Building self discipline can and will transform your entire life. Self discipline is the ability to get yourself to do the things which need to be done, when they need to be done; whether you feel like doing it or not. Self discipline is one of the most important but frequently overlooked factors which determine success.  Whether you are an employee or, self-employed, you will require a great deal of self discipline if you want to achieve your goals. Your level of self discipline will determine how you approach your work.  When you become more self disciplined, not only will you see yourself be much more productive and effective, but these types of habits will carry over into all areas of your life.

Ultimate Guide to Goal Setting

Before you can achieve great goals and change, you must set effective goals which challenge and inspire you to take the consistent action.

For more great advice to set and pursue great goals, check out 'Ultimate Guide to Goal Setting'.

Core components of self discipline

The following are some of the most essential habits in achieving self discipline. If you master these habits, you will see dramatic improvements in the results that you achieve.

1. Always be on Time

building Self discipline Clyde Lee Dennis quote

Don't be late to work, or if you are self-employed wake up late to work for yourself.  This shows a classic lack of discipline.  If you want to be successful, you have to turn up on time. If you are consistently on time you have achieved something which seems to be beyond the majority of people in the world.  This is a great self discipline habit to begin with as you get to reinforce it every day.

Punctuality is an essential step in building self-discipline as you can’t do anything if you don’t first show up. There are 3 respectful elements to showing up on time:

  • You respecting yourself by showing that you value exhibiting ‘right behvaiour’ consistently and; by taking every opportunity to build strong self-discipline.
  • You are respecting the other person/people whom you are meeting or working for by giving them your time and presence.
  • You are respecting the situation by giving it the level of presence and attention it merits.

Building self-discipline allows you to know that you are giving your best to the situation and, if things don’t work out as hoped, you can be confident in the fact that you gave your full commitment.

2. Don't Leave Early.

building Self discipline charles f glassman quote

There's a breed of person who makes every excuse to leave work early ranging from - they don't feel good to, they have family responsibilities.  When I speak of leaving early, I am not talking in terms of time. I am talking in terms of the important tasks for the day being completed. If you get your tasks done early, that’s fine.  However, if you have taken on a job, it is important that you see it through.

Building self discipline separates you from the excuse makers.  Of course there will be times when, for reasons beyond your control, you are forced to reschedule your commitments. Excuse makers see this as an opportunity to do nothing and blame others. Those with self-discipline identify the next most important thing that they can do, with the resources available to them, and keep moving forwards e.g. you are at the airport and your flight is delayed, do you sit around doing nothing or do you use the opportunity to catch up on some important reading, make some important calls etc?

When you have self discipline, you do not make excuses and take the easy way out.  Your respect for yourself and the respect that others have for you grows. And, most importantly, you improve the results you achieve. 

The organised mind

Learn to be develop an organised mind and organised habits with 'The Organised Mind'.

3. Be there

building Self discipline dipa santani quote

We all have many compartments to our lives - work, family, friends, leisure etc. You want to spend time in each area of your life to ensure a balanced and fulfilled life. You must remember that spending time and, spending quality time, is not the same thing. Wherever you are, you must be there -100%.

Have you ever tried to have a conversation with somebody whose mind was somewhere else? It’s practically impossible to have a proper conversation and, you cannot enjoy it. The same goes for all areas of your life. If you are with your family, give them 100% of your attention. If you are in work, 100% of your focus must be on work. If you are not fully present you are cheating everybody, including yourself, and you will struggle to get anything of importance done. 

There is an old saying in Zen Buddhism – Just Sit. It refers to Zazen meditation which is practiced by Zen Buddhist where you just sit, focus on your breath, and let whatever thoughts come to mind just pass on through without getting attached to them.

It also means that whatever you are doing, just do it. Whether you are washing dishes, painting a house. Negotiating a peace treaty, be fully present in the moment and just do whatever it is you are doing. Don’t let your mind wander, eliminate any potential distractions if possible, and give 100% attention to the task at hand. Learning to stay present in the moment is excellent for building self-discipline.

4. Take responsibility

building Self discipline dipa santani quote (1)

You are human, you will make mistakes. If you are responsible for something work related and it goes wrong hold your hands up and accept responsibility for your role in events. Not only will you gain more respect for your honesty; when you accept responsibility, you are acknowledging that you have the ability to influence the outcome. You know that if you perform better next time, you will get a better result. Knowing that the ability to achieve the result you want lies within your control is one of the most empowering thoughts that you can have.

