Self-discipline doesn’t happen by accident.
There are daily choices and priorities that shape the kind of self-disciplined people we all admire.
Here are the most essential traits of self-disciplined individuals.
Even when nobody else is watching, they’re keeping track of the promises they’ve made to themselves and trying to hit their goals.
Self-accountability is one of the hardest things to practice in life, because it’s exactly when nobody else is looking that we’re most tempted to forget about our commitments to ourselves.
“Well, nobody will know if I don’t go to the gym today, right? Why not just take an extra rest day?”
“Well, I do have to get my taxes done by tomorrow, but why don’t I just leave it for now and hopefully they won’t apply a late penalty for me filing late?”
And so on and so forth.
2) Tight scheduling
Part of maintaining self-accountability is tight scheduling.
Of course everyone needs some relaxation and free time.
But the self-disciplined person doesn’t grant themselves rest and recreation without first getting the job done.
They don’t mix work and pleasure, either.
They keep a schedule of daily tasks and note down everything that’s coming up. Then, rain or shine, they do their best to meet their obligations.
3) Tracking progress
Part of meeting that tight schedule and bigger goals is tracking progress.
This can be as simple as putting a checkmark next to daily and weekly goals, or as complex as analyzing the progress of your BMI in your workouts and doing a deeper analysis of your finances.
For example, instead of just hoping it “all works out,” the self-disciplined person will take the time to go through a breakdown of their finances and look at where their spending is happening and consider whether any of that could be reduced.
This takes some time, and cutting costs may take some discipline. That’s why so many don’t do it!
But an hour or two poring over expenses almost always yields some places where costs can absolutely be cut without damaging basic needs and well-being.
4) Anticipating roadblocks
The next of the essential traits of self-disciplined individuals is that they foresee problems.
There’s a lot we can’t prepare for, but there’s a lot we can.
Take the topic of unforeseen emergencies.
None of us wants to imagine ourselves or a loved one experiencing a sudden medical emergency out of the blue.
But what if it happens? It’s happened to plenty of people.
For this reason, anticipation and preparation are never the wrong move.
Save some money, keep some medical supplies, have a few reliable emergency contacts.
If you never use these resources you’ll still be glad you have them.
This trait can be summed up as practicing foresight about future challenges and issues that might come up and preparing for them if possible.
5) Overcoming obstacles
Next up in the essential traits of self-disciplined individuals is that they are committed to overcoming obstacles.
When small or large roadblocks come up, the self-disciplined person has prepared already (see previous point) and is also not cowed.
He or she takes the challenge as an opportunity to adapt, improve and overcome.
If they fail, so be it. The effort alone caused them to learn, grow and develop.
And that alone is worth its own weight in gold.
6) Minimizing complaining
The next of the essential traits of self-disciplined individuals is that they keep their complaining to an absolute minimum.
To be sure, a self-disciplined person might still get angry at work when a longtime client cancels their contract or if they are cheated by a coworker.
They may still go get drunk if their girlfriend cheats on them.
But they’re not going to stand around complaining or expecting other people to solve their problems.
Self-disciplined people know that there’s a big difference between opening up about your feelings and being honest and complaining.
Complaining seeks a response or sympathy and is highly disempowering, so self-disciplined people consciously avoid it.
7) Follow through
The next of the essential traits of self-disciplined individuals is that they do what they say.
This isn’t always necessary or even verifiable.
Think about it:
If you tell your employee that you’re going to increase his salary next year and then you
This trait can be summed up as being trustworthy and meaning what they say.
8) Setting boundaries
The next of the essential traits of self-disciplined individuals is that they set boundaries and stick to them.
Motivational speakers like Tony Robbins stress the importance of boundaries.
If we say we will only accept a certain goal or outcome but then settle for a goal or standard far below that, we let ourselves down and prepare ourselves for a life of mediocrity.
By contrast, when we maintain discipline by not bending our boundaries and not letting others bend them, we become much stronger internally and begin to truly gain personal power.
For example, if a self-disciplined person feels lonely and has the chance to date somebody but she doesn’t really like that person and feels no strong connection at all?
She’ll stay single and resist the temptation, because not doing so would be a betrayal of what she’s really looking for and her own emotions.
Another example is a businessman who has the option to sell his company right now for a tidy profit. He knows the buyer is trustworthy and the money will be wired over. It’s a good deal.
But he also knows that if he sticks it out another five years his company will more than double in value most likely and there are much greater prospects.
Does he go for the short-term payoff or stick to his boundary of never giving in to the easy path and having long-term vision?
If he’s self-disciplined the answer is option number two.
This character trait could be summed up as: having personal boundaries that you don’t cross nor ever let anybody else cross. Period.
9) Avoiding energy vampires
Energy vampires are hiding all around us, and when you get too close to one your life force can get completely sucked out.
Instead of sucking blood, energy vampires take away your power, energy, time and money.
They take advantage of you and manipulate you in order to gain sympathy, attention, intimacy and resources.
One of the most essential traits of self-disciplined individuals is that they avoid energy vampires like the plague.
They know that feeding into a disempowering inner reality of somebody else is only going to hurt that person and waste their time.
In many cases, this ability to turn away from energy vampires and manipulators can be summed up in one character trait: the willingness to say no.
10) Taking responsibility for everything in their life
Much of what happens to us in life is outside our control.
Why should we take responsibility for it then?
The answer is that you should take responsibility for everything in your life because this is the most effective path to personal empowerment and progress.
Instead of focusing on what has hurt you and what is not your fault, focus on accepting the current reality of what your life is and what power you have within this framework.
This is an essential character trait of a self-disciplined person.
They refuse to give into the temptation of the victim mentality or to focus on how so much of their life isn’t their fault.
It may be true!
But they own everything that’s happened to them, even the injustices and harms: these sometimes horrible things others have done to us or those we love are still now yours and mine to deal with and respond to.
Even the things which are not our fault or should never have happened are our responsibility precisely because they happened to us. So it’s now our task to accept where we are and work from that foundation.
This is a key mindset shift in the important task of being a self-disciplined individual: the willingness to own their life even if it’s not what they wanted or feel they deserve.
Being self-disciplined is always worth the time and effort you put into it.
But the common mistake most people make is in only staying self-disciplined for a short time and then going back to lax habits and procrastination.
The key to maintaining discipline is twofold:
- Have a larger purpose and goal in your life that keeps you disciplined and focused;
- Break that larger purpose into smaller steps that keep you disciplined on a daily basis.
By making discipline part of something larger but still broken down into daily actions, you can ensure that you keep the big picture in mind while still focusing on maintaining high standards day to day.