From the outset, being a disciplined person means having the capacity to regulate yourself. The ability to summon willpower and resist temptations whenever you need, in order to conquer your goals. But there is so much more to that.
Sure, going for a run every single day can be considered a disciplined person’s activity. But to become and remain a delayed-gratification Jedi. Your whole life requires organization – or reorganization.
That’s why so many people miserably fail at making self-discipline their snarky sidekick on the journey to success.
We think that self-discipline is about doing one thing consistently. But the truth is that it’s about doing everything consistently.
- Setting morning routines.
- Forming new habits while making existing good habits stick.
- Overcoming instant gratification.
- Changing bad habits with good ones.
- Choosing process goals over outcome-based goals.
- Defining implementation intentions.
- Defeating materialism.
- And so much (much) more…
And if doing all of these seems difficult, that’s because it is difficult.
But based on my experience. The main problem with being a disciplined person is not so much related to having good habits and keeping them. The main issue with discipline is the undisciplined world we all live in.
It’s one thing to maintain a diet plan and push yourself to be 1% better every day when everyone around you is trying to do the same. It’s quite another problem to maintain good body and mind hygiene when everyone around you is going crazy over the new trendy thing – a.k.a., focused on having quick and effortless fulfillment of their wants and needs.
Our ability to self-regulate is drastically declining due to the vast amount of temptations that life throws our way.
So, if you are looking for ways to increase your self-discipline muscle. This article will help you by exploring these two main questions:
- What is a well-disciplined person?
- Why is it so hard to be a well-disciplined person?
In the end, I hope you’ll spot that it’s not only about retiring some current habits. But also letting go of some current relationships.
Let’s dive deep…
What Is a Well-disciplined Person?
A disciplined person is someone who is able to consistently execute on a pre-defined action plan without succumbing to the never-ending stream of temptations.
Disciplined people know what they need to do. Thus, they push themselves even when lounging on a cozy couch seems like a better alternative.
Self-disciplined people have the inner strength to control their impulses. They are free from the whims of external circumstances.
Not that a typical well-regulated person doesn’t want to bathe in chips while hugging the remote control. Every individual who is able to feel is tempted to throw away his goals and pursue endless entertainment.
The difference is that disciplined people summon the willpower needed to pursue their long-term goals in the face of tempting tasks that feel good now, but offer nothing in the future.
That being said, let’s see what types of qualities characterize a disciplined person:
10 Qualities of Highly Disciplined People
If you could snap your fingers and become an emperor of inner strength, what would this mean?
Well, there are 10 main traits most highly disciplined people possess:
- Set clear goals: Whether they will train for a marathon or work on a book. Disciplined people tend to set clearly defined goals.
- Organized: It’s hard to get anything done in a chaotic environment. Self-disciplined people default to tidiness and know how to arrange both their environment and time to get things done.
- Self-control: The power to manage impulses and resist temptations is probably their chief ability.
- Persistent: You can’t be a disciplined person if you are not persistent. These two go hand in hand. When things don’t work out as planned, self-disciplined people don’t give up. Quite the opposite, they accelerate.
- Resilient: Since they show up every day, disciplined people recover quickly from setbacks. They learn from their mistakes and tailor their actions accordingly.
- Goal-oriented: When something doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t get prioritized. Disciplined people can quickly distill the important from the unimportant.
- Delaying gratification: Purposefully delaying gratification makes self-disciplined people better able to handle temptations. Not that they never eat junk food, for example. They do, but only after completing their daily tasks.
- Rational: The ability of disciplined people to avoid acting impulsively is supported by their rationality. They turn on logic and reason when everyone around them is acting irrationally.
- Love the process: Disciplined people love what undisciplined people hate – the drudgery involved in maintaining daily systems. Rather than focusing on the end result. A disciplined person embraces the struggle and takes steps to perfect his craft.
- Infinite players: They play for the purpose of continuing to play. Not for the purpose of winning. They are true infinite players – stay on the never-ending path to uncovering new horizons.1
Is It Good To Be a Disciplined Person?
The pure uniqueness of the self-regulation skill is impressive: A person capable of controlling his thoughts and actions in the face of temptations.
This skill alone is enough to sculpt your body and upgrade your thinking. And that skill, as you can sense, doesn’t require obtaining expensive material possessions or subscription plans.
