8 things people with incredible self-discipline do differently to others

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You know those people who know what they want, set their sights, and stick to their guns no matter what? These are folks with incredible self-discipline.

You might have wondered how they do it – and the answer is, people who embody this trait do things a bit differently. They don’t just stumble upon success – they carve it out, step by determined step.

I’ve spent a decent chunk of time observing these folks, and I’ve pinpointed 8 key habits they all seem to share.

In this article, I’ll break down what these unique habits are, so you can take a page from their book and add a dash of discipline to your life. Trust me, the results can be game-changing.

1) They prioritize their day

Individuals with incredible self-discipline approach their day differently than most.

You won’t find them flitting from task to task or leaving things to chance. No, they know exactly what they need to do and when they need to do it.

They start each day by identifying their top priorities – the tasks that will move them closer to their goals. These tasks are non-negotiable, and they tackle them first thing, when their energy and focus are at their peak.

This isn’t about being rigid or inflexible, it’s about recognizing the value of their time and ensuring they’re using it effectively.

To emulate this habit, try setting your top three priorities each morning. Be ruthless in your selection – these should be the tasks that will make the biggest difference to your day.

And then, get to work. You might just be surprised at how much you can achieve when you’re working with purpose and discipline.

2) They don’t rely on motivation

I’ve had my fair share of ambitious goals, like that time I decided to run a marathon. The initial excitement was exhilarating, and I couldn’t wait to lace up my running shoes and hit the pavement.

But as the weeks wore on and the novelty wore off, my motivation waned. Some days, it felt like a Herculean effort just to get out the door.

That’s when I realized something crucial – people with incredible self-discipline don’t rely on motivation. They understand that motivation is fleeting; it comes and goes. Instead, they rely on consistency and routine.

Even when they don’t feel like doing something, they do it anyway. Because they know that progress isn’t made in leaps and bounds but through steady, consistent effort.

So I followed suit. Regardless of how I felt, I stuck to my training schedule. And eventually, I crossed that marathon finish line with a new understanding of what self-discipline truly meant.

If you’re waiting for motivation to strike, you might be waiting a while. Instead, build routines and stay consistent. It’s the surest path to achieving your goals.

3) They practice delayed gratification

Stanford University conducted a study known as the “Marshmallow Experiment” in the late 1960s.

Children were offered a choice between one marshmallow given immediately or two marshmallows if they waited for a short period, approximately 15 minutes, during which the tester left the room and then returned.

And you might be shocked to hear what a difference a single marshmallow can make — but the children who were able to wait to have two tended to have better life outcomes, as measured by SAT scores, educational attainment, body mass index, and other life measures.

This experiment underlines an essential trait of those with exceptional self-discipline – they practice delayed gratification. They’re willing to resist the allure of an immediate reward in preference for a more substantial one down the line.

Practicing delayed gratification is like building a muscle. The more you do it, the stronger your self-discipline becomes.

So next time you’re faced with a choice between immediate pleasure and long-term gain, think about the marshmallows.

4) They embrace discomfort

For those with remarkable self-discipline, discomfort isn’t something to shy away from. It’s seen as a stepping stone to growth.

These individuals understand that getting out of their comfort zone is where the magic happens. It’s where new skills are honed, confidence is built, and goals are realized.

They might not enjoy the discomfort of waking up early, exercising regularly, or staying late to finish a project, but they do it anyway. Because they know that their willingness to endure short-term discomfort can lead to long-term success.

When you find yourself avoiding a task because it’s uncomfortable, remember that it’s an opportunity for growth. Embrace the discomfort, and watch your self-discipline soar.

5) They forgive themselves

People with exceptional self-discipline understand that they’re human, and humans make mistakes. They know that even the best-laid plans can go awry and that they won’t always meet their own high standards.

But here’s the key – they don’t let these setbacks derail them. Instead, they offer themselves compassion and understanding. They accept their missteps as part of the journey and use them as fuel to improve.

This kindness towards themselves is not an excuse for complacency. It’s a recognition that progress is not always linear and that sometimes, the path to success is paved with failures.

It’s inevitable that you will eventually stumble on your journey. And when you do, make sure to forgive yourself. Accept the setback, learn from it, and then get back on track with a renewed sense of purpose. 

6) They set realistic goals

Years ago, I decided to learn a new language. Filled with enthusiasm, I set a lofty goal for myself – I would be fluent in six months.

As you can probably guess, that didn’t happen.

The goal was too high, the timeline too tight. Instead of feeling motivated, I felt overwhelmed and eventually gave up.

That’s when I learned one of the most valuable lessons about self-discipline – setting realistic goals.

People with strong self-discipline know this is crucial. They set goals that are challenging yet achievable, and they break them down into manageable steps. They understand that setting unrealistic goals can lead to discouragement and demotivation.

So now, when I want to learn something new, I pace myself. I set small, achievable goals that build up to a larger objective over time.

Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day – and neither are your skills or accomplishments. 

7) They cultivate healthy habits

Those with remarkable self-discipline understand the power of habits. They know that our daily actions and routines can either propel us towards our goals or hold us back.

Thus, they intentionally cultivate healthy habits that align with their objectives. Whether it’s regular exercise, a balanced diet, sufficient sleep, or daily meditation, they prioritize these routines knowing they contribute to their overall success and well-being.

These habits don’t necessarily have to be big or time-consuming. Sometimes, it’s the small, consistent actions that make the most significant difference over time.

Take a moment now to consider your daily routines. Are there habits you could develop that would bring you closer to your goals?

Start small and build from there. A little discipline goes a long way.

8) They remain persistent

At the end of the day, the most defining characteristic of those with extraordinary self-discipline is their unwavering persistence.

They understand that success is not a sprint but a marathon. They don’t expect immediate results and they’re not deterred by obstacles or setbacks.

Instead, they keep pushing forward, stay committed to their goals, and persist until they’ve achieved what they set out to do.

Persistence is not about being stubborn or refusing to adapt. It’s about staying focused, maintaining your drive, and being resilient in the face of challenges.

So keep going. Even when it’s tough, even when progress is slow. Because persistence pays off, and it’s often the only thing standing between you and your goals.

Final thought: It’s a journey

The path to self-discipline is not a straight line, and it’s unique to every individual.

Research shows that our self-discipline is influenced by a host of factors including our upbringing, environment, and even our genetics. But the most important thing to remember is that self-discipline, like any skill, can be learned and developed over time.

People with incredible self-discipline have fine-tuned their ability to delay gratification, set realistic goals, and persist in the face of obstacles.

But they didn’t develop these habits overnight. It was a process – a journey of small steps, consistent effort, and continual growth.

As you strive to enhance your own self-discipline, remember to be patient with yourself. Celebrate your progress, learn from your setbacks, and keep moving forward.

The journey may be challenging at times, but the rewards – the achievement of your goals and the person you become in the process – are well worth it.

Ethan Sterling

Ethan Sterling has a background in entrepreneurship, having started and managed several small businesses. His journey through the ups and downs of entrepreneurship provides him with practical insights into personal resilience, strategic thinking, and the value of persistence. Ethan’s articles offer real-world advice for those looking to grow personally and professionally.

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