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Top 5 Keys to Building Self-Discipline for a Better Life

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To build good habits, you have to make space by removing bad ones.

I just turned 26, but I already regret many things in life because I wasn’t self-disciplined enough.

I regret not starting to learn English first. Not insisting on my two first blogs. Giving up on my first narrative book. And also making choices that pushed people away many times.

But without these regrets, I wouldn’t have become as self-disciplined as I am today, so I am grateful for that.

Jim Rohn once said:

We must all suffer one of two things: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret and disappointment.

Jim Rohn

And since I have enough regrets already, I would like to limit them to the minimum in the future. So I tried to collect the 5 keys to building self-discipline for a better life.

Why is self-discipline so difficult?

Self-discipline is not as easy as somebody makes it seem. And even for those people, it took a lot of time to build their ordered system.

We are people of habits. And unfortunately, terrible activities are effortless. So it is simpler to do what makes us feel good instead of better.

Most of the time, we don’t even know what is better. But a few times, we do, and that is the exact moment in which self-discipline can improve our lives.

So if you want to become more self-disciplined, you need to start from a master rule:

To build good habits, you have to make space for them by removing bad ones contemporarily.

This process needs time and patience, or it won’t work. So if you are committed, you can continue with the 5 keys of self-discipline.

1 — Meditate.

If you know me, you can say I often criticize people that put meditation in each of their lists. But in this case, it helps.

Undisciplined actions always come from emotive responses of our body to external impulses. If you eat outside of meals, you surrender to your hunger. If you skip working out, you align with the tendency of your body to avoid pain. But with meditation, you can control all these inclinations and desires.

Meditation has many benefits, but the most relevant one is that it teaches you how to control your emotions and impulses. When meditating, you recognize the needs of your body and categorize them. So next time it induces you to skip a workout, your mind will solve that lazy thought with reason. And it will be easier to stop bad habits while having the mental fortitude to develop healthy ones.

2 — Start small.

Many times, I wished to achieve so much that I got nowhere. And this doesn’t only happen to me — many people begin self-disciplined paths without any prior preparation.

Usually, when we decide to live a better life, we overcharge ourselves with so many improvement rules that we can’t even remember all of them. But this behavior is dangerous because it forces your body into a critical situation. Which then leads to fast and incorrect adaptations.

Self-discipline works best when you start small and take little steps towards your goals. Otherwise, your body will rebel against you and rebuild the old patterns by force.

I tried to wake up at 5:30 a.m. for a month once. But after two weeks, my body started to protest. And even if I was sleeping 8 hours per night, it was not enough. So for the next few weeks, I slept between 8 and 10 hours per night to recover from that experiment.

However, since I still wanted to develop that early-waking-up habit, I did it again by starting with 3 days a week. This time, it worked. And I successfully transitioned to 5 days a week.

So the most efficient way of being self-disciplined is to start small because little things are easier to transform into extraordinary results.

3 — Be consistent.

There is no habit without consistency. Even bad habits suffer from some kind of repetition. So why shouldn’t good ones?

Instead of being self-disciplined for an entire day, and missing out on the following four, try to maintain a habit for a couple of minutes every day. This way, your body familiarizes with the pattern you are building, gets used to it, and starts to include it in your daily routine.

From that moment, you don’t need to remain self-disciplined anymore because your body will automatically do it for you. Sometimes, you will need to be mindful about your routine and why you are doing it to give it meaning. But most of the days, you won’t even need that.

Self-discipline requires time but mostly repetition. This is the only way to stick habits in your brain and start automatizing them. The habits form when the automatization process finishes, so you can care a little bit less about it.

4 — Do one thing.

The worst part of self-discipline is that every activity is extremely tough to start. So we always try to procrastinate because those activities require an enormous amount of willpower but, many times, we lack it.

For this reason, the best way to start with self-discipline is by doing one single thing, the backdoor action of that activity. Then, once you do that, your brain will enter a curiosity pattern that forces it to continue.

For example, when I write an article, I always start with the working headline. This way, if I make it engaging enough, I become curious to find a good introduction. And then, once I write it, I inspect the content more in-depth. Until I get to draft the conclusion because I am a perfectionist.

The same pattern applies to many activities. If I want to go for a run, for example, I put on my running clothes and shoes. And running becomes a necessity.

So if you want to build self-discipline, find the backdoor actions of each habit, and start with that one thing.

5 — Count down.

Even if you find the backdoor action of your self-discipline activity that helps you start working, you could still drop out in the first minutes because your brain may still resist it. However, in this case, you can use the count-down technique to trick your mind into working a little more.

For example, when I want to write, I always set a timer of five minutes to write the headline. And that triggers the waterfall effect I explained earlier.

The same goes for running. When I get out, I promise to run for only ten minutes. And then I continue because my body feels great and charged up. If this doesn’t happen, I use another less restrictive count-down. And when that finishes, I still need to get back. So most of the time, I complete my running session even when I don’t want to.

Final Thoughts

If you want to start building self-discipline for a better life, there are the top 5 keys you need to master.

First, learn to meditate and use it to recognize daily patterns and feelings of your body. The more you get to know yourself, the easier it will be to remain disciplined.

Second, start with small habits and don’t push yourself too much too early. If you do, your body will resist adaptation and change nothing.

Also, remember to remain consistent. Consistency is the key to habit-building and, therefore, one of the secrets of self-discipline.

If you struggle getting started, find the backdoor action of each activity and finish that first. If you can make yourself work a little, your curiosity will drag you to the end of the task. And if you tend to renounce as soon as you start, use the count-down technique. Set a timer of a few minutes, and try to work until it runs off. Usually, this will highly improve the chances you finish the task.

These were the top 5 keys to building self-discipline I use daily to improve my life. But if you want a little more help to get started, you can download my free printable guide.


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Cover photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels.