Everyone working on important life goals wants to know how to increase self-discipline.

Self-discipline is the one skill you need if you want to live a happy, meaningful, and fulfilled life. Disciplined people overcome procrastination and laziness and follow through on their actions and commitments.

Developing personal discipline leads to success and improvement in all areas of your life, including getting rid of self-sabotaging behaviors such as addictions.

If you run your own business, you are probably an example of self-discipline.

But even the most resolute people sometimes fail to follow through. 

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

The solution lies in starting small and creating new habits as you go along. Let’s find out how to do that!

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

How to Build Discipline

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. A disciplined person has the capacity to postpone short-term pleasure for long-term gains. Lack of discipline leads to self-sabotaging and procrastination. 

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

Think about common goals people have when struggling with discipline such as losing weight or eating healthily. The short-term discomfort of missing a sugar-loaded meal or sweating at the gym takes priority. Why this happens so often? The short-term gain prevails because of the lack of awareness and motivation about long-lasting benefits.  Most people end up feeling bad after such a detour and their motivation for goal achievement diminishes even more. 

To achieve goals in any area of your life, it is necessary to build awareness and motivation about what you invest in the long term.

Discipline is about doing the right thing, the thing you know is good for you, the thing you’re supposed to do.

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. Understanding why you fail with self-discipline helps.  

how to increase self-discipline

5 Factors that Affect Self-discipline  

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

  • Self-awareness: having a conscious knowledge of your character, strengths, and failings.  
  • Motivation: The reasoning behind your behavior – why do you behave in such a way?
  • Habits: Ingrained tendencies to behave in a certain way, usually hard to break and often unconscious. 
  • Stress: Real or perceived threats about external demands that are stronger than your internal capabilities.
  • Relationships: How you connect to other people.

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 discipline with the saying: “Humans are creatures of habit.” 

But it takes consistent practicing of behavior to learn a habit. 

You can consciously develop healthy habits that increase self-discipline in the same way bad habits have unconsciously become a part of your character.

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
  • For self-awareness, it also helps if you know your triggers to avoid them.  
  • Write down your goals and priorities to clarify them and strengthen the neural pathways for building new habits to achieve those goals.
  • Making self-care a part of your goals-habits routine helps with practicing self-awareness.
  • Acceptance, forgiveness, and compassion for your disorderly actions make self-care that much easier.
  • Consider how you come across to other people to build a supportive environment.

Instead of feeling bad when you fail to meet a goal, embrace the small mistakes and celebrate every new action that positively impacts your discipline. 

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

Work on motivation.

Dopamine is largely known as the ‘reward molecule’ or the ‘pleasure molecule’. The molecule plays a crucial role in choosing what’s good or bad for you and is key for motivational control. 

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 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. Set small goals you can measure and create routines. 

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

Develop a daily routine.


One of the best ways to build new habits and improve discipline is to set up a daily routine. Dedicate to the routine without constantly checking upon the goals. Check them periodically. 

As athletes say: “Just show up.”

The rest will follow.  

  • Define clear big goals
  • Separate big goals into smaller goals
  • Create action tasks to accomplish 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 ingredient for better self-discipline is to make it easy for you. Set up realistic goals to stay motivated. Smaller goals with clear actions are the way to go.

Manage stress.

Stress and self-discipline have a bidirectional relationship. 

If you are better at self-control and emotional self-regulation, you are more likely to put yourself in situations that support your well-being and long-term goals. 

In contrast,  when you are stressed, you are prone to instant gratification behaviors. Instant gratification soothes discomfort immediately, but it harms healthy habits.

The roots for this may stem from your childhood. 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, which is 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. 

The opposite of learned resourcefulness is learned helplessness, a character trait that arises from past traumatic events that have led to failure, often multiple times. 

Therefore, stepping into your power to develop self-discipline requires you to set small achievable goals you can measure to build up a new history of success.  

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 affects everyone in your closest groups. 

Emotional contagion is the capacity to subconsciously absorb other people’s emotions, as well as to return the favor. Emotional contagion affects work morale, productivity, and team efficacy both positively and negatively. 

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. Therefore, it is crucial to build a work team that shares values, culture, and goals if you were to increase discipline. 

A digital environment also needs to be supportive to foster discipline. Discipline is even more important if you want to develop a leadership role in a digital leadership system. 

How to Create a Support Culture for Work Discipline 

Here are seven principles that show you embody work discipline and lead by example:

  1. Presence. Show yourself in the workplace, including online.
  2. Communication. Ask questions and provide answers when necessary.
  3. Time. Dedicate the right number of hours to work relationships.
  4. Self-awareness. Develop knowledge about your work strengths and weaknesses.
  5. Support culture. Offer assistance and know when to ask for one.
  6. Integrity. Stay true to your words and committed to your actions. 
  7. Appreciation. Treat every employee with respect.

Develop a laser-sharp focus on your goals.

Learn how to increase self-discipline with the flash focus framework. Click below to access it for free!

free flash focus framework


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