Whatever you want to do—from exercising to creating work-life balance—you need self-discipline. If you work on yourself, you can achieve everything. Harnessing self-discipline quickly is the key to creating a consistent growth and personal development routine. Without the strength of mind, it’s hard to develop and maintain any habits at all, including the one that you’re working on to establish self-control.
This plan for building self-discipline in 10 days can help you get on a roll. Once you’ve established a solid baseline, it will be easier to keep up the momentum.
What Is Self-Discipline?
Self-discipline is related to control, self-mastery, restraint, and willpower. It’s the ability to stick to your path no matter what’s going on around you. However, it’s more than that.
To have self-discipline, you need to be intricately connected with your personal desires and needs. You must have an inventory of what’s good for you and what you want to achieve. Then, you need the will to pursue those things regardless of the temptations that threaten to pull you off track.
Have you ever heard someone say that they just don’t have self-discipline or willpower? For example, this belief might come up when you watch a friend pass up dessert because they’re on a diet.
If you tell yourself that you don’t have that kind of willpower, you’re limiting your potential. You might never take on opportunities that could prove to be successful because you don’t believe that you have the perseverance to succeed.
For example, you might want to go back to school after having kids, but you tell yourself that you don’t have the discipline to study. You want to become strong and fit, but you say that you don’t have the self-discipline to exercise regularly. You want to quit smoking, but you believe that you just don’t have the willpower to kick the habit.
Fortunately, self-discipline isn’t a characteristic that you’re born with. It’s a skill that you must learn and can develop over time. Everyone has the potential to build self-discipline. However, you do have to get off the couch and make an effort to work on your willpower.
You also have the ability to do this. If you’ve ever set a resolution or made a wish, you have the potential for self-discipline. People create New Year’s resolutions because they understand that they have the power to create their own lives. They just may not have the skill to follow through.
That’s what we’re here to help you learn. This guide can help you live authentically and stay motivated to do what you know is right for you even when you don’t feel like it.
Self-discipline helps you make the transition from dreaming and visioning to doing and accomplishing. When you have self-discipline, you know what you want and where you want to go. You don’t respond impulsively to your emotions. Instead, you make rational decisions and choose what’s right for you as often as possible. As a result, you tend to be more satisfied with your life.
Use these steps to harness your self-discipline in 10 days.
Day 1: Evaluation Day
Any time you want to make a change, what do you usually do? When you’re really adamant about shifting the way that you live, you commit and take immediate action. That’s a great way to avoid procrastination and prevent your limiting beliefs from taking over. However, it’s not always the best path to lasting change.
That’s because you don’t really know what needs to change if you don’t understand what’s going on at the present moment. As you evaluate who and where you are, you can ask yourself the following questions:
- What are my strengths?
- What are my weaknesses?
- What are my values?
- Who am I?
This is an excellent time to become brutally honest with yourself. If you don’t admit that you have flaws, you’ll never change them.
For example, perhaps you tell yourself that you could choose to stop obsessively scrolling through social media at any time. Your excuse for continuing to check your timeline as frequently as you do is that you want to stay connected and don’t want to deprive yourself of that pleasure.
What if you just admitted that social media was your weakness? You’d be more likely to develop positive habits that are more productive and fulfilling than scrolling through social media.
If you want to have self-control, you have to understand what habits you want to break and which ones you want to take on. You’ll never be able to eliminate adverse patterns in your life if you don’t admit that they exist.
Are you having trouble becoming aware of your weaknesses? Try monitoring your thoughts and behaviors for the day. Keep a notebook handy, or make use of the notes app on your phone.
As you go about your day, make a note of every time that you do something that goes against your desire or instinct. Maybe you know that you should really work on that project instead of taking an hour-long lunch break with your work buddy, but you go to lunch anyway. Then, you end up stressed out because you have to work late.
