The Undisciplined Top 5 Ways of Building Self-Discipline

It is my dirty little secret that I’m not disciplined.

I haven’t been a disciplined person and it doesn’t come easily for me.

Rather, for most of my life I’ve kind of fought with discipline. Discipline, for me, becomes at odds with freedom and autonomy. It goes against my messy nature. The natural go with the flow that I have in me that is pushed down by my knowledge that you can’t just go with the flow in the lackadaisical way and actually get to where you want to go.

I wasn’t raised with much discipline. Plenty of punishment very little discipline. So, it doesn’t come naturally to me.

Being half way through my life it would be silly to bring this all up in a effort to place any sort of blame on my parents. I don’t. While I may not have come from or raised in an environment that provided me a positive example of discipline – it’s my life and my responsibility to grow in skill in the areas that I find important.

What I’ve come to realize is that discipline doesn’t have to be at odds with freedom and autonomy when they are a choice. When being disciplined about a subject leads to a positive habit. When it leads to meeting a goal I’ve set for myself.

It is because of freedom that I can choose to be disciplined about something important to me. And through that discipline I can gain freedom of time and choice in other aspects of my life. It is a skill to be wielded as I choose and not a personality trait to covet and give self talk to that I’m just not good at.

When you get up close and personal with my work you see that it is quite messy. I employ certain process and organizational methods that allow for work to get done that has the same appearance as being disciplined. I’m constantly working to improve and adjust my habits to better serve my goals. Because I know I have to put that energy into those habits in order to get done what needs to be done.

This is something, given what I do, that I shouldn’t talk about. Being self-disciplined is an important trait that we look for in others. It is one certainly that I look up to and admire when I see it. And as a coach and leader it almost seems foolish to admit.

And it is wrong of me to say that I have no self discipline. My life would be a right old mess if I couldn’t ever buckle down and overcome. And there is a certain aspect of discipline that I have grown a great deal of skill in.

Yet, I know this one isn’t a natural personality trait for me and it is one that seemingly everyone talks like they have it down. Especially those that are leaders or who practice personal development.

Take it from me -someone who has had a lifetime struggle with discipline and works regularly to build this skill – it isn’t easy but it is worth it. And I if I can do it, well, probably anyone can do it.

Here are my top five ways to overcome those impulses, feelings, and overindulgence that continually get in the way of accomplishment.

Remove temptations

Limit access to what is tempting you. Remove whatever it is from being around you. This may not be an all time solution, but especially in the beginning remove those temptations.  It may be tough to say no when it is right in front of you. So reduce the need to dig deep and tough it out. If those temptations are around you, it is so much easier with access to slip when your resolve bends.

Don’t wait for it to feel right or to get in the mood

Our feelings are fickle. They want to protect us from feeling bad. And that protection in fact can lead to a cycle where that protection method makes us feel worse. When we are trying to do something new, or something we don’t like to do, our feelings get in the way. They are trying to protect us from something that could harm us. If you wait for the mood on something that you may say you want to do, but really just want the results from doing the thing, you feelings may be getting in the way. The first step is to remove the self talk of ‘not feeling in the mood’ to do something.

Forget motivation

It’s important to know your motivations and to use them as the reason for action. The why you want to do the thing is important. While, on the other hand, waiting to be motivated is a bad move. It’s very close to waiting to get in the mood. Waiting for an external source to give you an internal feeling that makes it easier to take action – that definitely isn’t taking responsibility for your actions or in this case, inaction.

Plan for action

Limit your planning time. Thinking and planning is vital to success but don’t let it get in the way. Your plan needs to support quick action. Something that can be done today to get things going. Too many times, we plan and plan, and don’t build real sustainable action into the plan. Remove barriers to action and get on with it.

Keep it simple

This is always good advice. I should probably stick on everyone of my top 5 lists. Simplicity is genius. The world is complicated enough. Don’t make it harder than it needs to be to take action and stick with a thing. Find the easiest way to keep up with whatever you are trying to be more disciplined about.

As an example, for me, I like to use my calendar. It tells me everything that I need to know. I’m very disciplined about following my calendar, so I know that any new thing I’m trying to make happen and that requires discipline means that it probably has to either be incorporated into my calendar or not be at odds with my calendar.

  • If my Top 5 Ways of Building Self-Discipline don’t do it for you, here is a good article by Deep Patel writing for

  • Along with Self-Discipline – Self Management is a great trait to have especially in our WFH world or if you ever want to lead others, first you have to lead yourself.

  • Will is one of my favorites to listen to talk about self-discipline. Great way to start the First Monday of the New Year.

SELF DISCIPLINE – Best Motivational Speech Video (Featuring Will Smith)

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