5 Steps to Developing More Discipline

I have been thinking a lot about discipline lately. Everyone knows you can’t succeed without it, yet few people seem to possess it.

Young Man Doing Push Ups - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/Neustockimages, Image #14595763

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/Neustockimages

My friend, Andy Andrews asks this question:

Can you make yourself do something you don’t want to do in order to get a result you really want?

If so, then you are disciplined—at least in that area.

The key is on focusing on a result you really want. In this sense, the key to discipline is goal-setting.

Over the years, I have found that I can become disciplined in any area of my life by taking five specific steps. Whether it is trying to get in shape, maintain a blog, or develop a great marriage, the psychology is the same.

  1. Determine your goal. Notice in Andy’s definition that the key is in knowing what you really want. If you are going to succeed, you must be specific. You must be able to see it. Write it down and—while you are at it—add a “by when” date.

    Example: I will lose 20 pounds of body fat by December 31, 2011.

  2. List your reasons. This is often the missing piece in both goal-setting and discipline. You have to ask, Why is this goal important? What is at stake in my achieving it? I list both the positive reasons and the negative.


    • I want more energy.
    • I want to lower my cholesterol.
    • I don’t want to put myself at risk for heart disease.
    • I want to look more trim, especially on video.
    • I want to demonstrate that I can lead myself.
    • I want to be a good example to my family.
  3. Identify likely obstacles. As soon as you start swimming against the current, you will start feeling resistance. It’s as if the universe conspires to keep you from succeeding. That’s why you have to anticipate these obstacles and build strategies to overcome them.


    • Obstacle: Mindlessly eating for lunch what I always eat. Strategy: Plan my lunch before I leave the house—where and what I will eat.
    • Obstacle: Inability to work out on the road. Strategy: Make sure the hotel has a workout room before I book it. Also, pack my workout clothes and shoes.
    • Obstacle: Eating more calories than I intend. Strategy: Record everything in LoseIt, thus educating myself about the calorie-count of various foods.
  4. Develop new behaviors. This is where you should focus. What are the positive, new behaviors you want to develop to replace the old, negative behaviors.


    • Drink two-and-a-half liters of water a day to stay hydrated.
    • Eat healthy snacks like raw almonds, celery, carrots, etc.
    • Share entrees with Gail when we eat out, so that I eat half the normal serving.
    • Chose simple grilled fish rather than beef or chicken.
  5. Stay focused. Read your goals daily, review your reasons why, anticipate obstacles, and work on your new behaviors. If you get off-track, don’t beat yourself up. Sometimes it is three steps forward and two steps back. Just shake it off and re-lock on your goal.

Discipline is not really about will-power so much as it is focusing on what you really want. If you get clear on that, it suddenly becomes much easier.

Questions: Where do you need more discipline? What do you need to do next to cultivate it? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • http://www.betterhealthtoday.co Kay Wilson

    Hey Michael, You must have read my mind, I just said to myself, yesterday, “self, what is going on with you? You cannot even stick to your 90 day plan and do the activity you need to do daily.”   Thank you for this post! 

  • Tom

    I’m not sure how much discipline I have but I know I need more.

  • http://www.SevenPillarsOfSuccess.Net Louise Thaxton

    Number 3 is one thing I usually fail to do – “identify likely obstacles”.  I can see where this would help – to BEFOREHAND to identify obstacles which could hinder me from obtaining my goals.  Love the steps you have identified to develop disciplines.  I think of what Jim Rohn said “there is the pain of discipline and the pain of regret – discipline weighs ounces and regret weighs tons….”. 

  • peytyn

    Thanks for this article! I am trying to lose weight for my wedding and this is a great way to stay focused

  • Julie-Ann

    Great piece! Discipline is essential for anyone’s success. For businesses, discipline should combine with excellent service. This video offer a road map for creating a culture of service: http://www.upyourservice.com/video-theater/how-can-you-make-the-best-of-your-existing-culture-even-stronger

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  • T.L.Horat

    Thanks for the concise inspiration!

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  • Gail Kasper

    I’m going to let you in on a
    secret. Negative emotions can work to your advantage, but only if you recognize
    them for what they are and don’t allow them to rule – or ruin – your life. That
    which too often prevents you from moving forward is, in reality, meant to be an
    emotional distress signal telling you that something must change in your life.
    This can be found in my book, Unstoppable: 6 Easy Steps To Achieve Your Goals.

    Gail Kasper

    Author, Another Day Without A Cage: My Breakthrough From
    Self Imprisonment To Total Empowerment and Unstoppable: 6 Easy Steps To Achieve
    Your Goals


  • http://twitter.com/RookieKE Rookie Manager

    Thanks for this post Michael. A tibia and fibula fracture immobilized me for most of 2011 and I’ve been trying to get back on the jogging routine, and this is just the kick start I needed. Writing down that list now, and hopefully I’ll be back on the track tomorrow

  • Anonymous

    These steps are extremely helpful for anyone! I love how versatile they are to apply in any situation. Thank you for sharing your examples as well – great!Gail KasperMotivational Speaker and Author, Unstoppable: 6 Easy Steps To Achieve Your Goals

  • http://www.matthewjcochran.org/ Matthew J. Cochran

    I believe it’s been #2 that’s been missing for me. I do set goals for myself but I sometimes fall short because I either just stop thinking about them and get busy doing other things or because I never laid the groundwork for why I was going to try to achieve those goals in the first place. I’m going to begin taking your suggestions, beginning with my goal to start getting up earlier in the morning so I can have quiet time before my kids wake up and make that impossible.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/HU3CGKJ3KBUDZXJXCVADGRIAFU Iron Stef

    This is great and what I need lately. I always think I am disciplined but my goals aren’t being reached at 100% rate. this will get me there!

  • KevinIvey

    Great and timely piece Michael.  Starting over at the age of 50, I’ve been spending quite a bit of time reflecting, planning and in prayer/seeking. Back to the basic in many ways-discipline is key.

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  • j

    Seek Jesus and HE will solve all of your problems, nothing else will. God Bless.

  • http://mcgreevycoaching.com/ Michael McGreevy

    Thanks Michael, this was extremely helpful! I just returned from an action packed weekend with Dan Miller and it’s challenging to know what to do first. Setting goals for this month with these guidelines have helped me know what to focus on. Thank You!

  • Hugh O’Donnell

    Please be sure to re-post this post at least once a year. It’s a great one.

  • Tim

    This is huge, and I love the clear concise step-by-step action plan. This simple post has the potential to be life-changing for me and my family. Thanks Michael.