Got Self-Discipline? Try These 4 Suggestions

In my work related to improving performance and realizing career goals with executives, I’ve spent quite a bit of time studying the characteristics of those who find success across a wide variety of goals. One common attribute is SELF-DISCIPLINE. 

Self-discipline, defined as, “the ability to make yourself do things that should be done,” is not easy. If it was, everyone would have it, right? It’s about holding yourself accountable for your behaviors and choices. 

It’s like your personal integrity monitor … do you do the things you should when no one is looking?

While it’s not something you have to report on to those around you, the results you achieve will speak volumes.

Bottom line, self-discipline is about good habits. Good habits that you execute on a daily basis and it starts with having a goal/goals.

Your goal could be to achieve a particular career level, learn a new skill, stay connected with your children as they mature, get and maintain a fit/healthy lifestyle … you name it. Having a vision of what you want to achieve is important, especially as you are establishing new habits and practicing that self-discipline.

Early on, I think children can learn to flex those self-discipline muscles if they are involved in sports, music, theater, scouts, etc. … because those activities require practice and diligence — two key components in self-discipline. This early exposure lays a foundation for seeing the benefits of self-discipline as kids grow into adults.

The great news is that self-discipline is a learned behavior, so it’s available to us all!

With that in mind, here are few tips that might help develop more self-discipline in your life:

  • Don’t think, just DO – the beauty of habits is that we can begin to shift into Dog With Boneauto-pilot and not exert a lot of brainpower to get things done. The key here is to make sure those habit are GOOD ones! I’ve used this approach with my exercise routine. I’m a morning person, but I know I could rationalize why I should put off going to the gym if I let myself. What works for me is to get my feet on the floor as soon as I hear the alarm go off and put my gym clothes on before my mind is awake enough to begin thinking of reasons why I should do something else. Once I’m dressed I grab my water and get in the car. Getting to the gym is the biggest hurdle – when you’re there, you might as well work out, right?
  • Convenience makes a big difference – Support building good habits by making it convenient – like prepping veggies for quick grab and go snack, buying prepackaged salad mixes, creating your priority to-do list the end of the day for the next day. Conversely, break some bad habits by making them inconvenient – don’t have the sugary snacks and drinks in the house, put your alarm clock across the room, disconnect your premium cable channels, turn off your cell phone in meetings and focused work time.
  • Feed your brain – Eating regularly and making healthy diet choices can regulate your blood sugar levels and improves decision-making skills and concentration. When we are hungry, our empty stomachs become another distraction and it weakens our ability to think clearly. Clear thinking keeps our goals in mind and enables us to stay on track.
  • Be mindful of the COST of not having self-discipline – Some people find it helpful to stay motivated by remembering what’s at stake. What is your lack of self-discipline costing you? “If I continue to procrastinate doing the more complex work each day, I’ll derail my chances of getting my dream job.”  OR “If I don’t start eating better and exercising, I’m on a fast track for a heart attack!” 

As my parents always taught me, anything worthwhile requires hard work. Self-discipline is hard, which is why it’s a difference maker in finding success.

What other tips work for you? What can you start doing today that will reap benefits tomorrow?

“Success is actually a short race – a sprint fueled by discipline just long enough for a habit to kick in a take over.” — Gary Keller

Martha Duesterhoft is a Partner with PeopleResults. Follow her on Twitter @mduesterhoft or connect via email at