If you can, try to record the thought process that went into taking this action. Perhaps you told yourself something like:
- I’ll have time to do that later
- I don’t mind working late
- I’d rather have fun now than save it for later
Keep track of any fears that come up while you go about your day. In the scenario above, perhaps you told yourself that you didn’t think you would do an excellent job on the project anyway. Therefore, you didn’t mind rushing it at the last minute.
Your fears often sabotage your self-discipline. Here are some examples of how that works:
- If you have trouble losing weight, perhaps you’re afraid of the attention that you’ll receive.
- If you can’t stop smoking, maybe you’re worried that you won’t have another way of coping with stress or getting some alone time.
- If you aren’t motivated to work on your novel, you might be scared that you’ll be rejected when you submit it to a publisher.
Becoming aware of your fears gives you a chance to address them. Doing this also allows you to develop some self-discipline practices surrounding them. For example, if you’re afraid that your book is going to be rejected, you can come up with a solid plan for submitting it so that you don’t have an excuse to avoid the process.
Day 2: Create a Plan
It helps to start small when you’re developing your self-discipline habit. Choose one area of your life that you’d like to improve. Draw from the exercise that you did yesterday to determine where you’d like to begin.
You might want to choose one weakness to work on. Look at the limiting beliefs surrounding that issue. How does it affect your life? How do you currently behave concerning that weakness? How would you like to change it?
Some ideas for areas in which you could improve your self-discipline include:
- Waking up earlier
- Exercising consistently
- Eating more vegetables
- Being more communicative with your partner
- Sticking to a budget
- Becoming a better listener
Once you know what you want to work on, set some goals. They should be clear, specific and measurable. If you’d like to wake up earlier, your goal may be to get up as soon as your alarm rings for 10 days. If you want to exercise consistently, your goal may be to go for a 20-minute walk every other day for 10 days.
The plan that you create should be independent of the plan that we set up in this article. Continue to work through each day of this self-discipline routine as you execute your personal plan. In this article, we help you create the habits that will allow you to be consistent with your regimen.
As you write out your plan to improve a particular behavior or action, consider the following suggestions:
- Make room for preparation and transitions. For example, if you’re planning to wake up earlier, have an idea of what you’re going to do as soon as you get out of bed. Setting the coffee to brew the night before can help.
- Create a backup plan. What if you decide to take a walk, but the weather is crummy? Make sure you have written down an option for what you’re going to do instead.
- Don’t break the chain. Jerry Seinfeld is known for developing a productivity hack that helped him build self-discipline. He would mark a calendar every time he did a habit that he wanted to be consistent with. The idea is that you end up continuing the behavior just because you don’t want to break the chain. Consider creating your calendar for the 10 days to boost your potential for success.
Day 3: Find Your Why
Now that you’ve become clear on your current situation, what needs to change and how you’re going to change it, you need to do some extra work to remind yourself of why this change is essential.
Why is self-discipline important to you in the first place? Perhaps you have a lot of raw talent but feel like you don’t put it to good use. Could self-discipline help you finally achieve those goals that have discouraged you in the past?
Why do you want to change the specific habit that you made a plan to adjust? Discovering your why makes your plan more fulfilling. It reminds you of its importance even when you have moments of self-doubt or lack of motivation.
When you know why you do what you do, you can restore your passion at any given moment. All you have to do is come back to the reason that it lights you up.
Why do you want to wake up earlier? Some reasons might be:
- To have a few moments to yourself before everyone else in the family wakes up
- To give yourself a breath before rushing into your to-dos for the day
- To work on your novel
- To do something leisurely that you love before going to work
Write down your why, and reference it often. It gives you inspiration and purpose, and it can refresh your self-discipline when you’re feeling less than motivated.
Day 4: Remove Temptations
You can set yourself up for success by removing the option to make poor decisions. Whenever possible, remove the temptation that can derail your self-control.
This might mean that you use an app to block distracting websites that are preventing you from getting your work done. You might need to remove the batteries from your remote so that you do something productive instead of watching TV at night. If you’re trying to avoid drinking alcohol or eating junk food, don’t keep it in your house.
