How to Build Self-Discipline Into Your Personal and Professional Life

Kim Monaghan

How to Build Self-Discipline Into Your Personal and Professional Life

Accountability, mental strength and self-discipline all go hand in hand. These are critical habits to hone for success and happiness. Why? Well if you want to make any marked progress in your career and life, you need to hold yourself accountable, be disciplined in your actions and have the mental strength to push through obstacles and set backs. 

“Self-discipline is defined as ‘the ability to control one’s feelings and overcome one’s weaknesses; the ability to pursue what one thinks is right despite temptations to abandon it,’” says Emma Watterson, civilian government employee for the Navy’s Environmental Division and a holistic health coach. 

“It is important because if you want to achieve a goal or be successful, you must have self-discipline to push through tough times and focus, starting with the end in mind.”

Endurance athletes understand self-discipline very well. They also know that their success in their game is more mental than physical. 

“When you stay focused on achieving a goal, getting rid of distractions, you can accomplish goals much more quickly and successfully,” says Emma. While athletes have trained their bodies through hard work, exercise and a strict diet, they’ve worked incredibly hard to train their minds. They know that only through sacrifice comes reward. “Watch how athletes and coaches train,” suggests Emma. “Mirror them and duplicate. Ask them questions. Remember, you are seeing them on their page 500. Ask them what it was like on their page one, and what were the most valuable lessons they learned/mistakes they made along the way to achieve their goals.” 

Motivational guru Brian Tracy states that 80% of the population lives on “Someday Isle” most of the time where they spend their time with others just like them, swapping excuses all day long. He also urges us to “stop using our incredible brain power to think up elaborate rationalizations and justifications for not taking action.” He also offers what I consider the best definition of self-discipline: “The ability to do what you should do, when you should do it, whether you feel like it or not.” And this takes practice. 

“Like any habit or skill, practice is key,” says Emma. “Make a timeline or task list and stay organized and prepared. Start with simple tasks. When you feel your mind or thoughts drifting or yourself being distracted, take a deep breath and continue the task at hand. Practice makes perfect. Make a list of priorities or a task list to achieve a goal. They say it takes 21 days to form a habit.” 

Influencers, both inside and out, directly affect your discipline. Sometimes your inner critic plays with your confidence and you experience doubt and then go off track. Sometimes hormones, that you can’t control, will spiral you into a funk. Sometimes people will say hurtful things, or you will have a bad day, projects will fail, the boss will be angry, the client will complain, storms will come. “Self-discipline helps you stay focused on a goal,” reminds Emma. You can only be in control of your actions and your attitude. Learning self-discipline will also help get you around the right people and be in the right place at the right time. 

We also have triggers that toy with our emotions—much of life is out of our control. Routinely practicing self-discipline will help so that when your mind goes to these dark places, you are disciplined (like a finely tuned athlete) to instantly turn away from these negative thoughts. Like training for a marathon, this isn’t easy, but with steady and continuous progress you’ll be able to tap into self-discipline and more readily push past the darkness. 

“If you fall off the bandwagon, dust yourself off and get right back on,” says Emma. “Don’t beat yourself up. Self-discipline helps keep a positive mental attitude and the will to keep going, even when the going gets tough.” She recommends finding support with a coach, a colleague or a friend to help you stay accountable and build your skill of discipline. “Listening, taking good notes, mirroring and duplicating those who are successful and are where you want to be in life,” says Emma.  

No matter what is important to you—work/life balance, professional success, a healthier body, finishing a degree, winning an athletic competition or even earning others’ trust and committing to seeing a project through—it takes discipline. 

“If you want to achieve a goal or be successful, you must have self-discipline to push through tough times,” says Emma. “Always start with the end in mind. When you’re self-disciplined, you accomplish more in a shorter period of time. You remain focused and reliable and people know they can count on you.”  

Kim Monaghan, PCC, RYT, CPBS is the owner of KBM Coaching & Consulting LLC, a boutique Human Resources Consulting and Career Coaching Firm serving a national clientele. 

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*Always consult with your physician prior to experimenting with any exercises, recipes, health advice and nutrition initiatives shared in this blog.