We all know someone who wakes up at 5 am every day, meditates for an hour, then goes for a 10km run before sitting down at their desk for eight solid hours of distraction-free work. This laser-sharp focus and self-control is one quality that all successful people have in common.

So how do these people do it? How do they resist the temptation of hitting snooze? How do they remain focused on the task at hand and continuously smash their goals? The answer is self-discipline.

What Is Self-Discipline?

Self-discipline is the ability to control your desires and impulses and keep your entire focus on your goal until you achieve it. It is what makes you consistently show up and take action, no matter how you’re feeling, physically or emotionally.

Self-discipline should not be confused with motivation. Motivation is fleeting, and this quality alone never results in success. If you are motivated but lack self-control, you’ll be great at starting things but will never finish them. Self-discipline is what sees you through to the end of a project.

Self-discipline involves making small sacrifices to achieve something great. For example, you may prefer to hit snooze and skip your morning exercise. Still, you know that starting your morning with movement dramatically increases the amount of energy you have throughout the day. Or, you would rather spend the evening watching Netflix. However, you know that dedicating this time to studying will benefit your life in the long term.

Why Self-Discipline Is So Important

Self-Discipline is vital in all areas of your life. Without self-discipline, you will never be able to achieve your goals and dreams, whether they are work-related, health-related, or personal pursuits.

If you continuously feel inspired and set a new goal but get lost amongst the distractions, bad influences, and hard work, your self-esteem will suffer. You’ll start to feel like a failure with no control over your life. However, once you build self-discipline and remain focused and consistent, your self-esteem will improve, and you’ll take back the reins.

Being disciplined helps you create good habits that take you one step closer to your goal each time you enforce them. Once you get crystal clear on what you want, you’ll be able to see how your current bad habits are preventing you from moving forward. For example, let’s say you want to improve your sleep, yet you lay in bed checking social media each night. Developing self-discipline will allow you to break that bad habit and replace it with a better one, like turning your phone off one hour before bed and reading instead.

The path to success is never easy, as there will always be challenges that test your willpower and inner strength. Unfortunately, without self-discipline, you’ll throw in the towel at the first hurdle and never fulfill your life purpose.

Why Is It So Difficult to Achieve Self-Discipline?

Being disciplined is undoubtedly easier said than done. One reason it’s hard to be disciplined is that we often have many bad habits that we have been doing for years. Therefore, we are programmed to do these things, and reprogramming our minds and developing new habits takes time. Because of this, it’s too easy to fall back into our old ways.

What’s more, where you are right now is very comfortable, even if you are not happy with your current situation. As human beings, we like to stay in our comfort zone as it’s predictable and stress-free. We don’t like the unknown, so taking the leap and doing something different is scary. However, nothing ever grows in the comfort zone, including your self-discipline.

Self-discipline is a skill, and learning any new skill takes hard work. We cannot just decide to be more disciplined and wake up the next day with incredible self-control. The truth is that willpower takes a long time to develop and is why many people give up.

How to Develop Self-Discipline

1. Choose a Goal

Being crystal clear on your goals is the foundation to achieving success. It’s not enough to have a vague idea; you need to define it. For example, your goal should not be to make more money but instead make a specific amount of money each month/year. One of the best ways to get clear on your goal is to use the SMART method: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely.

2. Create an Action Plan

Getting clear on your goal will help you understand the actions you need to take to achieve it, which you can use to create a plan. Many people get stuck here as they know what they want but have no idea how to get there.

First, break your goal down, so you understand the steps required to reach it. Then, figure out how to get to each step. The answer to this becomes your actions.

3. Divide into Milestones

Break down your goal into smaller ones, known as milestones. Doing this will make the process seem a lot less overwhelming and much more achievable. If your dream seems too big, your mind might start telling you that it’s impossible to achieve. But, if you divide it into milestones, you can dial down your focus to the specific step you’re working towards achieving.

4. Set Deadlines

When you set a goal, always give yourself a deadline for when you want to achieve it. Without a deadline, you can easily keep pushing back the actions as there is no real urgency. Set a deadline for the big goal as well as each milestone. Doing this will prompt you to keep showing up and taking action, and you will think twice about wasting time or slacking off.

5. Get Motivated

To stay focused, you can use motivational techniques like rewarding yourself for completing small steps. For example, once you meet a milestone, reward yourself with a trip to the beach or cinema (or any other activity you enjoy). Of course, make sure the motivational treats do not hamper your progress. For instance, don’t motivate yourself to work out by rewarding yourself with a pizza afterward!

6. Remove Distractions

In this day and age, we have many distractions surrounding us, which can be detrimental to our productivity. When you get distracted, you lose focus and do other things. This can make a task that should have taken one hour, instead take three hours, meaning you don’t complete your daily actions and miss your deadlines.

Distractions vary from person to person and depend on your goal. If your goal is to pass an exam, but you keep getting distracted each time you sit down and study, identify the problem and remove it. Smartphones are the biggest distraction for many, so keeping your phone off your desk while working or studying can significantly help. Or, perhaps your goal is to eat healthier, but your kitchen is full of unhealthy snacks like candy and cookies. If so, you’ll continue to fight your willpower until you throw them all out.

7. Celebrate Small Victories

Lastly, it’s so important to acknowledge and celebrate your achievements, no matter how small. If you manage to wake up one hour earlier every day for a week, congratulate yourself and share your win with your loved ones. Recognizing your achievements will show you that you can achieve great things and inspire you to continue.

Final Thoughts

Developing discipline is not easy, but it is an essential quality to have. If you’re tired of feeling stuck in life, learning how to be disciplined is a game-changer. You will undoubtedly stumble a few times along the way, but don’t give up when this happens. Instead, forgive yourself, refocus, and get back on track.


Reads and writes a little about everything. Strives to keep an open mind, a good health, and a humble personality. Lives to absorb life's lessons, to learn a bit more about living.

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