12 Self-Discipline Strategies To Help You Achieve The Life You Want


Written by: Maureen Kemeny

February 1, 2023

We are 5 weeks past the New Year and this is when you need self-discipline to help you stay the course. 

Adrenaline wears off.  Motivation subsides,  At this point, new health goals become extra tough.

What exactly is self-discipline? 

It’s the ability to do something you don’t want to do in the moment. 

I  believe self-discipline is the backbone of all achievement. The ability to stay focused and remain motivated can help us reach any goal, no matter how big or small. But even with all the knowledge in the world, it can be hard to stay self-disciplined.

We all struggle with self-discipline in one area or another, but we also have an area where we do have self-discipline. For example, you may not be able to make healthy food choices, but you show up every day for your children. Remember to give yourself credit! The easy area for me has always been exercise, nutrition and mindset. How about you? What is easy for you and where do you struggle?

Most people think self-discipline is hard and requires a lot of willpower. 

But self-discipline is actually freeing and once you stop resisting self-discipline, you’ll find it much easier to do hard things in the moment. 

Self-discipline is an act of self-respect. 

It’s about keeping your word to yourself. When you keep your word and do what is hard instead of avoiding it, you build a strong relationship with yourself. 

People will often bail on themselves, but they wouldn’t go back on their word to a child or friend. It’s interesting that we often consider it more important to keep our word with others than with ourselves!

Self-discipline is showing up for your future self. The person you want to be. Self-discipline is also an expression of self-love because it demonstrates that you are willing to take the necessary steps to better yourself and your life. 

By taking the time and effort to practice self-discipline, you are valuing your own needs and desires and showing yourself that you are worth the effort. This is an act of self-love, as it is a way of treating yourself with respect and care.

Not following through on goals erodes our relationship with ourselves because it shows a lack of commitment to our own ambitions. It demonstrates a lack of trust in our own abilities and a lack of faith in our own potential. It also demonstrates that we are not taking responsibility for our own actions and that we are not accountable for our decisions. Ultimately, this lack of follow-through on goals can lead to a lack of self-confidence and self-esteem, which can further erode our relationship with ourselves.

I  studied the science of behavior change in college and the data overwhelmingly support that self-discipline is a habit that is available to anyone who wants to develop it.

Showing up when it’s not fun or exciting isn’t easy,  but you do it because it’s what you want deep down.  There is no greater feeling than finally achieving your goals. 

If you’re looking to become more self-disciplined, here are a few tips to help you get started: 

1. Set goals: 

Setting goals is an important first step. When you have something to work towards, it is much easier to stay motivated and committed. 

2. Break it down: 

Break down your goal into smaller, achievable tasks. This will make it easier to stay on track and not get overwhelmed. You want to feel confident that no matter what happens In your day, you will have time and energy to follow through with your goal. For example, if fitness is your goal, plan a cardiovascular exercise 3 times a week for a duration of 5 minutes as opposed to 3 times a week for an hour. First, build the identity as someone with self-discipline then gradually increase. 

This changes your identity from someone who procrastinates to someone who has discipline. The more you trust yourself, the easier it will be to follow through and progress.  

3. Develop a daily routine: 

Establishing a consistent daily routine is a great way to build the habit of self-discipline. It can help you to stay focused and organized, and prioritize tasks. If you aren’t able to follow through with your goal one day, be sure not to miss another day. It may seem inconsequential, but after missing two days, it’s much easier to not follow through on day 3 and day 4. Before you know it, you’ve abandoned your goal. 

4. Be accountable: 

Find an accountability partner or friend to help you stay on track. Having someone to check in with can help you stay focused and motivated. 

5. Track Your Progress: 

This one is huge. I’ve been tracking my health habits for decades and this has had a profound effect in how I show up for myself. There is so much to learn when you document your progress. For example, by documenting my food I discovered wheat was the reason for my digestive issues. By tracking the statistics of my workouts, I was able to learn what heart rate zones and durations interfered with my sleep.  Track your progress as you move through each goal. 

6. Avoid Distractions: 

Avoid things that may distract you from achieving your goals. First, you need to be aware of your distractions. What keeps you from focusing on your goal? It may be social media, a noisy environment, or emails. Learn to control the factors that distract you. 

7. Reward yourself: 

Positive reinforcement can be a great way to build self-discipline. Celebrate small victories and reward yourself for completing goals. When you achieve something or make progress towards a goal, take time to reward and acknowledge yourself. This will help you stay consistent. This is an area where I struggle. I have found that acknowledging my efforts daily in my journal helps remind me of how I’m showing up for myself. 

8. Visualize Success: 

Visualize yourself achieving your goals and what success will look like. 

9.  Create a Support System: 

Surround yourself with people who will motivate and encourage you. For example, when I first started with triathlons I joined a triathlon club. I then had many workout partners to keep me accountable and to learn from. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. If you feel overwhelmed or stuck, don’t be afraid to reach out to others for support.

10. Take Care of Yourself: 

Make sure to take regular breaks, get enough sleep, and eat healthily. 

11. Reduce the scope:

When you encounter unforeseen obstacles in your day, change the scope of your goal instead of totally dismissing your goal. For example, if for some reason I’m not able to complete a strength training workout, I will still do pushups or squats before getting into the shower. This still helps to build the identity of a person who has self-discipline. 

12. Backup plans:

Always have a plan for the what-ifs.

For example, lack of sleep can derail plans.  If I’m exhausted from lack of sleep, I will change the activity to one that is physically more manageable. Instead of a run, I will swim as I’ve found that swimming will actually re-energize me and sustain me for the rest of the day. A run tends to make me feel even more tired. 

Achieving “health” is hard to do on your own. Our brains are designed to seek pleasure and relax so it can be hard to know what to do, what to eat, how much to eat, what workouts to do, etc. 

But can you imagine what it would feel like if you woke up and had the self-discipline to exercise, eat healthily, avoid alcohol, and have emotional control? 

That’s where I come in. As a coach trained in behavior change, I can help you build self-discipline by helping you identify your goals and create a plan of action to achieve them. You will learn how to break down your goals into manageable steps. I also help you to develop strategies for self-monitoring, such as keeping a journal of your progress and creating rewards and consequences to help motivate you. Most importantly, I provide support and encouragement to help you maintain self-discipline over time.

And I would love to help you!

More Great Tips

How Women 40+ Can Eat Fat To Lose Weight

No, this isn't a trick! You can - and should - eat fat to lose weight. For biological reasons, women are predisposed to gaining more weight than men. Moreover, as women age beyond 40, many hormone levels decline and this plays a role in weight gain. It may seem...

Reverse Aging with Smart Fitness

There is an abundance of research that shows that fitness helps reverse aging and turn back the clock both physically and mentally. Fitness after 40 is about much more than the vanity metrics we were concerned with when we were younger, like looking good in jeans....

Healthy Recipe- Cauliflower Salad

Scroll down to get the recipe for a healthy cauliflower salad! There is so much power and truth to this saying. When we enter the week prepared for what is ahead, not only does our life run better, but we feel better. My challenge to you this week is to carve out...

Quick tips to improve your metabolism at 40+

Don't forget to subscribe!

Subscribe here to receive my weekly newsletter. Content varies, but is all health & wellness related. No spam. You'll receive exclusive advice ranging from recipes to tips on mindset shifts. Don't miss out!

Thank you! You have successfully subscribed. Check your inbox.