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Want To Know How To Learn Self-Discipline? Use These Proven Strategies

It’s 6:40 AM as I write this; the date is Saturday, June 15, 2024.

I woke up at 4:30 AM, my usual time. With that early morning headstart, I began my day by reading, weight training, and hopping in a cold shower before opening my laptop and working on this article. This has been my daily routine for almost four years.

But it hasn’t always been this way.

In fact, there was a time when I was actually quite lazy and apathetic. The truth is that none of this came naturally (or quickly) to me. I had to figure out how to learn self-discipline. And so do you.

What is Discipline?

Discipline is the cornerstone of all personal development. It’s the catalyst (and a powerful tool) for self-trust, self-respect, and self-value. You could say this quality is the ability to say ‘no’ to instant gratification now for a bigger and better payoff later. In layman’s terms, discipline is self-control and self-regulation.

Understanding the concept of discipline

The concept of self-discipline is simple but not always obvious.

All good things that have come into my life (and that will come into yours) are the result of being on the path of discipline. Period. With this in mind, you gain a clearer understanding of what discipline embodies and represents: self-improvement.

Jocko Willink, a retired U.S. Navy SEAL, entrepreneur, and popular podcaster, says it perfectly with his now famous mantra: discipline equals freedom.

discipline equals freedom Jocko willink

Discipline is the catalyst for positive life change. It’s the starting point that can take you from humble beginnings to explosive growth and success. As a result, this commanding concept can completely change your life in every regard.

The importance of discipline in various aspects of life

Improving any area of your life—from finance to fitness, from career to connections—requires intentionality. That’s the price of admission. For this reason, your life will grow unrestrained once you know the rules for how to learn self-discipline.

But here’s where it gets interesting…

Discipline is an all-encompassing trait. When you discipline yourself in one area, those positive habits begin to spill over, cascading into other areas like an overflowing dam. This has an accumulative effect on your life. Everything starts to improve.

The late great business mogul and personal development icon Jim Rohn is an excellent example of this.

jim rohn discipline your thinking

In an audio recording of one of his speeches, he says:

“All disciplines affect each other. Don’t be naive in thinking, ‘Oh, this doesn’t matter.’ I’m telling you: everything matters. When you start taking a walk around the block, that’ll inspire you to go for the apple a day; when you eat an apple a day, that’ll inspire you to read and journal, and before you know it, you’ve weaved the tapestry of a disciplined life.”

The key takeaway from Jim Rohn’s example? Start small and build discipline aka willpower, with one habit, one day at a time. Personal growth is a marathon, not a sprint. Developing yourself is hard, and it takes time.

So, be patient and give yourself some grace during the process.

The Power of Self-Discipline

Self-discipline is your superpower.

It gives you sovereignty and dominion over your own life. When you regulate your behavior and align it with an action plan to reach your goals, you put yourself in control. By now, you may be wondering how to learn self-discipline so you can apply it to different areas of your life. Let’s take a look at how you can piece this puzzle together.

Developing self-discipline for personal growth

Developing self-control is actually easy. The problem is that most people overload themselves with everything at once instead of making little adjustments over time. As a result, they quit before they can build any momentum. There’s a better way.

1. Choose one discipline: What would you most like to improve about your life? Got that one thing in mind? Good. Now, choose one small, easy discipline that aligns with that area you can practice daily. Building discipline becomes easier if you break things down into manageable chunks.

2. Show up daily: Developing discipline is like developing a new skill; it takes continual practice. For this reason, you have to show up daily and put in the time. There is no substitute for effort and determination. This is the price you have to pay.

3. Do a little more: Over time, you should deliberately add on to the discipline you’re developing. For example, if the discipline you’re adopting is to journal every day, and you’re only starting with writing a couple of lines a day, ramp that to a paragraph after a week, and then a couple of paragraphs after a month, and then a full page after 60 days.

How self-discipline impacts productivity and success

Here’s a jarring fact: you could have been a slow, sluggish, and slothful failure up to this point. But right now, at this very instant, you can shift directions by deciding to exercise discipline. You can shift from a shirker to a self-starter.

And the best part is that discipline is impartial.

It doesn’t care about your previous failures; all is forgiven when you start executing self-control in your life—today. A good example of this is former U.S. Navy SEAL, ultramarathoner, and motivational speaker David Goggins.

If you’ve ever read his classic self-help book Can’t Hurt Me, you know David’s story.

David started out as a 300 lb cockroach exterminator.

david goggins transformation

He was lazy, apathetic, and impassive, gorging on a gluttonous diet of milkshakes, donuts, bacon, and cinnamon rolls. However, that all changed one night when Goggins watched a Navy SEALS television show.

Inspiration struck him like a flash of lightning when he saw those men pushing their limits.

He quit his exterminator job, began calling Navy bases, and learned about the admission process to become a Navy SEAL. Goggins’s intense focus and self-discipline are unparalleled. He executed a grueling training regime that resulted in him losing 100 lbs in three months.

What can you take away from David Goggins regarding how to learn self-discipline? Find something worth dedicating yourself to wholeheartedly.

Once you’ve found that “something” (whatever it happens to be for you), your self-discipline will facilitate more focus, productivity, and, as a result, success.

Goal Setting and Discipline

The world is yours when you understand how to learn self-discipline.

What used to seem “out of reach” suddenly feels within your grasp. What “wasn’t in the cards for you” before gradually turns into the deck being stacked in your favor. This is the effect discipline can have on your life when it comes to goal setting.

Understand the relationship between goals and discipline

Discipline breathes life into your goals. It gives your ambitions vitality and animation. These two variables [discipline and goal setting] are deeply connected. They feed off one another, creating momentum toward the aim that you’ve established for yourself. As a result, it’s important to understand the relationship between the two.

