8 rules disciplined people live by (and never compromise on)

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Making a list of goals is easy – what’s difficult is being disciplined enough to achieve them.

Discipline is perhaps the biggest factor in achieving any sort of big goal.

After all, success never happens overnight.

To your reach your potential, you need to carve your own path via daily habits that set you up for success.

Here are 8 things disciplined people live by.

1. They implement a system

We set goals because we want a result. That’s natural.

But a common problem is that we become so focused on the result that we lose sight of the actions we need to take to get us there.

The truth is this:

Goals don’t deliver results. Habits do. Disciplined people focus on implementing habits that allow them to eventually achieve their goals. 

For example, say you have a goal of reading more books.

Instead of immediately trying to finish a book as quickly as you can (and getting discouraged when you realize how long it takes), you can instead implement a new habit that allows you to get there.

If you read 10 pages a day for a full year then that’s 3650 pages a year, which is about 12 books.

You eventually achieve your goal because you implemented a small habit of reading 10 pages a day.

It’s great to have goals, but the majority of your energy should be dedicated to the habits that will help you achieve those goals.

James Clear, in his book, Atomic Habits, says it best:

“The purpose of setting goals is to win the game. The purpose of building systems is to continue playing the game. True long-term thinking is goal-less thinking. It’s not about any single accomplishment. It is about the cycle of endless refinement and continuous improvement. Ultimately, it is your commitment to the process that will determine your progress.”

2. Small gains add up

Disciplined people understand that small gains add up. This is how they’re able to stay disciplined, even when it might appear they’re not improving. 

They know that achieving big goals doesn’t happen quickly.

You achieve your big things by slowly getting better every single day.

James Clear explains how slowly improving becomes very meaningful in the long run:

“Meanwhile, improving by 1 percent isn’t particularly notable—sometimes it isn’t even noticeable—but it can be far more meaningful, especially in the long run. The difference a tiny improvement can make over time is astounding. Here’s how the math works out: if you can get 1 percent better each day for one year, you’ll end up thirty-seven times better by the time you’re done. Conversely, if you get 1 percent worse each day for one year, you’ll decline nearly down to zero. What starts as a small win or a minor setback accumulates into something much more.”

3. Don’t give up

Do you give up on your goals way too soon?

Most people quit when they face difficulties.

Discplined people don’t. They stay committed, even when the going gets tough. 

Anything that’s worth achieving will always encounter some level of difficulty.

If your goal is to read more books and you’ve committed to reading 10 pages a day, it’s important to realize that it’s not always going to be easy.

Some days you’ll be tired, unmotivated and the last thing your brain will want to do is read…

But if you want to be successful you need to have discipline.

Stick to the plan. Don’t give up. Everything takes time, but if you stick at it you’ll get to where you want to get to.

4. They Stay Focused

Contrary to popular belief, multitasking isn’t only ineffective but also produces lesser quality work.

By tackling a problem one at a time, you’re able to give your absolute best effort and energy to accomplish it.

Disciplined people are focused on their work and themselves only.

According to Shane Snow, bestselling author of Smartcuts: How Hackers, Innovators, and Icons Accelerate Success, successful people tend to focus intently on a tiny number of things:

“There are a lot of great inventors and improvers in the world. But those who hack world-class success tend to be the ones who can focus relentlessly on a tiny number of things. In other words, to soar, we need to simplify.”

Getting into the cycle of comparison may be productive on the surface — understanding what can be done better — but getting caught up will lead to emotional and mental stress along the way.

So disciplined people stay in their lane and focus on what they can do.

The energy spent comparing oneself to another person could be better allocated to making oneself better.

5. Take responibility

We all have excuses we could use in life. Nobody is born with zero challenges.

Even the son of a rich tycoon born with a silver spoon in his mouth may have trouble making friends, or a health problem that makes his life a pain.

But disciplined people don’t make excuses.

They take the cards they’re dealt and play them to maximum effect.

They make their dreams come true or learn something from failing.

Disciplined people don’t take responsibility because they’re “nice” or a “good person.”

They do it, because taking responsibility is usually the fastest way to resolve a crisis and stop a chain of failure from taking place.

Excuses take time and usually end up cascading into an avalanche of wasted time and further excuses.

They take responsibility and make a habit of avoiding excuses like the plague.

6. Use time effectively

Nobody is perfect and all of us waste time now and then.

Disciplined people just do it less.

They procrastinate less, push themselves harder and use their time more effectively than your average person.

This sets them apart, because if there’s one thing that sets back the majority of people, it’s not being stupid or bad luck.

It’s putting things off until tomorrow.

That’s why one of the top habits of ridiculously successful people we can all learn from is the ability to take action and stop procrastinating.

Elon Musk could just sit in his mansion all day and watch TV. But he’s exploring space and inventing new vehicles.

He didn’t do that by procrastinating, believe me.

7. They only focus on a few priorities

If you’ve got too many things you want to do, you’ll struggle to focus your attention on one thing, and everything will become diluted.

Disciplined people channel their resources towards a small number of tasks to engender a better outcome.

In Morten T. Hansen’s, From Great at Work: How Top Performers Do Less, Work Better, and Achieve More, he described how top performers focus on a small number of tasks to produce high-quality work:

“Once they had focused on a few priorities, they obsessed over those tasks to produce quality work. That extreme dedication to their priorities created extraordinary results. Top performers did less and more: less volume of activities, more concentrated effort.”

People who lead cluttered and disorganized lives are rarely able to fully focus. They end up multi-tasking and doing too many things at once, without impact.

If you have 3 priorities, you’re focused. If you have 25 priorities, you have a mess.

Disciplined people say “no” to most things so they can keep their focus clear.

And the truth is, if you want to be world-class, then you need to keep your focus narrow, according to Shan Snow:

“There are a lot of great inventors and improvers in the world. But those who hack world-class success tend to be the ones who can focus relentlessly on a tiny number of things. In other words, to soar, we need to simplify.”

8. They try to keep themselves in a positive mood

Research suggests that so much of motivation is about mood and how we feel.

When we’re positive, we’re more likely to be effective and productive.

According to the book, The Happiness Advantage:

“…doctors put in a positive mood before making a diagnosis show almost three times more intelligence and creativity than doctors in a neutral state, and they make accurate diagnoses 19 percent faster. Optimistic salespeople outsell their pessimistic counterparts by 56 percent. Students primed to feel happy before taking math achievement tests far outperform their neutral peers. It turns out that our brains are literally hardwired to perform at their best not when they are negative or even neutral, but when they are positive.”

A disciplined person tries to view every situation as optimistically as possible.

This doesn’t mean they ignore their reality or that they avoid difficult situations.

Being optimistic means you approach hardship in a more productive way.

They don’t waste time dwelling on the negative. They instead look to what they can learn from negative situations and how it can help them in the future

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Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 15 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. Check out my latest book on the Hidden Secrets of Buddhism and How it Saved My Life. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.

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