Yes, self-regulation – a.k.a., willpower and self-discipline – is an inner force that one can unlock on its own – no extras are needed.
When your self-discipline skill bar is full. A lot of good things happen…
- You are able to report to work on time and actually do the work you are required to do – without falling victim to the island of joy that is just a click away.
- You are able to go to a restaurant and order a salad – without feeling bad about not ordering all the other food items on the menu.
- You are able to open a new browser and check the thing you ought to check – without ending in a random online shopping spree that can ruin your monthly budget.
And these are just some of the self-discipline benefits – there are plenty of others.
Put simply, it is good to be a disciplined person.
Being a disciplined person gives you power. Power to align your actions based on the person you say you want to be – your goals and your personal core values.
Without self-discipline, your mighty goals are just wishful thinking.
You have grand aspirations for a good life, but these desires are just on paper. You struggle to follow through because you are drawn to immediate pleasures that offer short-term satisfaction.
Why You Are Probably Not a Disciplined Person?
If disciplined people are so cool and extra motivated. Why are we not all like that?
Well, for starters, it’s mainly because it’s hard.
Avoiding ordering dessert looks easy, right? Wrong! It looks easy only when you are at home reading a typical self-help book. In the real world, it’s agonizingly difficult to say no to a cake when you are in the candy shop and a whole shelf of cakes is staring at you.
But the main problem with our indecisive, undisciplined nature is the undisciplined world we live in.
Biologically, we strive to do what others do.2 We feel pressured by the actions of other people. And to avoid feeling like an isolated nerd on an emotionally unreachable island. We try to do what everyone else is doing.
And what everyone else is doing – most of the time – is easy and fun things.
But here comes reason number two… The main reason people prefer easy and fun is because the world is optimized for easy and fun.
The present-day society might offer a lot of good things – education, easy access to knowledge, innovation, better health services, and more. But the side effect of all of this progress is degeneration.
Since companies around the world are racing for profit. They do things that lead to degeneration – addictive apps, high-calorie food, insultingly low-intelligent games, entertainment resources, and a lot, lot, more things that can damage your health and your ability to apply reason.
Plainly, technology made goods cheaper and more addictive. But the other bad news is that these cheap and toxic goods are a vital part of the economy – unleashing a hectic wave of ads urging everyone to buy now.
And the yet other bad news is that people do buy now.
Obeying the mantra, “If it feels good, do it.”
All of this leads to the following…
Why Is It Bad To Be a Disciplined Person?
Above, I briefly mentioned that we are all trying to fit in. You probably don’t need a scientific explanation of this. Parents who have the pleasure of seeing their kid play with another kid are fully aware of this phenomenon. That is, one kid takes a toy, and the other kid immediately wants it – despite the fact that the toy was present the whole time.
But how is this rooted desire for humans to fit in related to self-discipline?
Well, to address this, we need to go back a bit.
How many people do you personally know who you can label willpower wizards?
One, two, three, twenty?
Again, I am not talking about being self-disciplined in one area of your life – i.e., going hard in the gym to impress girls or boys. I am talking about being self-disciplined in all major life areas – health, money, diet, and relationships.
From my social circle, I don’t know anyone who is able to resist temptations and successfully limit his destructive behaviors – again, in all major life areas, not just one or two.
Sure, there are famous – also often rich – folks who we admire and try to emulate. But these are exceptions, not the norm. Hence, their ability to reach fame and riches.
Where am I going with this?
If we compare how long people pursue their desires on a diagram, it will look like this:
Yes, you might resurrect your gym membership every once in a while. But usually, your gym clothes are collecting dust somewhere in a closet.
Based on the above, we can group individuals according to the duration for which they chase their desires. Visually, it will look like this:
Or, in other words, we can categorize humans into three general categories:
Categorization of The Human population Based on Their Willpower
Category 1: The Mass
In this section, we have the majority of humans. Here, people watch Netflix and share their pitiful lives on social media, hoping/waiting for likes to validate their average lifestyle.
When you are part of The Mass, you don’t want to change. And more importantly, you don’t think that you should change. Your understanding is that it’s the government’s fault for your unhealthy and average lifestyle. Thus, you default to voicing your unpleasant existence online, where the other citizens of the mass support your mediocre views which is understandable because their views match yours.
