What are 3 realistic strategies to improve your self-discipline?

Discipline is about “rigidly following a code of behaviour”, therefore self-discipline is about being true to your own rules.

Now I’ve got a difficult question for you: why would you have trouble following your own rules?

There are a number of angles here, each of which will strategically improve your overall discipline.

Read on.

Angle #1 – They’re not actually your rules

There are plenty of people out there who will tell you how to live a ‘good’ or ‘worthwhile’ or ‘virtuous’ life.

Politicians, religions, scientists, pundits and self-appointed gurus. Teachers, governments, peer groups, random people on Quora.

When it comes to rules everyone has some – and they’re generous; they want you to have their rules too.

So if you’re having trouble following your own rules, maybe your heart isn’t in it.

Perhaps you need to sit down and think hard about whether you really want to live that way, or if this is just about how you’ll appear to other people.

I’m not going to kid you – this is difficult. It’s the type of deep personal honesty that separates adults from whiny overgrown children.

Any person who can accept that without flinching (or whining about it – see above) is headed to a stronger place as an individual.

Angle #2 – Some of your rules conflict with each other

This is actually more common than you’d think. In fact, the more rules you have, the more likely this is going to happen.

That’s why people with too many rules tend to be miserable.

For example, suppose you believe in being kind to people. Now, let’s suppose you also believe in winning at all costs.

The conflict there should be obvious. And the result:

  • win and feel bad


  • lose and feel bad.

The solution is one that requires you to be deeply honest with yourself. You need to have as few rules as possible, while still being able to live your life.

It’s time to put away some of your rules.

Start by examining the ones which make other people miserable. That way, you won’t become a narcissist or a sociopath.

How? Just decide to stop being limited by that rule. It’s simple, but not easy.

Angle #3 – Something else in your life is now more important than some of your rules

Your rules are boundaries – they box you in – and mostly that’s a good thing.

But sometimes, important things happen outside that box, things you can’t ignore.

For example, your whole life might have been about being free, travelling from place to place, job to job and from relationship to relationship. Never being tied down.

Then, suppose you meet someone special, with roots in a particular place. If that’s important enough to you, you’ll toss the rule-book away.

You might start forming a stable, secure cocoon around you. A house in a good neighbourhood, regular paycheck. All those steady things which make it work.

Truth is, we all move into situations where the sane thing would be to throw away the old rule-book.

Each time in our lives that we re-define ourselves, we do this. Moving from home to school to work, or from adolescence to adulthood. And more.

You’ll still have to deal with your old rules though. They don’t just go away.

Why not just change your rules?

We all have a psychological bias for self-consistency. However, if you know this, you can find ways for your new life to be consistent with the important parts of your old self. Not all the rules must go.

Be honest – do you still cling to rules which you know, deep down, no longer matter? Maybe they come from a previous job, your old neighbourhood, or a past relationship.

Bring the best of your past into the present by letting go of the things which hold you back. Again, it’s simple, but not easy.

Discipline in practice

Discipline is something you master within the small moments of each day. Moment by moment you move forward. It’s the quiet work of a lifetime.

What are 3 realistic strategies to improve your self-discipline? by
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