Personal development legend Brian Tracy talks about this a lot.

brian tracy master the art of self discipline

He explains that all successful people are highly disciplined, and he’s right. Also, as someone who’s been speaking, training, and coaching in the self-improvement space for over 30 years, I think the man has a pretty good understanding of this concept.

Brian explains there is no “secret” or “miracle” to success.

It’s simply a matter of choosing a goal and sticking with it for weeks, months, years, or even decades until you accomplish it. This is the kind of grit required to move the needle toward your ambitions.

Develop discipline to stay committed to long-term goals

It’s impossible to achieve anything noteworthy without discipline. The majority of people fail because of this simple truth. In fact, even some of the world’s most successful and hard-working people have fallen from grace because they stopped exercising the discipline that got them there in the first place.

Michael Jordan (the world’s greatest basketball player) struggled with gambling; Tiger Woods (golf’s most talented superstar) was plagued by infidelity. There are many other examples of people who let their demons gain control.

However, there was someone who perfectly exemplified the idea of continual, unrelenting self-discipline: UFC fighter Khabib Nurmagomedov.

khabib nurmagomedov weight training

Khabib never got pulled into these kinds of incidents. There were only two things he cared about: God and fighting. And the discipline and commitment he pooled into his training regime were indicative of those values.

He was always focused on his training and never strayed from his goal of becoming the best. That commitment paid off, as Khabib is the only fighter in UFC history to retire with a flawless record of 29 and 0.

Building Healthy Habits and Behaviors

Living a healthy life gets a lot of lip services today. People like the idea of being healthy more than actually being healthy. And it’s easy to see why: this is a simple concept in theory but a challenging one in practice. That’s why it’s helpful to revisit the basics and take it day by day with simple habits to build your discipline muscle.

The role of habits in maintaining discipline

Habits are the building blocks of a disciplined person’s identity. As a result, I want to share a few habit suggestions. These are daily disciplines I’ve been practicing for years. And I know if you adopt them as your own, they can tremendously impact your quality of life.

  • Journaling: Take 5 to 10 minutes at the end of each day to write about your thoughts and experiences or to document your goals. Don’t overthink this one, just write.
  • Training: I don’t care if it’s running, weightlifting, martial arts training, or a 10-minute at-home ab workout. You should do something every day that moves your body.
  • Reading: Disciplined people understand the necessity of feeding their minds. And the best way to do that is through a daily reading habit.
  • Waking up early: Most successful people are early risers. They go to bed early and wake up early so they are refreshed and revitalized to attack their ambitions.
  • Cold showers: This is not a necessity for developing self-discipline. However, taking a cold daily shower is symbolic of you developing and exercising self-control.
  • Healthy eating: This point doesn’t require much of an explanation. Just eat healthy. This doesn’t mean you have to cut out all junk food. Having the occasional snack is a part of enjoying life. But ensure your diet is healthy and well-balanced.

Now, you don’t have to practice all of these to be a “disciplined person.” However, you should (at least) do a few of them daily. These are the daily disciplines that will direct your life, helping you to aim up in a world that wants to bring you down.

Techniques for cultivating healthy habits and breaking bad ones

Anyone can become disciplined. The problem is that most people look at it from the outside in rather than the inside out. What do I mean by that? Many of us are trying to change our external behaviors without changing the internal beliefs and values that led to those behaviors in the first place. Self-discipline is an inside job.

Consequently, becoming disciplined begins with a shift in mentality. However, that’s not to say your behaviors are unimportant—not at all. Your mentality and behaviors have to be aligned. Here are a few tips to help you do that:

  • Find your reasons: Reasons make the difference in whether or not you follow through with adopting better habits. Wanting to exercise every day so you have the energy and vitality to do your best work will get you to the gym more than wanting 6-pack abs.
  • Start with a keystone habit: If you want to know how to learn self-discipline, you have to start with a keystone habit. In his amazing book, “The Power Of Habit,” Charles Duhigg describes a keystone habit as a simple, single behavior that—once adopted—tends to form other similar behaviors. For example, eating an apple daily can lead to light jogs around your block. That leads to you getting a gym membership, which then leads you to hire a personal trainer, and so on, until you’ve adopted a health-conscious person’s identity.

Discipline and Physical Health

Your physical health is the best place to start if you want to know how to learn self-discipline. Everything in your life flows from your health. So, when you get this area dialed in, you set yourself up for success in every other area.

The impact of discipline on physical wellness

Self-discipline changes your relationship with physicality. You start to see your body for what it is: a biological machine that needs (even craves) movement and physical exertion. As a result, exercise becomes a necessity. When I made this connection, I began a daily training regime. That was almost four years ago as of this writing, and I haven’t looked back since. And I’m not the only one who sees things this way.

Joe Rogan, the famous podcaster, comedian, and martial artist, also agrees with this philosophy. A couple of years ago, he cut out all sugar and carbs for a whole month to adopt the carnivore diet. The result? He lost pretty much all his fat; his potbelly and love handles disappeared.

joe rogan on a healthy diet

But here’s where it gets interesting…

Rogan explained that he had the autoimmune disease vitiligo. And after a month on the carnivore diet, all his white spots vanished. What’s more, he also saw improvements in his focus, energy, and emotional well-being. Now, I’m not an expert.

So, don’t make any radical changes to your diet without first consulting with your doctor or a medical professional.

Conclusion

When it comes to how to learn self-discipline, the primary takeaway is simple: start small and recognize that those tiny actions (when consistently repeated for long enough) will have a tremendous impact on your life. Looking for more self-improvement tips?

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