Don’t know how to stay disciplined and consistent with your goals? No longer…read this article to win the psychological warfare of your mind and resistance.
Remember That Time?
We’ve all been in situations where we know what we need to do, we even have all the resources for doing them, but what prevents us from actually doing them is this massive wall of procrastination.
We’ve also been in situations where we’ve set a goal for ourselves, written it out, made glamorous social media posts about how we’re grinding it out, but we don’t stay consistent with it.
And I believe every one of us can relate to the psychological warfare of dealing with these things – your own voice of self-doubt, your excuses, hesitations, slip-offs, and the lies you tell yourself.
Fundamentally, solving these issues comes down to being honest with yourself, and then doing what you said you were gonna do.
“I know what I need to do…
but why am I not doing it?”
Like I said, you know what you need to do but you’re not doing it. Why is that?
- It might be because of inflammatory foods that cloud your thinking,
- It might be because of a poor night’s sleep,
- It might even be because of some past mental traumas that make you self-sabotage your own success.
But honestly… I believe those things can all be transcended with some good old discipline.
Simply doing the right thing because you know it’s the right thing to do despite the weather, despite how you feel emotionally, despite what your friends might think of you and despite having no motivation whatsoever.
This topic is somewhat near and dear to me because it’s one of the personality traits I can always rely on and that’s exactly what we’re going to be talking about in today’s Body Mind Empowerment Podcast with Siim Land.
How to Stay Disciplined and Consistent With Your Goals
How come disciplined people are so disciplined? What’s the deal with them?
- When Average Joe can’t seem to stick to their diet or consistently exercise to lose weight.
- Then Jocko Willink here wakes up at 04:30 AM every morning, starts working out and reading immediately while getting after it.
Are disciplined people seriously neurotic and psychopathic that they just push themselves so hard that they’ve forgotten about what it feels like to procrastinate?
I think I’m quite a disciplined person so I can tell yes… to a certain extent.
- When Successful people are successful because they follow certain routines and tactics that allow them to be successful.
- Then the same applies to disciplined people.
Mustering self-discipline does indeed require willpower and it causes massive discomfort. And the more disciplined you are the longer you can stay disciplined.
The Myth of Self-Discipline
It’s thought that you only need to “punch yourself in the face and just do it!”
You do need discipline and you do need to have the willpower to stay consistent with your goals, especially at times when you just feel like snoozing in and eating that burger with French fries.
I’m going to tell you this:
Discipline is what gets you started, but habit is what keeps you going.
It requires a whole lot of discipline to begin moving but once you’re already in motion it becomes increasingly less difficult to keep going. It’s the law of momentum even Isaac Newton was talking about. Newton’s First Law is this:
An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion at constant velocity unless acted upon by an opposing force.
It means if you’re procrastinating, if you’re slacking off and if you’re stuck in the vicious cycle of making excuses, then you’re literally dragging yourself down into a downward spiral and it becomes more and more difficult to get out of there the longer you stay in it.
That’s why addictions are so hard to break and that’s why broken dreams will most likely remain to be broken dreams
What Makes You Disciplined
Unless you’re “acted upon by an opposing force”, which in this context is the overcoming of procrastination and growing discipline.
But not all discipline is the same.
There’s a significant difference between externally imposed discipline and self-discipline as well.
- Externally imposed discipline is based on authority and responsibility in front of others. You do it just because you’re forced to – for instance, in the military, the drill sergeant commands you to get out of bed, the government orders you to show up to court and pay your civil responsibilities, your medical condition requires you to go on a diet otherwise you’ll get a heart attack and so on.
- Self-Discipline is internal. It’s based on your responsibility not in front of others, but in front of yourself. You do the right thing because you know it’s the right thing to do.
Of course, both ways can lead to getting things done.
If your boss tells you to do something, then you’re going to do it, otherwise, you’re going to have to find a new job.
You can also be so intrinsically motivated that your self-discipline becomes more of like a pulling mechanism that makes you want to improve yourself.
