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This is why self-discipline is so important. In this article, we'll examine what self-discipline actually is, we'll explore why it's useful, and we'll look at how to develop it.

A Definition of Self-Discipline

Self-discipline is the ability to push yourself forward, stay motivated, and take action, regardless of how you're feeling, physically or emotionally. You're showing it when you intentionally choose to pursue something better for yourself, and you do it in spite of factors such as distractions, hard work, or unfavorable odds.

Self-discipline is different from self-motivation or willpower. Motivation and willpower contribute to it, as do persistence, the ability to follow through on your intentions, and hard work.

The Benefits of Self-Discipline

Self-discipline can boost your well-being and outcomes in many different areas of your life. It can:

1. Help you to achieve goals. Self-discipline people are more likely to commit to, and reach, important long-term life goals.

2. Improve your mental health. People practicing self-discipline report higher levels of self-confidence, happiness and independence. Researchers have also found that self-discipline eases anxiety.

3. Benefit your physical health. People who demonstrate regular self-discipline often engage in healthy habits, and resist unhealthy ones.

4. Improve your relationships. Individuals with high self-discipline often experience stronger long-term relationships.

5. Make you more resilient. Self-discipline can enhance your ability to bounce back from adversity. The more resilient you are, the better control you have over impulses and delayed gratification.

6. Help you to feel happier. If you're more productive, the more creative and happy you are. The more we feel in control of the origin of our behavior, the better sense of well-being we have, and that makes us happy.

7. Improve learning and enhance performance. Studies have shown that students with a high degree of self-discipline retain more knowledge than those without self-discipline. Additionally, researchers discovered that students with strong self-discipline are more careful in their tasks, which improves their performance. [1]

Research has also shown that measuring a person's level of self-discipline is a more accurate predictor of success than measuring their IQ. [2]

How to Develop Self-Discipline

Self-discipline is like a muscle: the more you work on developing it and using it, the stronger it will become.

However, it's just as important not to start out with goals that are too ambitious. Instead, set small goals, and increase the level of challenge slowly over time. The more you practice, the better you'll become.

Follow these five steps to start developing your self-discipline:

1. Choose a Goal

Begin by choosing just one goal that you want to focus on to develop your self-discipline.

For instance, perhaps you want to start exercising every evening, or you want to read one leadership book a week to enhance your skills. You could even practice self-discipline on very small goals such as concentrating on a piece of work for an hour without checking your messages, or avoiding unhealthy food for one day.

Remember, starting small is the best way to start developing your self-discipline. As your discipline gets stronger, you can spread the focus to more areas of your life.

Make sure that the goal you set is SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound – and break the goal down into smaller sub-goals, where you can.

2. Find Your Motivation

Once you've chosen a goal, list the reasons why you want to achieve it. Try to express these reasons in a positive way.

So, instead of saying, "I want to exercise three times a week to lose weight," say "I want to exercise so that I have the energy to play with my kids and work successfully." Or, instead of saying, "I want to get this task off my To-Do List," say, "I want to do this task, so that I can meet my objectives, get praise from my boss, and feel satisfied with my day's work."

When you list the reasons why you want to achieve something, you'll find it much easier to get the job done.

3. Identify Obstacles

Now you need to identify the obstacles that you'll likely face when working toward your goal, and devise a strategy for overcoming each one.

For instance, imagine that your goal is to read one leadership book a week to enhance your skills. In the past, you've faced a number of obstacles in reaching this goal. For example, when you find a book you like, it's hard to find time each night to read. Between work, dinner and the kids, your time is taken up until late in the evening, and you get distracted by messages coming in while you're reading.

Once you've identified obstacles, come up with a strategy to overcome each one. In this example, you could do the following:

  • Instead of going to a bookstore, spend an hour looking at leadership books online. Find several that interest you, and that have good reviews. Order all of them at once, and download them to tablet so that you always have a book on hand to read.
  • Find more time in your day to focus on reading. Perhaps you could read during your lunch hour, or while you're waiting to pick your kids up from school.
  • Turn your phone off when you want to focus on reading.

Often our self-discipline crumbles because we haven't identified the obstacles that we'll face, and we haven't developed strategies to overcome them. When these obstacles show up, we're unprepared to deal with them, and this shakes our resolve. Don't skip this step!

4. Replace Old Habits

When we're developing self-discipline, we're often trying to break a bad habit and replace it with something more productive. However, if that habit is tied into a certain time of day or routine, breaking it can leave a hole. If we don't replace that habit with something else, then its absence becomes even more noticeable.

A good example is if you're trying to stop yourself shopping online when you take a break at work. This bad habit destroys your focus and attention, because you're likely to be online for 20-30 minutes each time.

Once you've resolved to stop, identify a new behavior that you can engage in when you need a quick break. Instead of online shopping, you could do some stretches in your office, get a cup of coffee, or take a quick walk outside. These behaviors will help to support your goal and strengthen your self-discipline, instead of leaving you with nothing to do on your break.

5. Monitor Your Progress

As you work on your self-discipline, pay attention to how you're feeling as it develops and strengthens. You might feel free, happy, proud, and energized.

Also, think about keeping a journal to write down your self-discipline goals and to track your progress. This reinforces the positive changes that you're implementing in your life, and gives you a record that you can look back on to see the progress that you've made.

Over time, your self-discipline will strengthen, and you'll be able to apply it to lots of other areas of your life.

More Tips for Self-Discipline

  • Try to avoid distractions when you begin to develop your self-discipline. Make it harder to engage in the activity you're trying to avoid.
  • It's important to reward yourself when you experience success. Celebrating your accomplishments will keep things fun, and strengthen your resolve to keep going.
  • Don't let a fear of failure or an occasional setback discourage you. All of us experience setbacks and failures – they're parts of life! Acknowledge that you slipped up, learn the lesson, and move on.

Frequently Asked Questions About Self-Discipline

Why is self-discipline important?

Self-discipline helps you to stay focused, meet deadlines, and maintain a strong work ethic. It enables you to resist distractions, adhere to company policies, and consistently produce high-quality results. This contributes to your own success and the overall productivity and success of the organization.

How do you explain self-discipline?

Self-discipline is the ability to control and regulate your own behavior, actions and decisions so you can achieve goals or keep to a set of principles, even in the face of temptations, distractions or challenges. It involves setting and maintaining a consistent standard of behavior, often driven by a strong sense of commitment and personal responsibility.

Why is self-discipline the key to success?

Self-discipline enables consistent effort, goal-setting, and the ability to overcome challenges. It helps individuals stay focused, make better decisions, and build the habits necessary for long-term achievement.

What are the effects of lack of self-discipline?

Lack of self-discipline can lead to a range of negative effects, including procrastination, missed opportunities, poor time management, underachievement, unhealthy habits, and a failure to reach your full potential. It can also result in reduced productivity and difficulties in both your personal and professional life