Self-discipline is a trait that is important to develop over time, no matter your career level or industry. Doing so can help you achieve personal career goals by supporting your success in the job search or in your current role.
In this article, we will discuss what it means to be self-disciplined and how you can improve this trait in your work life.
What is self-discipline?
Self-discipline is the ability to focus intently on a task or goal with the purpose of achieving a certain result. Much like other qualities that might contribute to your overall success, self-discipline is one that produces sustainable success over time. Self-disciplined individuals commonly rely on a group of other traits, such as:
- Strong work ethic
In the workplace, self-discipline becomes a way to develop certain actions, thoughts and habits that help you complete tasks, surpass milestones and eventually reach specific goals.
Mental blocks to self-discipline
Self-discipline is typically a learned behavior that people refine over time through practice and repetition. To increase your self-discipline, you can use proven methods to gain better control and improve your daily routine:
- Challenge your perceptions. It is often true that our mental perception of our limits and ability to focus our time and energy on something specific is the initial barrier to improving self-discipline. Taking time to challenge what you think you can and can’t do can be a good first step to self-discipline.
- Find motivational activities. If you are finding it challenging to be disciplined with a certain task or project, find ways to refocus your attention. Sometimes it is beneficial to step away from your work to take a walk or do another activity for a short time. Then return to your work with new energy and motivation.
- Practice comfort with failure. Being more disciplined also requires that you forgive your own shortcomings. Even with the best intentions, you will sometimes fall short or even fail, but the idea is to be resilient and keep moving forward. Learn from your mistakes and continue your work with more knowledge.
How to be disciplined
Since self-discipline is a learned behavior, you need to make the choice to develop it. Setting clear goals and having a solid plan of what you hope to achieve is a must. Once you know where you’re headed, it’s easier to stay focused and not get sidetracked or lose your way.
Here are additional tips for building self-discipline:
- Make practice a habit. As with any skill, you’ll need to practice self-discipline on a daily basis. Be clear about your expectations of yourself on the job and how you plan to meet the goals for which you are responsible. Breaking down your work hours into segments can help you focus on certain tasks. Additionally, breaking your longer-term goals into milestones can help you stay motivated by celebrating small wins along the way.
- Focus on one self-discipline skill at a time. There are many traits you can develop that lead to increased self-discipline that you can focus on one at a time. For example, you might choose to dedicate one week to get more organized. Over the following weeks, you should maintain your organization while also focusing on a new trait.
- Define your expectations clearly. What do you expect from yourself in terms of achieving goals at work? What do you expect from others who can support you? How do you plan to support them? Clarifying your expectations of yourself and others can focus your efforts, making self-discipline more achievable.
- Set personal goals. Setting SMART goals that are achievable and measurable can help you build self-discipline over time by accomplishing specific related tasks. Think about what self-discipline means to you in your own work and what skills and qualities you will need to put it into practice.
Making small actions a habit can help you become more self-disciplined at work. While these may not all be related specifically to your responsibilities on the job, they can support your efforts to maintain a disciplined mental state. Here are several exercises you can try incorporating into your daily schedule:
- Meditate for 10 minutes a day.
Meditation is a popular practice for self-discipline that is simple to incorporate into your daily routine. Meditation also reduces stress and improves focus—both necessary to achieve important career goals.
- Make your bed.
When you make the bed first thing in the morning, you start the day by accomplishing a task before you get to work. The feeling of a small accomplishment before getting your day started can produce a more productive and disciplined state of mind.
- Eliminate distractions.
Once you’re at work, make it a point to avoid distractions that take time away from working towards your goals. This can include small actions like putting your phone in your desk drawer, using a social media monitor or blocker or simply blocking off a certain amount of time on your calendar to focus on a task. You can also eliminate distractions by having a set schedule, maintaining a clean workspace and getting enough sleep every night. Adding positive distractions might also be beneficial, such as listening to background music to help you drown out office noises—choose whatever works best for you.
- Practice gratitude.
Taking time to recognize small wins or points of joy throughout your day can help you increase and maintain motivation. You might consider making it a practice to write down three things you are grateful for at the end of each day. After six weeks of this practice, consider how your self-discipline and motivation have been affected, if at all.
- Revisit your goals regularly.
Keeping your goals visible can be a good motivator to work towards increased self-discipline. Write down your goals and display them on your desk or computer. Make time to celebrate small wins or surpassing key milestones.
- Remember that failure is part of succeeding.
Self-discipline doesn’t require perfection. You will fail or fall short of setting habits or reaching goals and that’s okay. Failure is a natural part of succeeding. The idea is to keep moving forward and getting closer to your goals. Recognize the failures, reward your successes and don’t give up.
Honing self-discipline is a challenge, but performing easy exercises, developing repetitive behaviors and becoming disciplined in a single area can help you move onto the next challenge. Start small and settle into daily habits that make you feel accomplished.