Essentially, you can view self-discipline as the ability to consistently make high-quality decisions instead of low-quality decisions. Your self-discipline influences whether you’re going to eat a cookie or a salad, read a self-development book or watch Netflix, and work on your goals or mindlessly scroll through social media.
In other words, self-discipline determines whether you’ll make an empowering or limiting decision within the moment. Ultimately, it’s the compounded effects of these decisions that determine the quality of your life.
Highly disciplined people, however, aren’t born that way. Through certain habits and beliefs, they develop their ability to consistently make disciplined decisions. Let’s look at 5 habits of the highly disciplined, which you can apply in your life as well.
Habit 1: They Seek Accountability
Highly disciplined people understand that their environment influences their decision-making. Therefore, they do anything to make their environment supports their goals. They surround themselves with people who help them grow, who keep them accountable, and who raise their standards. As Tim Ferriss said:
“You are the average of the five people you associate with most, so do not underestimate the effects of your pessimistic, unambitious, or disorganized friends. If someone isn’t making you stronger, they’re making you weaker.”
Remember, a high-quality environment makes high-quality decision-making much easier. On the other hand, a low-quality environment makes it much harder. Choose your social circle wisely.
Habit 2: They Take ‘Extreme Ownership’
Highly disciplined people don’t blame others for their life circumstances — no matter if it’s justified to do so. They don’t blame the economy when their finances are bad. They don’t blame their boss for their career issues. They don’t blame their spouse for their unhappiness. They don’t blame their upbringing for their bad eating habits.
By blaming others — even though it’s justified — you give your power away. For example, when you blame the economy for your bad financial situation, you stay stuck in a victim role. From this position, you won’t take action towards improving your reality. Highly disciplined people understand this and take ‘extreme ownership’ instead.
No matter who’s at fault, highly disciplined people take ownership of the situation. They actively look at what they can control to improve the situation instead of complaining about the things they can’t control.
This way, they get things done instead of sitting passively on the sidelines. They take matters into their own hand, even though it might be other people or external events that messed things up for them.
Habit 3: They Prime Their Mind For Discipline
High-quality decisions are made from a high-quality mindset. If you feel lazy or unmotivated, it’s much harder to make a disciplined decision. Highly disciplined people — whether they know it or not — are a master at priming their minds and getting into a ‘peak state’.
Through certain priming rituals or thought-patterns, they motivate themselves to exercise or work on their goals even though they didn’t feel like it at first. From this elevated mindset, it’s much easier to overcome procrastination and get moving. Certain priming rituals are:
- Taking a cold shower
- Reviewing long-term goals
- Exercising (even just 5 minutes to get energized)
- Watching a motivational video
- Deep breathing exercises (such as Wim Hof breathing)
- Reading affirmations
- Visualizing about their future success
All of these priming rituals help you get into a peak state of mind. From this state of mind, it’s a lot easier to make high-quality, productive decisions compared to being in a ‘normal’ state of mind.
Habit 4: They Don’t Fall For Mind-Trickery
In most cases, when we’re doing something difficult or something we don’t necessarily enjoy, our self-talk is often directed at ‘doing it later/tomorrow’. Our mind is trying to trick us into taking the easy way out. More often than we’d like to admit, we obey this inner voice of resistance.
Highly disciplined people understand that this is just the mind trying to trick them into taking the path of least resistance. They don’t fall for this mind-trickery because they know the human mind prefers instant-gratification and is always trying to avoid the difficult stuff.
Highly disciplined people see it all as one big game. It’s them versus the mind-trickery. When their inner voice of resistance tells them to quit, they’ll go another round simply because they don’t want to give in this mind-trickery.
Habit 5: They Do The Hard Things First
Where most people postpone the most daunting tasks until later in the day (or tomorrow), highly disciplined people make it a habit of taking on the hardest tasks first thing in the day. There are a few reasons why they do this.
First of all, they realize that the more they postpone the hard things, the less likely they are to do it. Postponing the hard things until later in the day often means it doesn’t get done. Other obligations or urgent tasks pop up, and the task gets deferred until tomorrow. When you have the rule to do the hard things first, however, there’s no way to procrastinate on them.
Furthermore, when you do the hard things first, the rest of the day feels like a breeze. This is a much more productive and enjoyable way of going through life. You don’t have to worry for hours and hours, thinking about this daunting task. When it’s already out of the way, the rest of the day feels like a walk in the park. As Mark Twain said, “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”
Now Do It
Change only comes from taking action, not just by knowing about it. Therefore, as an action point for this article, incorporate at least one of these habits in your daily routine.
To Your Personal Growth,
Founder Personal Growth Lab
If you’re serious about improving your productivity, sharpening your focus, and achieving your goals, I invite you to check out the 30-Day Productivity Challenge.
For 30 days in a row, you’ll work smarter, be laser-focused, and stop procrastinating. I guarantee, your to-do list won’t stand a chance.