The ability to delay gratification is a predictor of success in relationships, school, and career.
Self-discipline is the ability to delay gratification and put off short-term pleasures for long-term success.
A person with self-discipline has the ability to make themselves do things that are in their best interests, even if they’re not what they want to do.
Here are some tips for building self-discipline.
- Put your phone down. Self-control is a lot easier to maintain when you’re not constantly getting distracted by unhealthy temptations, and with the internet at our fingertips, those temptations are never more than an arm’s length away. When in doubt, set your phone down.
- Go to bed early and get up early. Your level of self-discipline will be directly linked to how well-rested you are, so going to bed early and getting up early can help keep it strong.
- Exercise. There’s no better way to build your willpower than by working out regularly!
- Eat healthy foods like fruits and vegetables, which will provide you with the nutrients you need for optimal brain function—not junk food that will drag you down.
- Be more organized about your time management by setting priorities for each day in advance so that there aren’t any surprises when something unexpected comes up during work hours or after work hours like lunch breaks or family dinners respectively (although these two events may overlap).
Form healthy habits.
Forming healthy habits is essential to living a well-balanced life. Habits are learned behaviors that are done automatically. They’re so ingrained in our daily lives that sometimes we don’t even realize we’re doing them!
Habits can be both good and bad. For example, if you mindlessly snack on unhealthy foods whenever you feel bored, your habit may lead to weight gain. However, if you always schedule time for exercise and incorporate it into your daily routine, your habit is likely to keep you fit and healthy for years to come.
If there’s a habit that’s not serving you well — such as smoking or eating junk food — the sooner you can change it, the better off you’ll be in terms of health and self-esteem. It’s never too late to improve your behavior by adopting new habits and breaking old ones.
Be kind to yourself.
Being kind to yourself is essential when developing self-discipline. When you mess up, forgive yourself—nobody’s perfect. It’s important to see problems as a learning opportunity instead of failures.
Be kind to yourself the way you would be to a friend. It may help to visualize the situation from another perspective and ask yourself,
How would I speak/act if I were talking/acting toward a good friend?.
If your inner dialogue is harsh or critical, consider softening it by using words like “maybe” and “possibly,” rather than absolutes such as “always” or “never.”
Lastly (and perhaps most importantly), make sure that you take care of your physical and emotional health. Try not to overload yourself with too many commitments so that you can have time for healthy sleep habits, exercise, and balanced meals (self-care is an art form!).
Set attainable goals.
Define the problem. Before you start trying to solve it, define the issue that needs to be addressed.
- What are you struggling with?
- Do you feel unproductive in your work?
- Are you having difficulty standing up for yourself during meetings when your ideas get shot down by a colleague?
- Are you taking on projects that don’t interest or fulfill you?
- Is there something that’s been overwhelming and daunting?
Be as specific as possible when defining these issues, so they’re easier to tackle.
Set attainable goals, and keep them realistic. While it’s important to be ambitious and challenge yourself, remember that it will take commitment—and time—to change ingrained behavior patterns and develop new habits.
Tackling too much of an adjustment at once can put you at risk for failure. In fact, studies show that setting small goals can actually lead to larger gains in the long run than setting big ones.
If your goal is weight loss or fitness-related, look into signing up for a race in three months (or six months) time; this gives you a goal to aim for and provides motivation along the way.
If your goal is work-related (e.g., becoming more vocal about your opinions during meetings), set out a schedule for yourself so that every day or week, there is measurable progress toward achieving this goal—for example: “by January 1st, I will have improved my weekly meeting attendance by 5%.”
Make a plan.
Make a plan. When it comes to forming habits, consistency is critical. And the easiest way to stay consistent is by keeping a routine. Studies show that when you do things at a regular time, your brain forms neural pathways associated with these actions. This means that these tasks become easier for your brain to complete and less likely to be forgotten.
Rather than waiting until the last minute or working your habits into your schedule as you go, take some time out of each week to plan ahead and make sure you’re giving yourself enough time to devote toward accomplishing your goals.
You can get started by making a weekly or monthly “To-Do” list and setting aside specific times each day where you will work on achieving those goals.
For example, if one of your goals is to get in shape, set aside two hours every Monday when you will go for an hour-long run or join an exercise class at the gym. This way, you’ll always have something planned during this time and everyone else will know not to interrupt you!
Track your progress.
Tracking your progress is a must. We all have bad days, but being able to look back on your past successes can be just what you need to stay motivated during a rough patch. It’s also helpful for identifying and minimizing the things that slow you down or distract you from your goals.
Tracking every day may sound tedious, but there are apps for it! They’re usually user-friendly and low cost (or free). You can also reward yourself with something small each time you achieve a milestone.
If you don’t have any idea how to get started or where to begin tracking, here are some ideas:
- Use an app like Habit Tracker for Android or Productive for iOS.
- Create an Excel spreadsheet that records the date, activity, and a short description of what happened during the activity.
- Create a bullet journal where each day has a box that says “Did I work towards my goal today?” Check off the box if yes, leave it blank if not.
When you feel tempted, remind yourself of the benefits.
- When you feel tempted, remind yourself of the benefits
- How do you accomplish this? Visualization techniques, writing down goals, etc.
For example: if you want to stop eating sugar, focus on how much healthier you will be and how great it feels when you have done something good for yourself. Imagine having a more energetic body and more time in your day. Focusing on the benefits instead of what you are giving up makes self-discipline much easier.
Don’t beat yourself up if you slip up — just start again.
No one is perfect, and no one has absolutely mastered self-discipline. This is a skill that we need to practice and cultivate in order to strengthen it. Often times we beat ourselves up if we slip up with something that we are trying to take on, but that’s not helpful at all! Just start again.
If you slip up with something you’re trying to get better at, maybe you got off track by eating too much junk food or going shopping when you should have been studying—it’s okay! Forgive yourself and move on. It’s all part of the process of getting better.
Realize that your self-discipline journey won’t be a perfectly smooth road. Allow for mistakes and setbacks along the way but realize that every experience is an opportunity to grow stronger in this area of your life so don’t give up simply because you make a mistake or two along the way.
Don’t let any self-doubt sabotage your efforts either! You can do it–don’t let anything stop you from growing as a person and reaching your goals.
Practicing self-discipline can definitely help you achieve your goals and live your life more fully.
I believe self-discipline is the best way to achieve your goals and live your life more fully. Self-discipline is a skill that you can develop, practice, and perfect. You’re not born with it, but you can definitely learn it!
Self-discipline means setting expectations for yourself and holding yourself accountable for meeting your commitments. It’s about making choices intentionally, out of a commitment to yourself rather than because of an emotional or impulsive reaction.