Self-discipline is the one skill you need if you want to live a happy, meaningful, and fulfilled life.

When respected, self-disciplined behavior is extremely rewarding. When disrespected, it delivers the worst punishments.

If you run your own business, you are probably an example of self-discipline. But even the most resolute among us sometimes fail to follow through.

What makes self-discipline such a challenge and how can you increase it to achieve your business goals?

Watch #AsktheCEO E45 to learn more about self-discipline:

How to Increase Self-Discipline

Self-discipline denotes one’s inner mental strength: it is crucial for meeting your goals. 

The definition of self-discipline includes managing your emotions and weaknesses. Shortly, being disciplined is having the capacity to postpone short-term pleasure for long-term gains. Lack of self-discipline leads to self-sabotaging and procrastination. 

The number one reason people fail with self-discipline is running from discomfort. 

When you don’t want to do what “you’re supposed to do”, it is time to rethink your goals and find ways to simplify their achievement. Working on your self-discipline helps.  

5 Factors that Can Help You Improve Self-discipline  

If you struggle with self-discipline, it is key to consider the following five factors that affect it:

  • Self-awareness
  • Motivation
  • Habits
  • Stress
  • Relationships

how to increase self-discipline

Running away from pain and prioritizing pleasure is a natural human tendency. It is an instinct to seek that which is easy, familiar, and comfortable. However, too much pleasure and insufficient pain is not a good growth and development combination.

You can justify your lack of self-discipline with the saying: “Humans are creatures of habit.” 

But it takes consistent learned behavior to learn a habit. You can consciously develop healthy habits that increase self-discipline in the same way bad habits have become a part of your character unconsciously.

1. Practice self-awareness.

Knowing your strengths and weaknesses is a power you need to observe what ruins your efforts to stay disciplined. To build self-awareness, you can start with something as simple as meditation and journaling. Take psychometric tests and ask for feedback from trusted people to get a clearer, well-rounded picture of your strengths, weaknesses, and emotions. Self-awareness also helps you know your triggers to avoid them.  

Making self-care a part of your goals-habits routine helps with practicing self-awareness. Acceptance of and forgiveness for your undisciplined actions makes self-care that much easier.

2. Work on motivation.

Dopamine is largely known as the ‘reward molecule’ or the ‘pleasure molecule’. 

However,  dopamine-dependent motivational processes are quite complex. Dopamine releases in the brain during both positive and stressful experiences and interacts with environmental cues.

What we know is that dopamine has a role in temptations. Temptations that trigger dopamine release are difficult to avoid. Distracting environmental cues are everywhere. 

Remove temptations and distractions to stay focused. 

For example, if you know that drinking alcohol with your meal causes you to overeat and you want to maintain a healthy weight, don’t keep alcohol in the house.

If you want to build your dopamine muscle to increase self-discipline, work on motivation. Ask yourself why tasks that lead to your goals are important to you. In this way, you link goals to enjoyment. 

Learn how to eliminate distractions and stay focused on your goals.  

3. Develop a daily routine.

One of the best ways to build new habits and improve self-discipline is to set up a daily routine:

  • Define big clear goals
  • Separate big goals into smaller tasks
  • Schedule time for both pain and pleasure in your calendar (80% vs. 20%)

It is easy to get sidetracked by over-ambitious, lofty goals. They are part of the big picture and you can use them as a visualization exercise to stay motivated. The important thing is to make it easy for you. Set up realistic goals to stay motivated. Smaller goals with clear actions are the way to go. 

Learn how to use timeboxing to create a structure in your work day and improve self-discipline. 

4. Manage stress.

Stress and self-discipline have a bidirectional relationship of influence. 

If you are better at self-control, you are more likely to put yourself in situations that support your well-being and long-term goals. Furthermore, when you are stressed, you are prone to succumbing to instant gratification behaviors. Longer exposure to stress during childhood makes it more difficult to exert self-control as a grown-up. Stress can sabotage self-control

What you need to do is to improve learned resourcefulness, a character trait that helps you with the internal self-regulation of external events. Learned resourcefulness is a skill to manage emotions and cognitions that lead you to the desired behavior, and subsequently, desired goals.  

Listen to this week’s Virtual Frontier podcast to learn more:

5. Consider relationships. 

Finally, your social circle plays an important role in how you cope with self-discipline.

A supportive and encouraging circle of friends is more helpful than a bunch of Debbie Downers. The phenomenon of emotional contagion, an unconscious process, affects everyone in groups. Emotional contagion is the capacity to subconsciously absorb other people’s emotions, as well as return the favor. It affects work morale, productivity, and team efficacy

Working from home is one way to avoid being an emotional sponge for negative emotions. Being careful about the people you surround yourself with is another.

Build a self-managed team that shares your values, culture, and goals to increase self-discipline. 

self managed agency blueprint


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