And even if the problem is indeed the government. Your reluctance to change doesn’t lead to any productive actions. You only sit and complain about your condition, but never attempt to change your condition.
Category 2: Exceptional
In this segment, we have people who have achieved mastery in one, or a couple of areas. For example, exceptionally rich folks who are conscious that they are better off than the mass and are actively trying to showcase this.
And while being financially disciplined is undoubtedly helpful. This alone is rarely enough to guarantee genuine happiness. Lack of discipline in other life domains – health, relationships, emotional well-being – can create a deep wound in a person.
Category 3: The top 1%
In this section, you have personas such as Yoda – yes, that green dude. People who have attained self-discipline in all major life areas – or at least the ones they consider important.
The Top 1% in terms of self-discipline means possessing an exceptional level of control, focus, and determination over one’s actions, emotions, and habits. It involves consistently making choices that align with long-term goals and values, regardless of external temptations or distractions.
How all of this is related to being bad to be a disciplined person?
We are getting there…
So, imagine that you are currently part of group one – The Mass. You feel fully alive when you are playing video games and visiting bars – snack bars for food and liquor bars for, well, liquor.
But as your life progresses, you suddenly reach a point of existential angst. Probably you’ve read a book or watched a video that highlighted your insignificant existence which made you aware of how futile your daily regime is.
Suddenly, playing video games and stuffing your body with fat is no longer considered joyful. You want to get fit and you commit to improving your surroundings.
How does this look in relation to the mass?
Well, at one point you were totally consumed by the new and trendy things – doing what everyone around you was doing.
In the next, you are trying to escape what was previously your daily regime: Staying up late, drinking, smoking, mindlessly scrolling, cluttering your space, eating mainly unhealthy foods, and choosing to remain sedentary instead of exercising.
While surely not doing the above list of toxic behaviors is precious for your advancement.
Trying to diverge from The Mass unlocks other types of situations that are hard to handle. For example…
- Your friends invite you for a drink, but you reject.
- Your coworkers discuss the latest TV series, but you have nothing to add to the topic.
- Your social media circle is going crazy over a new pair of sneakers, but you deliberately refuse to participate.
How does all of this make you feel?
People say that they admire your choice to no longer spend money on stupid gadgets while bathing in alcohol. However, inside, they also start to avoid your company.
Well, mostly because your new set of habits highlights their own lack of self-discipline. So, people start to feel uncomfortable in your presence. And from there, they either try to pull you back in – back into The Mass.
Or, if this is unsuccessful, they simply try to avoid your company.
Besides, the intersection of common interests becomes so thin that you are left with nothing to talk about.
Tips on Building Discipline
The only way to achieve lasting discipline is to keep being a disciplined person.
The problem here is that there is no shortcut. No trick. There is neither a “quick” way to get muscular nor an “easy” way to get up early.
Exercise and getting up early always feel tough, regardless of how many times you do them.
The magic isn’t in the trick but in the process.
The process of being a disciplined person each and every day.
I know, it might sound boring and joyless. The fact that staying in shape requires ongoing daily efforts can turn a lot of people off.
In fact, I think that’s the main problem. Since the world is overcrowded with fun stuff to do. The need to do high-effort activity can’t pass through the logical barrier of the brain – i.e., “Why exercise when I can just lay down?”.
As I’ve said before, the brain is interested in feeling good and avoiding pain. And feeling good and avoiding pain is like the credo of the 21st century.
And yet, as I’ve also said before, if we solely indulge in easy and fun. We’ll gracefully glide into the luxurious abyss of mediocrity. A place where we only exist to lay on a couch and feast on a buffet of instant gratification.
All of which leads to a question that you (probably) long to know the answer to: “What can I do to increase my willpower and transition into a disciplined person?”
While the topic can’t be covered in a single article. Here are three tips – in the form of questions – that can help you get started in your self-discipline journey:
Question 1: What Do You Want?
You want to eat chips and watch shows every night? If that’s your thing, do it. After all, we live in a free world, and everyone is unrestricted to do whatever their heart desires.
The point here is not to tell you that you should do this or that. The point is to sit down with yourself and figure out what type of life you want for yourself.
The need to answer the question comes from not addressing it earlier.
We usually adopt the habits of The Mass. We see what everyone else is doing, and we copy their actions without much consideration about how these routines will affect our future.
