6 ways to become a more disciplined person even if it isn’t in your nature

As someone who’s spent years reading up on the secrets of productivity, I can confidently tell you that self-discipline is an achievable goal for anyone – even if you’re not a disciplined person by nature.

And no, it’s not about telling yourself to “just push through.” It’s not about willpower, stubbornness, or strength of character.

At its core, discipline is about the power of habit.

Simple as that.

Keen to learn more?

Without further ado, here are the 6 ways to become a more disciplined person.

1) Understand that the key to discipline isn’t willpower but a lack of friction

“Ugh, I’m so weak! Why can’t I just go ahead and do it? Why do I have to be so lazy?”

Years ago, I was plagued by these exact thoughts each time I wasn’t as productive as I would have liked. My lack of discipline befuddled me.

Why did I find it all just so terribly hard?

That was before I read Atomic Habits by James Clear, which completely revolutionized my approach to productivity and discipline.

According to Clear, discipline isn’t about forcing yourself to do the things you don’t want to do every day for the rest of your life. That’d be a pretty miserable existence.

It’s about building healthy habits in such an effective manner that you won’t have to force yourself anymore. Your brain will just automatically know what to do – no questions asked.

In other words, it’s about getting rid of as much friction as possible.

For example, the fact that you scroll on your phone upon waking up causes friction because it makes you not want to get out of bed.

Or think of those days when you know you should go to the gym but try to find an excuse as to why you could stay home instead – the whole process of “Should I? Shouldn’t I?” takes up so much of your energy that you eventually give up and just put the TV on.

The less friction there is, the more automated your habits will become – and the more disciplined you’ll be.

2) Build up a momentum

So, how do you throw friction out the window and build an effective routine?

It has to do with the power of momentum.

You might think that the more you do, the more exhausted you’ll be, but unless you completely overdo it, there’s a high chance that action will give rise to motivation, which will in turn lead to more action.

As Clear explains on his website, “Momentum goes both ways. Don’t move, feel sluggish. Start moving, feel like moving a little more. Don’t talk, feel timid. Start chatting, conversation gets a little easier. Don’t ship, feel stuck. Start creating, ideas begin to flow.”

It’s a common misconception that you need to feel motivated in order to act.

You don’t.

If you make it a habit to write your novel first thing in the morning, motivation will soon become irrelevant – you’ll just do it, and the simple act of creation will help propel you further.

Sure, there will be good days and bad days. Sure, you might sit there and stare at the screen for an hour from time to time, completely blocked.

But as long as you return to your laptop the next morning and the one after, you’re keeping up the momentum. You’re moving forward.

You’re becoming disciplined.

3) Try different tricks to overcome activation energy

“Activation energy is the minimum amount of energy that must be available for a chemical reaction to occur,” says Clear. “Similar to how every chemical reaction has an activation energy, we can think of every habit or behavior as having an activation energy as well.”

Activation energy is the mental push you have to force upon yourself when you’re feeling too lazy to hit the gym.

The smaller the task, the less activation energy you need. One push-up sounds easy enough, but one hundred push-ups will have you second-guessing if you want to work out at all.

There are many different tricks you can use to make this mental push easier for yourself, especially when you’re building new habits:

  • Start small: tell yourself you only need to write ten words or do one squat and then continue to slowly increase the difficulty day by day
  • Stop thinking: count down from three, and the moment you reach zero, throw yourself into action without any further thought – just do it (this eliminates the whole back-and-forth process that takes up a large chunk of your mental energy)
  • Use your environment to your advantage: if you want to do yoga every morning, put a yoga mat in the middle of your bedroom so you can’t ignore it when you wake up (this is a great example of getting rid of friction)
  • Eliminate other options: tell yourself that you can’t use your phone until you complete your workout or that you will invest one hour into writing and nothing else – even if you end up staring at the wall and doing nothing (chances are, you’ll grow bored of that and actually do some work)

Our brains are designed to do what’s convenient, not what’s best for us in the long term. To become a more disciplined person, you just have to trick your brain into cooperating.

4) Set goals that are achievable and personal

I’m one of those rare kinds of people who actually stick to their New Year’s Resolutions.

And how do I manage that, I hear you ask?

I set goals that are within my control. What’s more, I always try to be realistic. If I’m pretty sure I’m not going to lose ten kilograms and visit twenty countries, I won’t write it down.

Instead, I take it easy and I focus on goals that aren’t dependent on external factors.

If you say that you want to get 100,000 subscribers on YouTube, lose weight, or have your book published, you’re not exactly setting yourself up for success.

And that’s because you can’t control how many people will hit the subscribe button, how your body will respond to your new workout routine, or whether a certain editor will decide to give your manuscript a chance.

Here’s what you can control, however:

  • Upload a weekly YouTube video
  • Go to the gym three times a week and walk 10K steps a day on average
  • Actively look for a literary agent and try to get your book published

The moment you shift the focus from external achievements to personal action, you’re not only avoiding disappointment but you’re also giving yourself an extra boost of motivation.

You’re saying, “I will take concrete action to achieve this goal.”

Much better, right?

5) Think of every minute as a new start

Far too often, I see people give up the moment something doesn’t go to plan.

Let’s say you planned to wake up early in the morning on the weekend and get some work done. Alas, a fascinating dream kept you asleep, and now it’s 10 AM, and you already feel like you’re running behind.

Ugh. Might as well leave it. You’ll get around to it next weekend.

The truth is, you still have a great deal of time even if you start a few hours later.

What’s more, work has a tendency to stretch out in order to fill the time slot you have allotted to it (just think of students who have one month to write an essay and then do it one day before the deadline).

There’s a high chance you’ll get everything done as planned – even if you start a bit later.

Unfortunately, many people tend to have black-and-white thinking where discipline is concerned.

They wait until the start of the next month to start working out, the next Monday to finally organize their week, or the next day to give themselves a new chance. A clean slate.

But what if I told you that every hour – every minute – is a clean slate?

Your day doesn’t have to be determined by the quality of your morning. You can always turn things around. It’s never too late.

6) Don’t underestimate the importance of taking a break

It is often those of us who really need to take a break who spend hours researching productivity hacks.

Well, here’s your answer: one of the best productivity tricks is to chill out for a bit.

You can’t perform at your best if you never rest properly.

And by “properly,” I mean breaks that are guilt-free, that don’t include obsessive thoughts of work, and that genuinely help you unwind instead of plaguing your mind with debris (e.g., reading a fun book or going for a short walk instead of scrolling on social media).

If you don’t rest, you might eventually burn out, not to mention you won’t perform as well and will probably be in a miserable mood.

So, on a final note, a disciplined person knows when enough is enough. They know when to sit back and relax.

Pearl Nash

Pearl Nash has years of experience writing relationship articles for single females looking for love. After being single for years with no hope of meeting Mr. Right, she finally managed to get married to the love of her life. Now that she’s settled down and happier than she’s ever been in her life, she's passionate about sharing all the wisdom she's learned over the journey. Pearl is also an accredited astrologer and publishes Hack Spirit's daily horoscope.

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