You can’t always get rid of every temptation. For example, it can be tough to get out of bed when the alarm rings when you’re snuggled up in your comforter. You’re probably not going to sleep on a board just to make it easier to rise an hour earlier.
When you can’t remove temptation, take action as quickly as possible. Otherwise, your brain might try to convince you that you should go against your self-discipline. Mel Robbins calls this the five-second rule.
Next time you’re driving past the gym and the ice cream shop across the street is calling to you, count backward from five to one. Then, take the action that supports your goal.
Drive to the gym and get inside as quickly as possible. Get out of bed on the count of five after your alarm goes off. Use action to avoid temptation.
Day 5: Fuel Up
Willpower is a limited resource. After a good night of sleep, you begin the day with plenty of self-control. But as you use it up, willpower becomes harder and harder to harness.
Some experts believe that willpower can be depleted. The more you use it up, the less you have of it later on. When you go back to sleep, though, you replenish it because you go for eight hours or so without having to worry about it.
This concept explains why you have so much trouble saying no to that after-dinner dessert even though you kept up with your diet so easily at breakfast. You may not have as much willpower in the afternoon as you do in the morning.
It’s also why you should remove temptations from your life. If you don’t have cookies in the pantry, you won’t have to use your willpower to avoid eating them.
Although some researchers have come up with contradictory evidence to the willpower-depletion theory, most agree that you have to fuel up to prevent yourself from slipping away from self-discipline. In one study, scientists found that people could boost their willpower and motivation by swishing a sugar-laden drink in their mouths. Doing this fooled the brain into thinking that it had the energy to persevere.
Regardless of what the science says about willpower, it’s crucial to fuel up when you have to practice self-discipline. In other words, make sure that you’re taking appropriate self-care measures. We all have to exert some self-discipline every day.
Eat healthfully, make sure that you get enough sleep and do activities that you love when you can. Depriving yourself will make it physically and mentally more difficult to exert the self-control that you need to succeed.
Day 6: Practice Stillness
In day 1, you learned that your mind can sabotage you with limiting beliefs. We are so used to listening to the excuses that our brains make up that we aren’t always aware that it’s happening. Even if we recognize what’s going on, we often feel helpless to control our thoughts.
Instead of trying to control your thinking, consider practicing stillness to create a more peaceful mental state. One of the best ways to do this is to meditate. Meditation doesn’t necessarily allow you to control your thoughts, but it makes them less influential.
In other words, you don’t get distracted by the chatter that threatens to steer you off course. When your inner voice tells you that you can skip the gym, you learn how to watch that thought move along. Meditation teaches you how to be an observer instead of a pawn of your thoughts.
A meditation practice is also a metaphor for the self-discipline that you’re trying to harness. When you begin your practice, you might notice a lot of resistance. It’s not easy to sit still for several minutes. It’s equally as difficult to keep your mind from wandering off.
The more you practice, the better you’ll get at creating inner peace. You’ll also develop self-discipline skills that you can extend to everything else in your life.
Day 7: Focus on Baby Steps
Quitting bad habits cold turkey isn’t ideal for everyone. Although you can achieve great strides in a relatively short time, you can get burned out or discouraged if you attempt too much too quickly. Also, setting a lofty self-discipline goal can dishearten you from the beginning if it seems too grand to achieve.
Try thinking in terms of baby steps with your goals. If you want to be able to wake up an hour earlier next month, start by setting your alarm five minutes earlier tomorrow.
When you accomplish what you set out to achieve, celebrate. You don’t have to wait until you have a significant breakthrough to reward yourself. Patting yourself on the back or treating yourself for small wins can help you be consistent with your self-discipline.
Day 8: Take Daily Action
Do you wait for inspiration to hit before you take action? Inspiration helps you harness creative energy. It’s invigorating and helps you take action. But it’s not always part of daily life.
