Building Self-Discipline

From a young age, we have been told about the virtues of self-discipline. “If you wait to eat that marshmallow you will get another one later!” But it is difficult to understand until later in life when you have been able test the benefits of hard work and delayed gratification. So what exactly is self-discipline and why is it important for students? Self-discipline is the ability to get yourself to take action regardless of your emotional state. It involves acting according to what you think instead of how you feel and often involves sacrificing the pleasure of the moment for the benefit of your future. The following are some tips to help improve your self-discipline.

Know yourself

Whether you want to increase your GPA, make the varsity soccer team, or just improve overall focus in class, you need to be aware of what you are doing and what you are not doing. If you are not aware that your behavior is undisciplined, how will you know to act otherwise? This process requires introspection and self-analysis, and is most effective when written. Start by writing out your goals and ambitions.

Set a routine

Rather than devoting a number of hours one day and none on other days to a certain activity, allocate a specific time period each day of the week for a task. Apply this technique to your homework and projects. For example, tell yourself that you will do your math homework every day from 4-5pm. The key is to start by completing tasks in small increments and not all at once. Once you develop a habit, it will do your work for you.

Write down tasks for each day

At the start of each day, spend a few minutes writing down the tasks that you want to accomplish for the day. Prioritize the list and immediately start working on the most important one. Try it for a few days to see if the routine works for you. When you have a clear idea as to what you want to achieve for the day at its start, it is likely that you will accomplish the tasks.


One trick to help improve discipline is to associate a new habit with an old one. For example, if you drink a glass of orange juice every morning, use that same block of time in the morning to write out your tasks for the day. Another method is to track your progress. On your calendar or daily planner, check off days you successfully complete your tasks. If you break the routine, start over. See how many consecutive days you can follow through. Seeing this visually will help reinforce your hard work. Lastly, observe friends and colleagues that have good self-discipline habits and see how their habits help them accomplish their goals. Ask them for advice on what works, what does not.

Self-discipline is analogous to a muscle, the more you train it, the stronger you become. The less you train it, the weaker you become. It is just one of many of your personal development tools and it can be a powerful teammate when combined with other tools like passion, goal-setting, and planning.

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