The Science Of Self-Discipline: 7 Golden Steps To Self-Discipline

by Wale Oladipo

Why Do I Struggle to Sustain Self-Discipline?

Do you find it difficult to sustain passion and focus on what you consider to be your most important goals in life? Perhaps your greatest challenge is finding the motivation to start a task or project you know for sure it should get started? Do you feel you lack the self-discipline required to break your unhelpful negative habits? Or have you embarked on a positive habit before, and a few days or weeks later you dropped it all together?

If you can relate with any of the above questions, you have just confirmed that you are human, just like the 85% of the population who only think, dream and fantasize about all the things they want to do “Someday,” but never actually get any of those things done. Instead they get better at either procrastinating or giving excuses.

But here is the hard truth: Whether it is writing a book, losing weight, starting a business, preparing adequately for an exam, finishing college, attaining spiritual maturity, stopping smoking, quitting drinking, becoming financial independent or anything else, one thing is needed — self-discipline.

Self-discipline is to success what an engine is to a car; regardless of how sophisticated and beautiful your car might be, if the engine is missing, it won’t get you anywhere. Likewise, it doesn’t really matter how big and inspiring your dreams are in life, if you lack self-discipline, you are not going to arrive at your destination. Self-discipline is simply the engine that accelerates you to your desire destiny.

Albert Grey, a successful businessman, carried out an eleven year study searching for what he called “The common denominator of success.” At the end of his long-term research, he finally came to the conclusion that self-discipline is the common denominator of success.

If you desire to achieve anything significant in your life either personally, financially, relationally, or spiritually, you will have to kick out all your negative mental irresponsibility, such as giving excuses, blaming others for your lack of actions, or justifying your passivity, and start focusing on how to develop great self-discipline.

Elbert Hubbard, one of the American most prolific writers of the twentieth century defined self-discipline as “The ability to do what you should do, when you should it, whether you like it or not.” And I believe that! Self-discipline is the key to personal greatness and success. And on the other hand, lack of self discipline is the major cause of unhappiness, underachievement, failure, and frustration in life.

We Are All Creatures of Habit, Not Discipline!

The difference between where you are right now and the result you want to get in any important area of your life is a habit. In other words, you are always a positive habit away from your desired outcome. We are all creatures of habit, not discipline. We naturally gravitate towards habits, but not towards discipline. Discipline is painful and requires a great amount of self-control and determination.

As John C. Maxwell, American leadership author and speaker, rightly observed,“Most people want to avoid pain, and discipline is usually painful,” That is why, in my opinion, the easiest formula for failure is to see self-discipline as nothing, but painful self-punishment.

You see, discipline is the mother of habit — it takes discipline to birth a habit. Great discipline produces great habits. Therefore , even though we are creatures of habit (because it is what we do habitually that decides the future we create), for us to make our life count, we’ll have to force ourselves not to always do what is fun and easy, but to start doing those things that are necessary, difficult, less interesting, but highly rewarding and beneficial, capable of birthing great positive habits in us. That will link us to the kind of life experiences we desire to create.

Negative Habits Or Positive Habits: Which One Will Win In You?

As you probably might have noticed, it is a lot easier to form a bad habit than it is to develop a positive one. This is simply because we often turn to negative habits to cope with our emotional and psychological challenges in life. Unhelpful habits such as alcoholism, smoking, substance abuse, sexual addiction, pornography, and many other less conspicuous debilitating habits can easily become coping mechanisms for dealing with other bigger emotional scars and stresses in our life that we find hard to face.

Unfortunately, some people even use destructive habits as self-harming tools to show their hatred and dissatisfaction towards themselves. This is often as a result of people’s past emotional traumas which have forced them to consider themselves as worthless, undeserving, and requiring severe self-punishment.

But here is the good news: If you are capable of forming negative habits, you are also capable of coming out of them and starting to develop the self-discipline that will help you to grow your desired positive habits. I personally did it. After I lost my beloved mother several years ago, I slumped into a depression that eventually forced me into some negative habits as coping mechanisms. But after reaching out for help, I made a power u-turn and jumped onto the path of self-discipline that later lead to self-confidence, happiness, peak performance, and personal fulfilment. You too can do the same. Just make sure you are not fighting your battles all alone. Nobody succeeds alone. Utilize the assistance of quality people God has placed around you. Reach for the right help, just like I did, and the rest will be history.

Patience, Persistence, and Perspiration Pay!

Nobody becomes a heavy weight champion overnight. It takes patience, persistence, and perspiration. These are the basic philosophies for building healthy self-discipline. In fact, the combination of patience, persistence, and perspiration towards a worthy goal is great self-discipline in action. When you discipline yourself to perspire, persist, and remain patient in doing those things you know you should be doing, you’ll start to like and accept yourself more and more. And as a result, you become more stronger, more confident and your self-image skyrockets, until you become unstoppable.

Now, if you are ready to cultivate self-discipline, try these following tips, which several exceptional achievers have used to transform their lives permanently:

7 Golden Steps To Self-Discipline

        1.   Expose Your Mind to Positive Messages. Your mind is your world. It is where you win or lose the battle of life. Therefore take care of it. Feed it with motivational and inspirational messages daily (audios, videos, books etc).  You will eventually become what you read or hear about all the time. So stop reading pointless books or watching unhelpful TV programmes that may further escalate your fear, doubts, and lack of self-discipline. Whatever is not contributing positively to your goals is merely eating up your valuable time and attention, thereby weakening your resilience for achieving greatness. When you focus on changing the way you think by accessing quality motivational/inspirational messages, you will most certainly change the course of your life.

