Self Discipline: Self Discipline is a person’s ability to get done, what they say they’ll get done. If a person says that they’re going to wake up at 7:00am, then they get up at 7:00am—not 7:01, 7:02 or 7:03.
Like most things in life to get better at a skill, you’ve got to practice. And since Self Discipline is a skill that can be learned, that means it’s a skill that needs to be practiced. The more a person practices self discipline, the more disciplined they become, the less practice, the less disciplined. Everyone has different levels of self discipline; if a person can look at a piece of chocolate cake, and if they can wait, even one second, between wanting to devour the cake, and actually doing so, then they have self discipline. Some people can look at the cake, want to eat it, and not eat it. They have stronger self discipline. There are just different levels, and most people fall somewhere in-between. The great thing, though, is that if anyone wants to improve their self discipline, it’s actually pretty easy.
(1) The first step to building self discipline is to gauge where you’re current levels are. Take a moment to think of areas where you are disciplined; then take a moment to look at areas where you’re not discipline. Rate yourself on a 1-10 scale, and if you’re honest, you’ll have a good gauge of where your discipline is currently at.
(2) Once you know your level, it’s time to give yourself a test. It’s best to start easy. Too many people, when starting to build self discipline, they will pick some huge outrageous goal. For example: someone might say “I want to develop discipline to run five miles every day.” They’ll motivate themselves, and pump themselves up, then on the first day they’ll run four miles, pull a hamstring, say it’s too hard, and give up. Blah!
a. If a person’s goal is to eventually be discipline enough to run five miles a day, then they need to build up their self discipline progressively. If someone’s not a runner, first they’ll need to build up the discipline to walk five miles a day. If someone can’t walk five miles, then there’s no way that they can run five miles. For some people they might need to start even smaller and start off walking just one mile a day, then two, then three, then four, then five, then running a mile and walking four, then running two miles and walking three, etc.
b. The same thing goes for time, as well. If someone wants to run or walk every day, then they might want to first start off committing to walking or running three times a week, and see if they can accomplish that. Then if they can do that, move on to four times a week, then five, then six, etc.
(3) Once you start to build up your self discipline and can get to a certain level, it’s always important to try to branch out and either make yourself more disciplined or become disciplined in a new field. If you’re running/walking five miles a day but are still eating two bags of cookies a day, then it might be time to start to build up your dietary discipline.
(4) Repeat steps 1-3 until you’ve developed adequate amounts of discipline in all steps of your life.
(5) Don’t become too disciplined. I’ve heard too many stories of people who become so disciplined that they allow their ‘disciplined habits’ to run their lives. There was one guy I knew in the Army who was extremely discipline. He would wake up every day at 5:00am. He would run two miles, do a hundred jumping jacks, and a hundred push ups. He’d then shower for exactly 10 minutes. Eat a healthy breakfast of a banana and oatmeal, back a nice protein shake for lunch, and then head off to work. That was his day, every day, for the past ten years that he’d been in the Army. The guy was one of the most tightly wound lunatics I had ever met. He was so disciplined that he had no idea who to just let go, and stray from his daily routines. He wouldn’t go out with friends because he had to be in bed at exactly 9:30 pm so that he could wake up at 5:00am. He wouldn’t go out to eat because no restaurants could meet his strict dietary disciplined standards. The stories go on and on. He was a time-bombing waiting to go off. So make sure to build your discipline, but don’t take things too far.
Self discipline won’t come easy, but that’s the beauty of it. If it did come easy, then it would be called discipline.
“We all have dreams. But in order to make dreams into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline, and effort.” –Jesse Owens
“Mental toughness is many things and rather difficult to explain. Its qualities are sacrifice and self-denial. Also, most importantly, it is combined with a perfectly disciplined will that refuses to give in. It’s a state of mind-you could call it character in action.”— Vince Lombardi
“Ultimately, the only power to which man should aspire is that which he exercises over himself.” –Elie Wiesel
“Nothing is more harmful to the service, than the neglect of discipline; for that discipline, more than numbers, gives one army superiority over another.”—George Washington
Michael Anthony is an Iraq War Veteran and is the Author of: Mass Casualties: A Young Medic’s True Story of Death, Destruction, and Dishonor in Iraq.