4 Simple Steps to Develop Discipline

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I used to be a couch potato. I wasted countless hours on TV and social media and slept an average of 4 hours a night. Unsurprisingly, my productivity and fitness levels were low, and I was plummeting toward a lackluster life.

Fast forward a few years, I’m fitter than ever, extremely productive, and much happier. Here’s how I did it.

A lot of transformation stories online leave you thinking you just need to muster up some willpower to accomplish your goals. We all know how that goes: we work toward something for a few days and give up because we lose motivation.

But what I did was much simpler — and easier!

I developed discipline.

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1. First, I set clear goals.

Did you know writing down your goals actually makes you more likely to achieve them? Writing down your goals also forces you to identify your objectives. This may sound trivial, but most people don’t know what it is they truly want to achieve!

I recommend writing complete sentences in present tense when making your list of goals. For example, “I can run a 7 minute mile.” This allows you to take on an identity change in your subconscious mind. Whether you think you’ll fail or you think you succeed, you’re right. So make sure you condition your mind to believe you will achieve your goals.

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2. I made daily to-do lists.

Perhaps you’re noticing a theme: I like lists. Daily to-do lists are effective because marking tasks as complete releases dopamine, which makes you feel good AND makes you more motivated to repeat that process.

I make my to-do lists at the beginning of each day. Doing so allows me to go through my day without having to think about what I should do next; it’s already written down for me. I also place asterisks by the three most important tasks and get those done first. This allows for prioritization of tasks, which helps me accomplish my most valuable activities.

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3. I scheduled.

“The things that get scheduled are the things that get done.” — Robin Sharma

I was able to cultivate habits by scheduling tasks. I found that when I did not schedule my difficult tasks, I wouldn’t get them done. I set time blocks for each activity in a journal, but you can use an online scheduler like Google Calendar as well.

Pro tip: when trying to develop a habit, I’ve found it’s best to keep your schedule consistent. For example, if you plan to exercise for 20 minutes a day, do so at the same time each day. This consistency will assist in habit formation.

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4. I got hard things done in the morning.

“If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.” — Mark Twain

People have greater self-control in the morning, so it is crucial to tackle your difficult tasks early in the day. You can think of this in terms of activation energy, which is the amount of energy required to undergo a process. When applied to completing tasks, the activation energy is your task aversion. In the morning, your activation energy is lower, so it is easier to get a difficult task done. By the evening, we have built up a wall of excuses to not do the thing we most need to do, and our activation energy is exponentially higher. Thus, difficult tasks will be easier to accomplish when done toward the beginning of the day.

It is important to keep in mind that although these 4 simple steps are effective, they require repetition to become habits. But I promise the rewards are worth the effort. Developing discipline will transform your relationships, fitness, financial wellbeing, mental health, and confidence. I dare you to give these steps a try and see how your life changes.

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