Don't waste time and energy looking for scapegoats. Acknowledge what you got wrong; identify what you can do differently next time and, implement it.  This enables you to learn from your mistakes and achieve the outcome you desire. Taking responsibility builds toughness, self discipline and wisdom.

Have you ever had to deal with someone who refuses to take responsibility? It is painful listening to the litany of excuses they produce to pin the blame on somebody else. Blame is not necessary. Nobody is saying that you deliberately got something wrong. But, when you own your mistakes, people generally appreciate and respect you a lot more and your relationships improve.

 5. Over deliver

building Self discipline Saidi Mdala quote

There will be times when you can identify areas where you can give colleagues or customers even more than they asked for. Rather than focus on just meeting their expectations, focus on delivering the best service possible, with the time and resources available to you. This way, you discipline yourself to always seek the best result from every situation. When you seek the best, you will achieve far more than if you settle for the bare minimum.

One time, I had a really funny situation with a colleague. I was told by management that I had to help him, even though it was not my job and I had enough on my plate. I didn’t want to argue with him over an issue I had with management so I gave it a try. I quickly found that when I did one of his tasks for him, he would then try and leave that task to me every time it cropped up. Naturally, I was not prepared to be used so I pulled back and stopped helping him.

After a while, management made it clear to him that he had to be prepared to help me too. He was reluctant at first and, I would not help him until he started giving me some help. As soon, as he started helping me, I started helping him. As I gave him more help, he would increase the amount of help he gave me. After not helping each other, we were, rather comically, now trying to outdo each other with the amount of help we were giving.

Nowadays, I don’t get caught up in the games. I just offer what help I can and if someone reciprocates, that’s great. If they don’t, that’s their problem; not mine. Remember that over-delivering is about building self-discipline and training yourself to always do your best. In the short-term, you may be taken advantage of but in the long-run, you will be the one who benefits.

6. Keep Negativity to Yourself

building Self discipline Oleg Konovalov quote

Complaining and griping is the type of thing that undisciplined people specialise in. Sadly, it is one of the most diffiuclt habits to give up and, I definitely struggle with it.  It's much easier to bitch and moan than it is to work hard and find solutions to problems.  

You cannot prevent negative thoughts from entering your mind but you can choose not to express them.  Unless voicing negativity is in the interest of immediately working towards a solution (in which case use the constructive feedback model), the self disciplined act is to remain silent.

In fact, as with the Zen Buddhism mentioned earlier, the best thing is to focus 100% on what you are supposed to be doing and let the negative thoughts pass through your mind without giving them any unnecessary attention.  They are just thoughts and they remain that way until you start to make them concrete by focusing on them and expressing them to others.

Keep your negative thoughts harmless by letting them pass unobstructed through your mind. This is difficult but it is something I am practicing and I encourage you to do likewise. You will be happier in the long-run as your negativity only hurts you.

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 7. Focus on one task at a time

building Self discipline Martin Uzochukwu Ugwu quote

Unfortunately, people are under the assumption that they can multitask. They can’t. The truth is that when people think they are multitasking, they are just switching focus between tasks. While there are a few people who can rapidly refocus from task to task, for most of us, we need a minute or two to refocus every time that we switch tasks. This adds up to a lot of lost time during the working day.

For most people, multitasking is just wasting time; time that could be spent completing important tasks.  Perform one task at a time and do it right. You will get it completed quicker and, to a higher standard; allowing you to shift your attention to the next important task. In addition, do not try to mix work and leisure; work when it's time to work and play when it's time to play.

As I have emphasised several times in this article, just do what you are doing. One thing at a time and give 100% to the one thing you are focusing on. This is like the cement that binds all your efforts at building self-discipline.

Ultimate Guide to Goal Setting

Before you can achieve great goals and change, you must set effective goals which challenge and inspire you to take the consistent action.

For more great advice to set and pursue great goals, check out 'Ultimate Guide to Goal Setting'.


If you want to live the life that you desire and deserve, you need to perform to your best on a consistent basis. While increasing your knowledge and skills will help you to consistently improve on your best; you must not underestimate the importance of self discipline. Self discipline enables you to always demand the highest standards of yourself. You give 100% to everything that you do and commit to learning from, and improving on, your mistakes. When you master self discipline, you raise your game to a whole new level and, you inspire those around you to try and match your performance. This leads to better results for everyone.


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