No personal success, achievement, or goal, can be realized without self-discipline. It is singularly the most important attribute needed to achieve any type of personal excellence, athletic excellence, virtuosity in the arts, or otherwise outstanding performance.
It is the ability to control one's impulses, emotions, desires and behavior. It is being able to turn down immediate pleasure and instant gratification in favor of gaining the long-term satisfaction and fulfillment from achieving higher and more meaningful goals.
To possess it is to be able to make the decisions, take the actions, and execute your game plan regardless of the obstacles, discomfort, or difficulties, that may come your way.
Certainly, being disciplined does not mean living a limiting or a restrictive lifestyle. Nor, does not mean giving up everything you enjoy, or, to relinquish fun and relaxation. It does mean learning how to focus your mind and energies on your goals and persevere until they are accomplished. It also means cultivating a mindset whereby you are ruled by your deliberate choices rather than by your emotions, bad habits, or the sway of others. Self-discipline allows you to reach your goals in a reasonable time frame and to live a more orderly and satisfying life.
Start with baby steps. No process takes place overnight. Just as it takes time to build muscle, so does it take time to develop self-discipline. The more you train and build it, the stronger you become. In exercise, if you try to do too much at once, you could injure yourself and have a setback. Likewise, take it one step at a time in building self-discipline. So, begin by making the decision to go forward and learning what it takes to get there. Learn what motivates you and what your bad triggers are. You can begin by learning about yourself! Sometimes it is very difficult to fight off urges and cravings, so know the areas where your resistance is low and how to avoid those situations. If you know you can't resist cake, fries, or other temptations - stay away from them. Do not have them around to lure you in moments of weakness.
If you also know that putting pressure on yourself does not work for you, then set yourself up in an environment that encourages the building of self-discipline rather than one that sabotages it. Remove the temptations and surround yourself with soothing and encouraging items such as motivating slogans and pictures of what you want to achieve.
Learn also what energizes and motivates you. Your willpower can go up and down with your energy levels so play energetic music to perk you up, move around, laugh. Train yourself to enjoy what you are doing by being energized. This will make it easier to implement desirable and appropriate behaviors into your routine - which is really what self-discipline is all about.
Make certain behaviors a routine. Once you have decided what's important to you and which goals to strive for, establish a daily routine that will help you achieve them. For example, if you want to eat healthily or lose weight; resolve to eat several servings of fruits and vegetables each day and exercise for at least half an hour. Make it part of your daily routine and part of your self-discipline building. Likewise, get rid of some of your bad, self-defeating habits, whatever they may be. They can put you in a negative frame of mind and hinder your self-discipline. A poor attitude can also be a bad habit.
Practice self-denial. Learn to say no to some of your feelings, impulses and urges. Train yourself to do what you know to be right, even if you don't feel like doing it. Skip dessert some evenings. Limit your TV watching. Resist the urge to yell at someone who has irritated you. Stop and think before you act. Think about consequences. When you practice self-restraint it helps you develop the habit of keeping other things under control.
Engage in sports or activities. Sports are an excellent way to enhance self- discipline. They train you to set goals, focus your mental and emotional energies, become physically fit, and to get along well with others. Participating in sports provides a situation where you learn to work hard and strive to do your best, which in turn, teaches you to integrate the same the thought processes and disciplines into your everyday life.
Learning to play a musical instrument can be another great way to practice self-discipline. The focus, repetition, and application required in learning to play an instrument is invaluable. Achieving self-discipline in any one area of your life reprograms your mind to choose what is right, rather than what is easy.
Get inspiration from those you admire. Michael Jordan has always maintained that his greatness as a basketball player came as much from his willingness to work hard at his craft, as it did his talent. It was his desire through discipline and focus that made him one of the best basketball players ever. If it worked for him, it could certainly work for the rest of us.
Visualize the rewards. There is nothing more gratifying than accomplishing your goals. Practice the technique that high achievers and top athletes do. Project yourself in the future. Visualize your desired outcome. Feel how rewarding it is and the countless benefits you will enjoy. Remind yourself what it takes to get there.