A couple of things happen in your mind when you are exposed to motivational messages. Firstly, your self-esteem improves, and because of that, you feel a lot better about yourself as all your self-doubts and inferiority complexes are de-escalated. Secondly, it induces your mind with courage to face your fears, since one of the reasons people quit pursuing their dreams is fear (of failure or rejection). Positive messages from great motivational/ inspirational speakers will train your mind to see fear not as a stopping stone, but as a stepping stone to your accomplishments. The strength of your courage and determination to succeed will be decided by the quality of your learning.

        2.   Hang Out With Positive People. If all your friends lack self-discipline, you will struggle to have it yourself. “You are the average of the five people you hang around with most of the time,” said Jim Rohn, personal development author and speaker. If you desire great self-discipline, look for friends who are positive, goal-oriented, results-driven, and who value excellence and integrity. You can also join a master-mind group, where you hang out with like-minded people who either have gone through what you are currently going through or are in a similar situation as yourself, but are unwilling to stay there, striving collectively to attain self-disciplines that lead to happiness and success. The encouragement and inspiration you will find in such atmosphere will be crucial to your motivation and determination. You’ll then begin to think, “If they can do it, I too can.”

        3.   Determine How Badly You Want Your Desired Goal. If your “WHY” is strong enough, you will have the strength to follow through on “WHAT” you need to do to create your desired goal. For example, if the reason you want to stop smoking is to be alive long enough for the benefit of your children and you really want that badly enough, this strong desire will assist you to break the habit of smoking.

I recently heard a true life-story about a mother of three young children who was diagnosed with terminal cancer. She was told to put her house in order because she only had less than six months to live. But this woman really wanted to live. Above all things, her greatest desire was to see her three children graduate from university. Because she wanted this so badly, somehow six months passed and she was still alive.

Sixteen years later, she attended her youngest child’s graduation ceremony, having already attended those of her two older children. Then six weeks later she passed away. She had already fulfilled her dream. She wanted her dream so badly that even the Giver of life Himself cooperated with her to flood her fragile physical health condition with divine energy to see her dream come true. This can also be your experience in anything you want to achieve — if only you want your goal badly enough!

        4.   Visualize Yourself As Already In Possession Of The Self-Discipline Required to Achieve Your Goals. It is very difficult to actualize anything you cannot visualize. Everything great that man has ever accomplished on earth began in the imagination. Look around you right now. Whatever you can see was first envisioned and executed in the imagination. Therefore, engage your own visualization energy. See yourself as already possessing the self-discipline and habits necessary to link you to your goals. If you can vividly paint on the platform of your imagination the picture of your goals as being already accomplished, and then sustain that picture long enough, that picture will eventually become your reality. Check out my audio programme on the The Power Of Optimism. It’ll power-charge your imagination for success and happiness.

It is said in the bible that, “As he thinks in his heart, so is he,” (Proverbs 23:7). Man becomes what he thinks about all the time. Therefore, do not see yourself as you are right now, but as you desire to be. Napoleon Hill, the author of the classic book entitled Think and Grow Rich, reiterated, “Whatever a mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” So begin to visualize your goal in its completed state!

        5.   Set Small and Achievable Goals. The human brain is a goal-striving entity, containing a success mechanism which is only activated by a measurable and achievable goal.  So to begin with, make your goal very small, small enough for you to be able to complete it. For example if you want to write a book, set a goal to start writing short articles, maybe once a week on your chosen topic (probably related to the subject you desire to write a book on). Make sure it’s not more than 300 words. Keep it short and simple.

Once you collect many little successes of a few completed articles, your brain begins to redesign itself, redefining you as a completer, and not a quitter — it starts to label you as someone who enjoys the victory of completion. And as your brain rewrites your personal history, your mind also develops strong positive mental muscles, and then your self-confidence improves, all of which will eventually strengthens you to achieve your bigger goals.

        6.   Become Accountable to Somebody. This is one of the most powerful tools for growing self-discipline and producing to the maximum. Telling someone about what you want to achieve and asking them to keep you accountable will not only unlock a river of passion in you, it will also force you to become results-oriented, which is a valuable key to success. You’ll find yourself persevering in your daily self-discipline because you really want to stay consistent with what you said you would do to others.

This principle has helped me a lot personally. My wife, Emma, is my first agent for accountability. I remember when I wanted to write a certain book in four months, the first thing I did was to make my idea known to her. And because of that verbal commitment I made to her, I went on to defy all challenges and discouragements to complete the book just in time. It really works!

        7.   Get to Work, Take Action. Relevant and consistent actions are the miracle agents that transform intangible dreams into tangible reality. After you have observed all the above steps, it is time to take action. Write down what you really want, and why you want it. Then create achievable daily small steps towards reaching your goal.
You must understand, however, that it will be hard at the start, but once a habit is formed, it becomes easier. It is said that there are two types of courage necessary for success: the courage to start something and the courage to persevere in it until completion.

So, what you want to do is to persevere through adversities and be courageous. Do not give up! Psychologists tell us that a habit is often formed between 21 to 30 days of continuous and uninterrupted actions. So, never stop completing your daily small goals until you do not feel like stopping anymore. When that happens, a positive habit has been born. You’ve just learnt the greatest single key to personal effectiveness and significance. You are now on your way to creating a productive and fulfilled life! You have acquired the most important virtue for happiness and success — self-discipline.

May I leave you with the wise words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, the American essayist and poet: “He who is not everyday conquering some fear has not learned the secret of life.”

You are always as successful as the magnitude of fear you are willing to conquer, through your daily self-discipline.

Keep on living, loving and learning, and see you at the TOP.

Reprinted from MindBody Breakthrough with kind permission of the author.

About the Authors

Contributors to Renascent’s Blog share their stories of addiction and recovery and/or their professional expertise.