“Through discipline comes freedom.” ~Aristotle

“Discipline is freedom.” ~Jocko Willink

Discipline is one of the most powerful skills a person can develop. In fact, discipline is so powerful that practically all things worth obtaining can be acquired through practicing it. Regardless of how potent a tool discipline is, it is a skill that society tends to condition out of us. From instant gratification in the apps on our cell phones, to eating fast food, to watching videos on demand, the modern world and discipline are constantly at odds. Luckily, discipline is a skill that we can develop. Through a lot of practice and even more patience and determination, discipline can be built.

First, let’s recognize what exactly discipline is through an example. Discipline is the practice of doing what is best regardless of what you want to do. Sometimes I don’t want to get up and go to work in the morning. That’s natural, and all of us feel like this from time to time. By pushing through this block and going to work I exercise discipline. Once I’m there, I might as well get as much work done as possible. Every piece I complete now is one I won’t have to worry about later. From making the single choice of going to work the discipline had a compounding effect. The more barriers I push through, the easier the next barrier is to break down. Had I not shown up to work, none of work I was supposed to do would have gotten done. Since I pushed through and made it there, I built upon the effort already exerted and continued pushing through the pain.

Building discipline is not an easy task. It’s a continual process, one I’ll probably never master myself, but it’s worth every second spent working on it. So how do we build discipline? We push through the difficult times! Here’s a list of techniques and ideas I’ve used to improve my discipline. Anyone can use these techniques to help obtain more discipline.

Techniques to Improve Discipline

  1. Commit to a Set of Habits

    Commit to the things that are important, make time for these habits no matter what. Persistence pays off.

  2. Push Through the Discomfort

    Practicing discipline often requires us to overcome barriers, push through these.

  3. Know that You’re Strong Enough

    Believe that you can stick to whatever practice you’ve set your mind to.

  4. Wait

    Progress won’t happen immediately, learn to enjoy the wait.

  5. Make Decisions Based on What’s Right, Not What’s Easy

    There’s beauty in the struggle. True growth is often waiting at the end of the process.

  6. Don’t Give In

    Desire is always temporary.

  7. Surround Yourself with Others Who Are Disciplined

    The people who you’re surrounded by have a ton of influence on you. Choose these people wisely.

  8. Know that We All Fail From Time to Time

    We’re all imperfect, don’t obsess over slip ups.

  9. Remove Distractions

    Remove things that are clear triggers. There’s no reason to have negative influences around.

  10. Don’t Rely on Motivation

    Motivation isn’t required for action. Sometimes you only have enough energy to go through the motions, that’s okay. Going through the motions builds the momentum required to get to the good stuff.

  11. Challenge Yourself

    Push the limits of what you can do.

Having discipline is like a super power. So few people have it these days that it makes those who do have it extra effective. Discipline is a choice that we have to make in basically every thing we do. Questions that we have to answer are often ones where we choose between comfort or discomfort. Questions like:

  • Should I sleep in or get up early to get a head start on the day?
  • Should I watch TV or read a book?
  • Should I play this video game or create something new?
  • Should I sit down and relax after work or do a strenuous workout?

All of these questions have a clear, rational answer as to which one is the healthier long term choice. Unfortunately, the right answer is rarely an easy one. The right answer is often serveral degrees of magnitude harder than the easy one. No matter how hard it is to choose, the right answer is easier to reach through practicing discipline. This is why it’s so important to cultivate the ability.

The quotes above from the great Greek philosopher, Aristotle, and modern day exemplar of discipline, Jocko Willink, show how timeless discipline is. It’s been over 2000 years since Aristotle commented on the world and his words ring as true today as ever. The two quotes say almost the same thing. Discipline and freedom go hand in hand. It might seem counterintuitive, but self imposed limits can in fact directly lead to total freedom. So go build your discipline! If you’re ever lacking energy or questioning if discipline is worth pursuing, listen to Jocko on his podcast. The Jocko Podcast is filled with wisdom and practical advice for becoming your best, strongest, most-disciplined self.