We often hear the term discipline tossed around and thrown around like a hacky-sack buzzword, but what does the term mean? According to the dictionary, self-discipline is defined as “the ability to control one’s feelings and overcome one’s weaknesses; the ability to pursue what one thinks is right despite temptations to abandon it.”

Based on that, I believe it’s fair to say that to lead a halfway decent life, every one of us needs to cultivate and use self-discipline. With that being said, self-discipline is not for the faint of heart, and there are some that despite their desires to do better that simply won’t. But, if you are one of the strong ones, attempting to better yourself and your life, then here are 9 simple ways to cultivate self-discipline.

1. Focus on your why. What is it that you NEED to be disciplined for?

What is it that drives you to become a better person? What is it that you want from your life? Be clear on what it is that is pushing you to become a better and more disciplined person.

2. Understand what self-discipline is not.

Discipline doesn’t mean you are a machine that will never fail or a powerhouse that always does the right thing. Discipline is learning your limitations and your strengths and pushing yourself to overcome the blocks that stand in your way. It doesn’t mean temptation won’t ever arise, or that you will never fall prey to it.

3. Learn to challenge yourself.

As humans, we are geared towards what is comfortable and what we are familiar with. Usually and almost always, the hard things we avoid aren’t as difficult as we believe, we are just afraid to do more or to structure ourselves better because it seems hard. If you are trying to discipline yourself to eat better, and you keep going for the cookie, the next time you go for it, ask yourself “Why am I doing this?” when an excuse arises, challenge it. For example, you may say, “Well they taste good, I don’t want to live a life without cookies.” When the fact of the matter is, you don’t have to live without them, you simply shouldn’t be eating them until the point in which you feel sick and self-loathing. This is just an example, but you get it, right?

4. Understand that delayed gratification is important.

Sigmund Freud believed that we are born wanting immediate gratification. We want our immediate needs to be satisfied, right then and there. It’s through the process of maturity that we learn that sometimes our wants and desires need to be delayed for us to reach a greater goal.

5. Learn to set boundaries with yourself.

Sometimes, we simply have to learn to tell ourselves no. If you don’t do this often, it can be difficult at first. However, the more you say NO to yourself, the easier it becomes.

6. Plan.

Sit down and write out your goals. Then, make a plan to succeed in your goals. Additionally, you should plan for when things will arise that could thwart your progress. If you have a plan, you will already have a way to make it through the obstacle before it even arises.

7. Remove temptation.

When we keep our temptations around or continue to submerge ourselves in tempting circumstances, the chances are stacked against us that we will succeed. Studies have shown this time and time again. So, try to avoid temptation at all costs. For example, if it’s dry January, then don’t keep beer stashed in your fridge.

8. Build a firm foundation with small habits.

Rather than getting bogged down in the greater goal, develop small habits you can consistently practice to get results. Don’t worry about the results so much as make sure you carry out the habit. As an example, if you want to develop a better body, don’t consume yourself with making that happen. Instead, try to eat better as much as possible and work out doing something you love regularly, the results will come.

9. Learn to use failure to succeed.

And of course, since you are not a superhuman machine, you are going to fail from time to time or give in. Don’t beat yourself up, and don’t quit. Keep pushing. Use your failures as lessons to prepare better next time. Progress is not linear, it’s a massive zig-zagged curve. The point is to never give up.

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