Becoming a master of self-discipline is difficult. I mean, even becoming a self-discipline apprentice is hard! In fact, knowing more about self-discipline is an age-old study. Psychologists have delved into people’s mental state, upbringing, current circumstances, and more to learn why people struggle with it so much. The good news is that although it can sometimes seem as though you have no control when it comes to certain aspects of your life, really you do. You just don’t know it yet.

Self-discipline is one of those things that requires ongoing practice and nurturing. And as with anything that takes time to develop, you too can improve your self-discipline. But first, let’s get into what self-discipline is.

What is self-discipline?
Self-discipline is essentially your consistent ability to control your actions, feeling, and emotions. When it comes to your finances, it’s your ability to stick to your plans of paying down debt saving, and investing. When you have a handle on self-discipline, you stay motivated and are more likely to achieve success. It is very strongly connected to willpower which is the control of one’s impulses and actions.

Foundation for your self-discipline
Before you begin on your journey towards building self-discipline, it’s important to understand what self-discipline ISN’T.

• It’s not about becoming a superhuman productivity machine that never fails.
• It’s not beating yourself up because you didn’t achieve more than you did yesterday.
• It’s not expecting that you’ll never be tempted to sleep in, eat cupcakes or scroll through Facebook.
• It’s not rigid and inflexible. It doesn’t mean holding yourself to an impossible standard.

Self-discipline shouldn’t require a Herculean effort (and if it does, it’s not sustainable). It simply requires a normal amount of effort, managed effectively. Remember that your human brain has evolved to be as lazy as possible in order to conserve energy. Smart self-discipline is not about trying to fight that, it’s about understanding it and making small, persistent changes anyway.

Here are some strategies for you to build your self-discipline muscle:
Countdown, then take action
When you’re feeling particularly unmotivated, count down from ten, then force yourself to do whatever it is you’re doing. A quick countdown can help shift you into the right mental space to get motivated. Sometimes all we need is a little push to take that next step—that’s how self-discipline begins.

Challenge Your Own Excuses
Some examples below:
Excuse: “I can’t eat healthily because I don’t have enough time to prepare food.”
Solution: Can you prepare a large batch of healthy food on Sunday and freeze it?

Excuse: “I can’t write a book because I work full time.”
Solution: Can you work on your book for an hour every evening before bed instead of watching TV?

Put your goals where you can see them every day
Writing a goal down makes it all the more real. Hang it up somewhere you will see it often and inspire yourself — at your work desk, in your bedroom, in your car, etc. Write the goal in your yearly planner. Put it on your kitchen calendar.

Finding your WHY?
Wanting to develop self-discipline is great, but why are you doing it in the first place? If it’s just for its own sake, you’re unlikely to stick through the pain and resistance that will arise when you’re building your discipline muscle. Instead, I recommend having a concrete reason. What change will greater self-discipline bring about in your life?

Consistent Small Habits
it’s simply about building a consistent habit. Once you do that, the results will come. (Also, it’s important to pick a task that is significant enough to make a difference but small enough that you can do it every day.)

Try Meditation
What if I told you that the key to improving your self-discipline was sitting still for a few minutes a day while focusing on your breath? It sounds crazy, but there’s some solid research showing that regular meditation can improve self-discipline. In a recent Stanford study, researchers found that undergoing meditation training increased mindfulness, boosted happiness, and improved emotional regulation. This points to meditation as a promising technique for boosting your self-discipline, since regulating your emotions is key to acting in line with your thoughts (as opposed to your feelings).

Nutrition, Sleep, and Exercise Are Key
If you are trying to improve your self-discipline and you’re not getting enough sleep, healthy food, and exercise, you’re fighting an uphill battle. If you eat nutritious food, get some form of physical exercise every day and get good sleep, you’ll find it much easier to work towards your goals. You’ll have more energy and an overall positive attitude and you’ll be less likely to give up when the going gets tough.

Track your progress
You may have heard this saying before, but it’s really true. Measuring progress is a powerful way to motivate yourself to improve. Clearly tracking the things that are important will help you better understand your performance and how you can improve.

The bottom line!
Self-discipline is like a muscle. It doesn’t explode overnight. It grows over time with consistent work. You don’t need to master your discipline today. All you need to do is begin implementing a single one of the strategies I have shared in this blog and take incremental steps toward growing your self-discipline “muscle”.