The 3 Key Steps To Building Self-Discipline

Published: April 16, 2010
By: Faye Hollands

Napoleon Hill once also said that “all things are possible” with self-discipline and after spending a lifetime studying successful people he knows what he’s talking about. So if you’re struggling to achieve your goals here’s how to increase your level of self-discipline and start achieving the things you want in life…

Moods, Appetites and Passions

Self-discipline is the ability to get yourself to take action regardless of your emotional state. As Stephen R. Covey once wrote, “the undisciplined are slaves to moods, appetites and passions”, and without self-discipline the knowledge, skill or opportunity you have is likely to be of little or no use. Put it this way, if you’re trying to lose weight there’s no point in knowing all the right and wrong things to eat and the most effective exercise regimes if you have no self-discipline to put them into action!

So how can you increase your level of self-discipline? In this 3-part series I’m going to take you through the key steps to increasing your level of self-discipline so that you can start taking action regardless of how you feel.

Step 1: Self-Knowledge

Discipline is about doing what is best for yourself regardless of how you feel in the moment, so it’s important to have a clear sense of self-knowledge and awareness in order to practice self-discipline effectively.

To do this you need to decide what behaviour is required to achieve your goals and values. The first step for most people in doing this is to spend some quality time analysing what your goals and values actually are.

Regarding values, these are the emotional states you would like to experience on a consistent basis and your list of values reflects the one’s you WANT in your life rather than the ones you think you SHOULD have. As most of my clients will tell you, values are far more complex than a short list of words that roll off the end of your tongue, so if you’d like to know more about how to determine your values simply send me an email.

I highly recommend taking the time to get clear on what your goals, dreams and ambitions are, and the values that are important to you – this crucial information provides the backbone to determining what needs to be done in order to achieve your goals and therefore where you need to apply self-discipline.

Step 2: Commitment

I’m sure it comes as no surprise that it’s not enough to simply write out your goals and values, you need to be committed to achieving them. If you’re not committed you won’t see any problem with “having another drink”, “hitting the snooze button one more time” or “popping out for that last cigarette” …. you get the drift!

Planning helps increase commitment because it allows you to focus on what’s really important and ensure that relevant tasks becomes part of your day allowing you to move closer to achieving your goals. Put bluntly, people don’t generally get what they want by ambling through life, hoping, wishing and waiting – it takes commitment and organisation to get there.

If you struggle with commitment, start by making a conscious decision to do what you say you’re going to do, and plan a specific time in your schedule to get it done. Give that time the same respect you would a client meeting, and keep track of how often you follow-through with your commitments. Remember – what gets measured gets improved!

Step 3: Willpower

There’s no substitute for willpower, despite what the commercials say! We all know that ‘fast and easy’ diet pills aren’t the solution to a healthy lifestyle, but it’s a lack of buyer’s willpower that helps those products become successful!

The problem with willpower is that it provides a quick boost of motivation, which can burn out quickly, and if you don’t know how to use that burst intelligently then your level of self-discipline can fall by the wayside.

Given that willpower is typically a thrust forward, rather than a steady pace, it’s important not to tackle your challenges in a way that requires a high level of willpower everyday – frankly, it’s unsustainable. Success breeds success so you need a strategy that you can keep up and maintain momentum.

Willpower is great for setting the scene on how to move forward to achieve your goals, and then using that initial thrust of motivation to get moving. So for example, lets say you want to change careers. The first step is to identify all the various targets you’ll need in order to achieve success. You need to determine what career you want to move into and then what skills you need to develop in order to make that move.

Secondly, you might feel that you’d be tempted to stay in the ’same old job’ if you didn’t improve your financial situation so you put together a budget or see a financial planner. You set aside time each weekend to study and you join relevant associations and groups to expand your network in the industry you’re interested in. You get a coach or mentor so that you can learn more about career transition, and you meet with several recruiters to get their expert advice on how to break into that industry. And so on … all of this information goes into a written plan on how to change your career.

Then it’s time for action – and fast! With focus, you could put a lot of these tasks into action in one day, and by the end of the day you will have used your willpower not to change jobs, but to put into place the conditions you need to make a career change easier.

The key point here is not to use willpower to make the actual change, but to attack your environment in order to set yourself up for success. The same goes for setting up a business, working towards promotion, losing weight, stopping smoking … basically anything you want to achieve.

By using willpower in this way you will create momentum, and as you regularly take action habits will start forming. Once a habit is formed you need very little willpower to keep moving forward, which means you’ll find it easier and easier to achieve your goals. The knock-on effect is huge!

Faye Hollands

About Faye Hollands

Faye is an accomplished Career Coach, Small Business Coach and Productivity Specialist who has successfully coached countless clients on how to create a career they love, get more done in less time, and achieve personal and professional success. To receive weekly articles to improve your career, business and time management skills click here or book your Free Focus Session here.

You can contact Faye on +61 2 8323 4335 or email

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