To establish self-discipline, you must be able to take action even when you don’t feel like it. Doing the things that you know are good for you even when you’re not inspired is one of the best ways to practice self-discipline.
If you set up a plan in day 2, you should be primed for this step. You have probably been working toward your plan up until now anyway. The other suggestions that we’ve made in this article, such as fueling up, removing temptations and practicing baby steps, should make it easier to take the action that’s necessary for enhancing your self-control.
Don’t compromise on this. If you feel like giving up, tell yourself that you’re only doing this for 10 days. Anyone can do that. You can always stop after the 10-day period is up if it’s really not working for you. Taking consistent action prevents you from letting excuses take over when you know what’s good for you.
Some tips for taking action even when you’re not inspired include:
- Tell yourself you’ll do something for two minutes. This is similar to the 2-minute rule developed by James Clear. Once you’ve begun the process, you’re likely to continue. If you don’t, there’s no harm done. At least you tried.
- Give yourself a reward if you complete the tasks that you’re putting off.
- Ask a friend or loved one to be an accountability partner so that you have to report to them if you didn’t complete your plan for the day.
Action isn’t always going to feel inspired. Sometimes, you have to force it. However, eventually, you overcome the resistance and fall into a flow state. That’s when inspired action happens. That’s the magic formula that feels extremely purposeful and fulfilling and tells the universe that you’re doing what’s necessary to stay on the right track.
If you keep taking action for 10 days and just aren’t feeling it, perhaps this isn’t the time to develop self-discipline around the specific issue that you’re working on. Let it go for a while, and try something else. You can do everything that you want to do; you just can’t do it all at once.
Day 9: Go Over it Again
Nobody is perfect. You might not achieve your goal the first time that you try for it. Don’t be discouraged by missteps or fiascos—they’re bound to happen. In his book “The Talent Code,” Daniel Coyle says that most people have to go over something seven times to really learn it. Therefore, if you’re trying to learn how to become more self-disciplined, don’t be surprised if you have to return to the same lesson repeatedly.
Instead of telling yourself that you’ve failed, remind yourself that you’re learning. Go back to your goals and rework them if you have to. Don’t be afraid to adjust your plan and shift your actions.
Get comfortable with discomfort. Change is inherently uncomfortable. Eventually, becoming more self-disciplined should help you experience life more smoothly. However, it might feel awkward and unpleasant at first. That feeling means that you’re growing.
If you do make mistakes, forgive yourself and move forward. You might let your good eating habits slide when you go on vacation. You can always start from day 1 if you’ve gotten off track. Fortunately, if you’ve been following along with the steps in this article, you always have a reset button to push.
Day 10: Be Determined and Patient
Although you can develop self-discipline in 10 days, you have to keep up the habit if you want it to stick. Determination and patience are vital for maintaining your self-discipline.
During the first 10 days, you’ve probably been excited about the prospect of self-development. You’ve addressed your willpower, and you’ve been working on it. Your self-control isn’t likely to be tested during this time frame as much as it will later on when you’ve lost some of the excitement or life gets in the way. That’s when you really get to practice.
At some point, you’ll hit an obstacle. You might be tempted to give up. You might not even realize that you get thrown off of your path.
When this happens, you can pull from everything that you’ve learned and worked on to persevere. If you struggle to maintain your self-discipline, return to one of the previous steps. Pick up where you left off. Remember what you learned on day 9.
Self-discipline is not created overnight. Like any other skill, it takes time to develop and refine.
As you gain self-control in certain areas, take what you’ve learned and apply it to other facets of your life. For example, the experience that you’ve had kicking some bad habits can be used to stop procrastinating at work or learn other new skills.
Life is an ongoing lesson in self-discipline. Even if you feel like you’ve mastered this art, your skills will continue to be tested. Remember to visualize your long-term goals and remember your why. When you live authentically and pursue your purpose, you will find it easier to keep up your self-discipline.