Learning to Create Self-Discipline in Your Life

Recently I had someone tell me “Your posts are great, but I don’t have the self-discipline to do them!”  So I had to write a post all about how to create self-discipline in your life.  Honestly there are some things in life I am very disciplined about, and others, well, I need a little work.  I thought about the things I do to create self-discipline and I asked some friends who seem to do a good job sticking to the plans they create.  Here’s what we came up with. 

Self-Discipline is Your Friend

When people think self-discipline, they think pipe-dream that is never going to happen.  They think of depriving themselves of their favorite food or activity.  Self-discipline is not deprivation.  Using self-discipline can actually be a pretty emboldening experience. You feel a sense of pride when you say no to something.  Self-discipline can make you healthier, happier and calmer.  It really is your friend.

Pick One Thing

Many of the hurdles we face in life require self-discipline.  Eating habits, sleeping habits, dating habits, cleaning habits, the list goes on!  Thanks to the power of the internet and sites like Pinterest, we can find some really great advice on how to improve all of those habits, plus about a million more. The problem is, we could never implement ALL of that great advice at one time.

So the first step in creating self-discipline in your life is to pick  just one thing.  It doesn’t matter which one thing it is, there is no wrong answer.  Just pick the one thing you would like to improve the most.

Find Your Process

If I were to Google “How to lose weight” I would come up with an astronomical number of hits.  If I were to search Pinterest for “Home Organization” the same thing would happen (only with pretty pictures!).  There is a ton of great information out there but trying to follow the wisdom of 500 different people will just confuse you.  Do some research and pick one or two people or systems to use.

  • Ask friends or family to recommend a book or system they found helpful
  • Check Google or Amazon reviews
  • Check websites for testimonials
  • Ask for recommendations in a Facebook group dedicated to helping you grow in that area.

Once you pick your system or “guru”, read what they have to say and start implementing their plans in your life. Leave all of the other information alone.

Ditch the Guilt

While you are working on this one thing, the list of other things you would like to work on will be put on hold.  AND THAT’S OK!  One of my biggest hurdles with self-discipline is feeling guilty because I am not working X, Y and Z. I have to remind myself that I will get to those things, but doing a crappy job at everything is worse than working on one thing and leaving the others to fall where they would have anyway.

Ditch the guilt. You can concentrate on other areas after you have created a habit and a process to accomplish what you are working on.

Set Reasonable Goals

Now you know what you are working on, and have a process in place to get there.  Now it is time to set some reasonable goals to help you get there.  By reasonable I mean SMART goals.

  • Specific – Define the exact goal, nothing ambiguous like “I want to lose weight”
  • Measurable – Pounds, hours, dollars, loads of laundry, define your measurement
  • Achievable – Losing 100 lbs tomorrow isn’t achievable, make it something possible.
  • Relevant – If you are working on time management, don’t include “lose 10 lbs”
  • Time Based – Each goal is a step toward creating a habit, set a specific time frame so you can continue to build on each goal.

Here are some great SMART goals:

Weight Loss – I will lose 2 lbs this week

Time Management – I will wake up 10 minutes early Monday – Friday to review my tasks for the day.

Bible Study – I will read and journal my response to one Bible prompt this week.

Find an Accountability Partner

Sometimes we all need a little help and an accountability partner can be a great way to get the help you need to stay on track. Yes it is called self-discipline, but everyone needs a little help sometimes.  Beth Nyhart wrote this great article about how to be a great accountability partner and it is well worth the read. If you think you need a little help and can offer some help to someone else, an accountability partnership will help you create the self-discipline to reach the goals you have set.

Self-Discipline Gets Easier

The good news is, the more you practice, the easier it gets.  Self-discipline is how good habits are formed and habits are hard to break (even the good ones!).  The even better news is the self-discipline you created with this one thing, will transfer much easier to the next thing on your list.  Learning to delay your gratification is really all self-discipline is, so it transfers very easily from one goal to the next.

Learn From Your Mistakes

As I sit here typing this there is a bucket of home-made chocolate chip cookies in the kitchen screaming my name.  Alas, about 6 months ago I was diagnosed with a gluten intolerance and I know if I give in and eat one, I will be sick for two days.  I know this because when I made those cookies, I lost my will power and had to taste just a few.  This time it is easier to say NO to those screaming cookies, because I have tasted defeat, and it wasn’t pretty.


  1. Linda Godwin

    March 29, 2017 at 9:46 am

    Good points, but I would add one. When I get curious about something, I will go find a book on the subject. This helps me to be more grounded and pay attention, because I have a squirrel mind, and can foget. I am currently reading the book “Breather” by Dr. Belisa Vranich. I flip forward and back, to see the different excercises. I enjoyed your blog.

    1. Michele Cook

      March 29, 2017 at 5:33 pm

      Hi Linda,
      Great tip, thanks for the addition!

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