The great benefit of tackling “What do you want?” more consciously is that it makes room. Room to figure out what type of life you want – not what type of life others expect you to have.
Question 2: What Is Holding You Back?
Since you now know what kind of life you want for yourself – or kind of know, don’t try to figure out every little detail, after all, we are all winging it as we go along.
It’s time to address the second question: “What is holding you back?”
Typically, we think that it’s money, time, or our genes.
We say to ourselves:
- If I only had a vault of gold, my dreams would magically come true.
- If I only possessed an abundance of time, I could finally start that dream project.
- If I only had better genes, muscles would surely surround my bones.
However, the main things holding us back are often internal and within our control.
Here are just three examples:
- Self-doubt and fear: We doubt our skills, and this doubt turns into fear. Fear of being socially mocked and banished from the tribe. Thus, we choose the easier path – adhering to the established behaviors of The Mass.
- Lack of planning: The word planning is not reserved for business owners or projects of any sort. Planning your day is the secret sauce of high-performing people. Yet, we commonly choose to just go with the flow.
- Others: Others in terms of other people. When we think about ourselves as individuals, we use the knowledge of other people to create our own self-image. If others like us, we like ourselves, too. If the opposite is true, we feel as if we don’t matter. But this type of reflection about our persona can be false – and quite dangerous. The words by Jean-Paul Sartre in relation to existentialism come to mind here, “hell is other people”. If you are held captive by what others think about you, it’s akin to being in a form of hell.
As we can sense, all three of these are within our control. Once we spot what – or who – exactly is holding us back – for example, a friend who is always trying to get us inside a bar. We can take proactive steps to gradually break free from the limitations.
Question 3: What Should You Do Every Day?
Being a disciplined person in an undisciplined world is – at least based on my own views – a combination of two things: offense and defense.
Offense in terms of “attacking” the desired lifestyle. Going after the question we addressed earlier – “What do you want?”
And, the second one…
Defense in terms of “defending” yourself from the outside world. Or at least the part of the world that can destroy your focus and corrupt your thinking. Again, what we just talked about – “What is holding you back?”
Simply put, a disciplined person is one who attacks what he wants and defends himself from what he doesn’t want.
The trick here is that you should do that every day. Sure, you can take a break from your military-like lifestyle for a day or two. But in general, if your aim is to attain enduring happiness, you must invest enduring effort.
Some Closing Thoughts
I see no reason to spend our lives doing stuff unless we do great stuff. An ambitious project for sure, but sensible, I think. If our goal is to reach happiness and fulfillment, the only way we are likely to make joy last is to try to be as great as possible in the tasks we get ourselves into.
And doing great things happen goes hand in hand with being a disciplined person.
Sadly, the world we live in is doing everything possible to derail us from any form of self-control. After all, being a disciplined person means shopping less and being uninterested in the latest trends. So, this type of behavior is purged from an early age as it’s bad for the economy.
That’s why the battle to remain disciplined feels like navigating a tumultuous sea. The currents of constant consumer enticements tug at your resolve, threatening to pull you away from the steady course of self-discipline you’ve charted.
If you sense that your willpower is failing. If you have a hard time quieting the siren calls of materialism and instant gratification that echo relentlessly. In addition to what I mentioned above, you might also like the following resources:
- Beyond Discipline Course
- How To Be a Disciplined Person [Science-Based Guide]
- Self-Discipline Examples That Don’t Suck
- Self-Regulation Strategies for Adults
- Motivation vs. Discipline: Which Helps You Go Further?
- The Different Types of Self-Discipline (And Why They Matter)
Regardless of how you choose to proceed. Keep this in mind from the poet and professor Anne Barngrover:
“Time passes whether I stand still or move.” Anne Barngrover
Are you going to let time pass through your fingers? Or, are you going to move and make the most of your time?
Do yourself a favor:
Join Going Further: A 13-day email series on how to keep progressing in a world tirelessly pushing toward regression. Great for people who feel stuck in the endless loop of not doing.
- Durmonski, I. Finite and infinite games summary, Durmonski.com. Available at: https://durmonski.com/book-summaries/finite-and-infinite-games/
- Asch SE. Studies of independence and conformity: I. A minority of one against a unanimous majority. Psychological Monographs: General and Applied. Available at: https://doi:10.1037/h0093718