Develop Discipline and Go Get It! (whatever your “it” is)

My alarm chimed me awake at 6:33, and I turned it off. Not even snooze. I’m too tired to get up for yoga today… I went to bed too late… Sleeping is just as important as exercising… 

But of course, I didn’t even fall back asleep. By 6:55 I was checking Facebook, and by 7:13 I was responding to the “mommy!” call coming from my toddler’s room. The window of opportunity was closed.

A comfy bed is so hard to leave. "Ballard // messy bed" by Ellie LoNardo on Flickr

A comfy bed is so hard to leave. “Ballard // messy bed” by Ellie LoNardo on Flickr

Being disciplined about a good yoga regimen is a constant struggle for me, despite knowing how it invigorates me. Once life normalized post-holidays, I committed to getting up early (and therefore, going to bed early) so that I could do a quick 25 minutes in the morning.

I’ve been decent about it, but EVERY morning, I’m still making a choice. It’s just not at that mindless, routine, habitual level yet. I’m still working towards the discipline.

Self-discipline feels like a near-mythical trait to many people. They believe that it (and its many iterations–will-power, strength, resolve, etc) is either something you have or don’t have. But studies show that it’s a skill–some people may be more naturally inclined, but anyone can learn and develop strategies to achieve it. And like a muscle that you can gain, it can atrophy through neglect.

Work that discipline muscle! "Dumbells" by Garen Meguerian on Flickr

Work that discipline muscle! “Dumbells” by Garen Meguerian on Flickr

So how do you cultivate and keep it? Here’s what works for me:


When I complete small, ancillary tasks ahead of time, it’s more likely I’ll be successful when I get to the main task. When I set out my yoga mat and clothes the night before, it’s much easier to get out of bed in the morning than if I have to gather everything in the darkness when the rest of the house is still asleep. Taking a few steps out of the process before I even have the option of quitting really helps me get over the hump of starting.

Find helpful tools

Part of developing good discipline can also be about finding the right tools to help. I like a good planner, and am eagerly awaiting the arrival of my Passion Planner! Sometimes a good “tool” is a person that can provide advice if you’re out of your depth. Of course, no object or person is going to do the work for you–it’s still up to you in the end, but these things can release some of the burden or help keep you on task.

Build in Accountability

When I was a student, I could procrastinate an assignment for weeks, but the deadline and threat of a grade ensured that I would write the paper, even if it meant pulling an all-nighter. But now? Most of my goals and to-dos are for myself and monitored only by me. I need to create some measure of outside accountability.

Depending on the goal, you may be able to join a group of others working toward the same goal, or you might find a friend or family member to keep you on task. I’m knackered on Monday evening after getting my kid to sleep, but my husband always encourages me to get out to write. It’s very helpful and I’m always much happier when I’ve pushed myself (or let myself be pushed) out the door!

"6:30am Start the Day" by Jacqueline on Flickr (text added)

“6:30am Start the Day” by Jacqueline on Flickr (text added)

Keep your eye on the big picture

I find this especially useful for fitness or money goals, which are often sabotaged by immediate gratification. You’re trying to save for a house, but that cute sweater (and the sale price) is just speaking to you.

Find ways to keep the bigger goals in view. I take a near-daily browse on to remind myself why it’s worth it to keep the credit card stashed. It’s only slightly torturous 🙂

What do you do to cultivate self-discipline and reach your goals?

13 responses to “Develop Discipline and Go Get It! (whatever your “it” is)

  1. I loved this post! You only reach your goals through practice and persistence. For me it takes a lot of aiding tools to get things done and a lot of planning is required but what definitely keeps me going is looking at the bigger picture! I have just re-started working out and it is not easy to get back into it. However, this post has inspired me 🙂

  2. Great post! I had been letting myself “sleep in” a lot lately and this morning, I forced myself out of bed at 6:00am. It’s nice seeing others with the same morning struggle as myself.

    I am going to check at that journal you mentioned. I’m in the market for one.

    • Yeah, it’s funny because I consider myself a morning person, but especially with a kid now, I value sleep so much that it’s tough to get up. I had to force myself this morning too!

  3. Such a great post 🙂 I absolutely loved it.
    I myself use a hoard of sticky notes. . .for almost everything.
    I literally put a sticky not on my snooze button to remind me to get my workout done.

  4. Good advice! Staying disciplined doesn’t come naturally to me given that I’m secretly quite lazy 😦 I’ve recently started working out semi regularly but it’s an uphill battle sticking with the routine!

    • Haha, yeah… I think a lot of us are “secretly” lazy. Actually, I always find it interesting that even people who I think are amazingly focussed and productive will call themselves lazy. You know–we’re our own harshest critics and all that! Thanks for commenting 🙂

  5. I find persistence a great way to naturally get the routine going and being true and listening to the voice within 🙂

    What a great post, the parts I LOVE are ALL OF ‘IT’


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