower is not the secret to consistent effort in our work. That is because relying on willpower is like relying on an external magical force to sustain your energy levels – it does not work and if it does, it does not last for long. Instead of relying on your willpower, rely on your why-power! Your why-power provides incentive and motivation to keep you on track by capturing the reason why you should stick with something for your reference for moments when your willpower wavers. Write down a list of your biggest motivations for sticking with a habit or a task and refer to it as often as you need to.

2. Follow through on your word

If you’ve ever read The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz then you know that Agreement 1 is ‘Be Impeccable With Your Word’. If you haven’t read the book, I strongly suggest that you do – it is an easy read but very impactful if you adopt the simple rules to your own life. In the first agreement Ruiz emphasises the importance of paying attention to your spoken word and practising doing as you say and saying as you do. This book is probably the reason I went from being a compulsive liar to a chronic truth-teller because it made me realise that my word is really all I have. If you want to be more disciplined with your actions, start by being more disciplined with your word. This simple exercise will help you to start paying careful attention to everything you say so that you can be a man or woman of honour and get used to committing to yourself and others.

3. Become obsessed with completing tasks

Ever since my dad pinpointed me as someone who doesn’t finish what they start in the sixth grade, I have become hyper aware of all courses, books, videos, sentences and just about everything else that I begin but do not end. Ever since he pointed it out to me, I have become painfully cognisant of just how frequently we initiate tasks but we don’t complete. I think a major part of building discipline is deciding to follow through on something you start regardless of how things unfold as you go along. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. Go into every new task knowing that things will get progressively more challenging as you go along. Your biggest weapon to getting things done is momentum – momentum is what will make things appear easier although you may be traversing through the most challenging part. Momentum is your friend. Just keep going. 30 minutes everyday is always better than 5 hours one day a week.

4. Take every opportunity to callous your mind

If you don’t know who David Goggins is, best you get familiar. He is navy seal/ultra marathon extraordinaire who has achieved some of the biggest physical feats known to mankind. This guy does not play around. In his book, ‘Can’t Hurt Me’, Goggins explains how he developed the incredible ability to push himself well beyond the point of comfort through years and years of callousing his mind. Much in the same way that you callous your knuckles through lifting weights repeatedly until you develop thickened skin around your knuckles making lifting weights easier, you can callous your mind by subjecting yourself to challenging activities every single day of your life. If there’s something you really don’t feel like doing, do it anyway. If you would rather roll over and stay in bed for an hour longer, wake up anyway. If you really want to stop and switch off for the night, push on for 30 minutes anyway. By challenging yourself in these small ways everyday, you will develop the mindset of champions.

5. Aim for and acknowledge the small improvements

Recently , I’ve been contemplating the power of ONE: the power that lies in focusing on only one small task at a time in order to make significant progress over time. Every since I started to focus on only one task at a time from the moment I wake up until the moment I go to bed, my productivity has more than trebled. Overwhelm leads to a lack of productivity as our attention is divided and we struggle to delve deep into activities before us and make substantial progress on a task. Breaking down big tasks into minute action items and focusing on the first task exclusively until it is complete before moving onto the next one is a very simple but very effective exercise to get things done. If you want to be disciplined, do not allow yourself to become overwhelmed with all that is on your plate. Focus on only ONE thing and tackle it fiercely until it is complete. As you finish that one task, acknowledge the achievement you have made and if you feel so inclined…

6. Give yourself small rewards for work well done

Humans are like dogs, we respond well to positive reinforcement – and that’s not just humans and dogs it’s almost any living form from a sloth to a succulent. How you reward yourself is important to determining whether or not the reinforced action will stick or be dominated by the incentive of the reward. The emphasis is not on creating a reward so large that you don’t focus on the task at hand at all, but that you look forward eagerly to a small treat for a job well done. You want a reward small enough that you can focus on the activity requiring discipline and so that you can easily award the reward without much inconvenience. Whether it’s a good meal, a call to an old friend, a visit to an art museum or an extended break – reward yourself fittingly with the end goal of longevity in building discipline for the activity.

7. Adopt the identity of someone who already thrives in that area

How do Olympic swimmers train for the Olympics? Daily, and strategically. This is because they have completely embodied the characteristics of a world-class athlete. They do not see swimming practice as something they need to tick off in order to enjoy their day; they see it as an integral part of their day. That small mindset shift from something that ‘has to be done in order to’ to something that is part of one’s daily routine is a major one that I have made in my life that has helped me to play my instruments a lot more consistently and has allowed me to make more long-lasting progress. Adopt the mindset of someone who seems to naturally exude the discipline you seek to build and you will be surprised at what this simple adjustment to your way of thinking can do for your level of commitment.

8. Build discipline through physical exercise

What better way to callous the mind than through callousing the body? What better way to prove to yourself that you are capable of superb success by winning the day with a morning workout? As the day goes on so our willpower depletes, if you want to have a fantastic day, start it off by overcoming a challenge and breaking a sweat. This will mean that you have a higher waterfall from which to fill your lake; a larger source of potential from which to tap into. Exercise is part of almost every single list I have put together since starting my blog and YouTube channel and the reasons for this are endless. The verdict is in – the single easiest way to create a life of greatness is to condition your mind through conditioning your body.

I hope that this article was useful to you in some way. Please watch the accompanying YouTube video below where I relay this information in a different way and give a few more examples for each of these points.

Let me know in the comments below what you do to build discipline so that I may adopt some of your techniques into my life. You don’t have to change your life, you just have to change your habits and in order to change your habits you just have to do just one thing, everyday.