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The Subtle Art of Self-Discipline- And How to Know if You're Doing it Right



“Your ability to discipline yourself to set clear goals, and then to work toward them every day, will do more to guarantee your success than any other single factor.” -Brian Tracy

Motivation and routine are great, don’t get me wrong, but what happens on those days when you just can’t be bothered. You know the mornings when its extra cold, the evenings when your day has been extra challenging, and those moments where all your motivation is long gone.

This is where self-discipline comes in.

Most of us know exactly what we need to do to eat a healthier diet, to become a better writer, to get that promotion we want so badly. Mostly it involves consistently putting in the work and incorporating the little practices every day that make us better, happier, healthier humans.

Its daily things like meditation, eating nutritiously balanced meals, practising gratitude, exercise, journaling (you know what you need to do), that will get us closer to achieving our goals.

We know how beneficial these practices are, we’ve all experienced the endorphin high after a gym session, slept better after meditating and found so much joy in the now by practising gratitude, yet we still don’t do these things every day. We see them as optional extras.

It’s time to shift the way we think about these practices. I like to call them my daily non-negotiables.

We all know that it is essential that we brush our teeth. Twice a day. We don’t question it, we just do it. We want strong healthy teeth that will last us a lifetime, we feel better with clean teeth and those around us benefit when we have fresh, clean, breath. So we just do it. Every single day of the year.

It’s time to start thinking about those habits and practices that will better us, both mentally and physically, in the same way.

If we are truly serious about our personal and/or professional growth (I know I am), we can make time and prioritize not only the work but also the tools that are going to help us get the work done in a more productive, efficient and enjoyable way. Really it’s a win-win.

“It is our choices, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” -J.K. Rowling

I know meditating first thing in the morning helps me think more clearly during the day. It helps me tune out any negative thoughts and really focus on working towards my dreams. It has, therefore, become a daily-non-negotiable in my life. Something I have to do every single morning, like it or not. I have a dozen reminders on my phone, notifications from my mediation app, and a checklist on my pinboard above my desk. I can’t avoid it. So I just do it.

The same goes for exercise. I know my body functions better when I move it. It doesn’t have to be an all-out 90-minute cardio boxing session (although I do love these from time to time), but every day I move my body in some way; walks, yoga, resistance training, dancing, cycling, you get the idea.


Self-discipline ultimately comes down to the self. It is doing the things that you know will benefit you. Setting realistic goals, taking real action. Every single day.

In his article, If Self-Discipline Feels Difficult, Then You’re Doing it Wrong, Mark Manson highlights the end goal of self-discipline- it’s ease and enjoyment.

You work with the pain rather than against it. You pursue it rather than run from it. And with every pursuit, you get stronger and healthier and happier. And eventually, from the outside, it will look as though you’re putting forth monumental effort, that you have this endless reservoir of willpower. Yet, to you, it will feel like nothing at all. — Mark Manson

By teaching yourself to love your daily non-negotiables, by recognising your productivity and mental clarity, feeling stronger, healthier and happier in your body, by moving from a punishment mindset to a growth mindset, you create a clear link between these practices and your best self. You retrain your brain.

It’s not going to happen over-night, but with a little perseverance, this short term pain becomes long term gain.

Suddenly going for a run doesn’t feel like torture and you actually start looking forward to it (hello endorphin high). Those healthy meals that you used to dread now make you feel energized, positive and ready to take on the world. Taking five minutes to meditate before bed is now an invaluable tool for guaranteeing yourself a good night's sleep, which in turn results in a better tomorrow!

Self-discipline is the ultimate key to unlocking your next-level potential. It is the tool, when used alongside your habits, goals and hard work that will take you through life, not only with fresh, minty breath but the strength and dedication to chase your dreams and be your best self.



Need help setting goals? Go check out my article on building healthy habits and goals here:


https://www.theholistichealthproject.com/post/building-healthy-habits-goals

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