The art of self-discipline: 9 strategies for mastering self-control

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Some of the toughest battles you ever face are inside yourself.

This is especially true when speaking about self-accountability and self-discipline. 

How do you master self-control and become your best self? 

Let’s take a look… 

1) Know yourself

If you try to force yourself to be disciplined without self-awareness, it’s likely to backfire and not work well at all. 

It’s crucial to have self-knowledge if you want to have self-discipline. 

This means that you need to have a good handle on your strengths and weaknesses. 

For example, maybe you have the following strengths: punctual, hardworking, good at math and honest.

But you have the following weaknesses: you’re a poor communicator, you watch too much TV and you are bad at saving money. 

Taking these things into account, you can begin to work on more discipline with your spending, take courses or read books to improve your communication skills and cut down on TV time using your math skills to work out the ideal balance for your schedule. 

When you know your weaknesses and your strengths, you can better identify where to focus your self-discipline efforts.

As Brent Gleeson writes at Forbes

“We all have weaknesses. 

“Whether they’re the desire for alcohol, tobacco, unhealthy food, obsession over social media, or the video game Fortnite (what the heck is with this game by the way?!), they have a similar effect on us.”

2) Tell the truth

The first of the key strategies for mastering self-control is to tell the truth to others and to yourself. 

Admit where you’re at right now:

Assess where you’ve fallen through and take an honest look at your schedule. 

It likely has some big gaps in it that you fill with things like naps, junk food, watching shows or scrolling social media. 

That time can all be used for more productive things. 

The art of self-discipline rests on self-accountability, and that requires complete honesty with yourself. 

3) Find your purpose 

Self-control and self-discipline don’t happen by mistake.

They happen when you make a conscious choice and do your best to stick to it. 

However, no matter how hard you try, much of self-discipline depends on why you’re being disciplined and what your goal is. That’s why it’s so crucial to find your purpose. 

Self-discipline begins to fall into place and be consistent at a much higher level when you have a strong motivation to achieve your purpose. 

So how do you find your purpose?

I highly recommend checking out Ideapod founder Justin Brown’s free masterclass on how to discover your true purpose

Justin shares a groundbreaking new way to find your purpose in life that he learned from the Brazilian shaman Rudá Iandê.

This technique for finding your purpose changed my whole perspective and powerfully clarified many questions I’d had about my purpose and whether it was worth it or not. 

Check out the free masterclass here

4) Start small 

Discipline is a process, and it needs to start small. 

It is better to get one part of your life squared away and regimented rather than somewhat improve various parts of your life and have somewhat more discipline. 

As you begin working towards your goal, don’t try to cram everything in all at once (more on that in the next tip). 

Instead, start small with gaining discipline in a specific area or areas of your life and work outwards from there. 

For example, you may begin going to the gym four times per week and preparing meals ahead of time on Sundays for the week. 

Your self-discipline in doing this leaves you feeling much better in your body and much less stressed about meals and budgeting the cost of meals. 

From there you can work outwards to develop more discipline in your job, your drinking habits and many other areas of your life. 

5) Reverse engineer

Reverse engineering is an excellent way to develop self-discipline. 

The best way to do this is to start with your overall goal, which should be directly related to your purpose.

For example, your purpose may be to become a chef and provide delicious and healthy food to people. Your second related goal is that you therefore want to open your own restaurant. 

These two goals of becoming a chef and opening a restaurant will require various secondary goals and steps. 

At this point you then start to work backwards from your chosen goal. 

Your top goal is to open a restaurant. In order to do that we work backwards to becoming a chef. 

This then requires attending culinary school, which requires money and saving enough money or obtaining a loan or scholarship to pay for it. 

And so on.

As you begin working backwards from your goal you will be able to break your months, weeks and days into specific, achievable, actionable tasks. 

All of these will feed into the overall goal of becoming a chef and then owning your own restaurant. 

6) Track progress

Another of the key ways to master self-control is to track your progress. 

In the above example, this could mean tracking your finances, the progress of your education, your burgeoning chef skills, and your other accomplishments. 

No matter what goal you are working towards, tracking your progress will go a great way toward keeping you disciplined and mastering self-control. 

Whether these are fitness goals, financial benchmarks or skills you are working on, tracking your progress will increase your motivation. 

I recommend keeping a physical agenda or book where you can write things down and see the progress, but keeping a spreadsheet or scheduling app on your smartphone or laptop is another valuable option as well. 

7) Build new habits

Next up in the art of self-discipline is to build new habits. 

The best way to build healthy and disciplined habits is through reconfiguring your brain’s reward system. 

When we complete a task or achieve a desire, we get hits of dopamine which make us feel happy and fulfilled.

The problem is that many of us are getting dopamine hits from clicking things on computers to entertain ourselves, or seeing lots of likes on our latest social media post. 

Instead, dopamine should be flooding you from real accomplishments and real world actions. 

New habits like exercising, preparing healthy food, saving money and working daily to achieve your goals can become your new addiction. 

Looking after your physical and mental health can become your new source of dopamine as you pursue your goals. 

Building new healthier habits is a matter of learning to truly enjoy them, at which point self-discipline and self-control becomes its own form of pleasure and an upward-moving cycle of ongoing improvement. 

8) Find an accountability partner 

Building healthy habits and self-discipline is an internal process that rarely works when imposed from outside. 

Nonetheless, having an accountability partner is a wonderful option for building self-discipline. 

This is especially good if this person is also trying to build discipline and is in their own process of becoming more in control of themselves. 

The two of you can have daily check-in times and a policy of complete honesty. 

Failure should also have real consequences, either in the form of a payment or some kind of service to your accountability partner, and vice versa. 

The goal should be never to cross each other’s lines and to keep pushing each other to greater achievements and discipline. 

Having an accountability partner can be a great idea for building your self-control, because even when you slip up you’ll know that somebody else will be reacting to it as well, not just you. 

9) Follow in the footsteps of giants

Another of the great strategies for mastering self-control is to have role models and mentors to look up to. 

This can be especially useful to find a hero or heroine to look up to in your chosen field that you want to work or accomplish something. 

Nobody is perfect, and every idol has some fault, but by having an ideal to look up to, you will keep yourself inspired on a regular basis to chase your dreams and try to stick to self-discipline. 

Hiring a life coach or going to therapy are other ways to try to build self-discipline as well, although it’s important that they be encouraging you to improve and level up rather than just as a shoulder to cry on or listen to your complaints. 

Self-discipline is all about letting the excuses and the complaining fade away and focusing on what you can do instead of what you can’t do or don’t want to do.

Keep it together

Self-discipline is a process. 

We all fall down repeatedly, but it’s the getting back up that counts. 

When you have a strong purpose and reason for what you’re doing, discipline becomes a habit and a foundation of all that you do. 

When you truly, deeply want to accomplish something and maintain discipline, you will find a way. 

In many cases, you either build self-discipline voluntarily or life hands you disasters of your own making and hardships that force you to increase your self-discipline. 

The first option is always best. 

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