I Love Self-Discipline
But of course, the one you want to develop and cultivate is self-discipline both the inspiring aspect of simply doing it because you value your purpose above anything else as well as the ability to enter into more darker places with your mind and grinding it through with sheer willpower.
Both are needed for various situations and you want to be confident in your ability to do whatever, whenever, however, with whoever and for as long as you need to just to have the skill of doing so.
As you might tell, I take self-discipline very seriously because I think it’s one of the more positive traits of human nature. It’s definitely one of my top personality traits that I’m quite proud of.
Genetically, I’m not the smartest, I’m not the strongest, not the fastest, not the best communicator or socializer but I know that with enough perseverance and grit I can learn those things.
My discipline and willpower are what have allowed me to get fit, to improve myself, to develop skills I previously didn’t have and to also start this podcast. So, it should be seen as the foundation to all kinds of personal development. It’s definitely a vital component of Body Mind Empowerment and self-mastery.
As the word implies, it originates from yourself – it’s the core essence of what it’s like to be YOU and nothing else.
Self- discipline is the first and foremost thing in your life that lies within your control.
It’s embedded in your entire being – your thoughts, mindset, your actions, behavior and in what influences you let yourself be exposed to.
That is exactly where discipline can be found – in the every day moment-by-moment decisions you make – and it’s exactly at those times where discipline will shape and mold YOU.
It takes discipline to push off immediate gratification and go for the delayed return. When you do manage to say no to the temptations or to do the right thing in difficult situations, you’re creating momentum for even more success and greatness.
The pain or discomfort may last for a minute or it may last for an hour, but the feeling of regret – the regret of not taking action, or not living to your full potential – will haunt you for the rest of your life.
Self-Identity and Discipline
Even maintaining your current self-identity involves discipline.
Your self-identity – the person you tell yourself you are – is one of the dearest things to your heart. I think that your self-identity can be shaped and moulded through changing the story you tell yourself and through changing the neural networks of your brain, but all in all you as a person are constantly trying to stay consistent with the image you’ve created in your head and with the one you’re sharing with other people.
- That’s why some people will never lose their weight – it’s because they have the self-identity of a fat person and they’ll always self-sabotage themselves whenever they begin to make progress.
- That’s why some people will also put on some sort of a mask whenever they’re around their friends. They’ve adopted the belief that I need to act in a certain way because it’ll make me be accepted by my social group.
I mean, no one likes change, especially not your friends, and that’s why I invite you to look at where in your life are you holding onto some sort of an identity although it’s not serving you anymore.
Disciplined About Your Self-Image
Coming back to discipline, maintaining your self-identity involves discipline especially when you’re lying to yourself about who you are and want to be.
Doing what we know is wrong despite knowing deep down that there is a better way involves discipline.
But this is the coward’s allure to self-discipline because it’s taking the easy way out and succumbing to your own shadow.
You’re staying disciplined in the sense of holding onto some sort of a narrative or a lie in your head, but it would require even greater integrity and honesty with yourself to overcome your blind spots and fallacies. You have to escape the matrix of your mind.
Here’s the Crux
Ultimately, where I want to get here is this –
Self-discipline is self-love – doing what you know is good for you.
Positive self-discipline is taking the high road and doing what’s right despite how hard or uncomfortable it gets.
It’s about becoming self-empowered and being the ultimate creative force in your life. In so doing, you rise above the things you control because of choosing to act against anything you may come across – even your own ego.
My Self-Discipline Journeys
Let me now talk to you about some of my own episodes of developing self-discipline.
After I graduated high school I enrolled in the military where I spent 8 months. The first 3 months was basic training. We were the newest recruits – the lowest in the rank of command – at the bottom of the food chain with absolutely no power.
As a private, you don’t have any other way but to obey what you’re being told because otherwise, you’d suffer even greater punishment.
When in life there’s the saying of “Suffer the pain of discipline or suffer the pain of regret,” then in the army it’s more along the lines of: “Suffer the pain of discipline or suffer the pain of even more pain.”
And I’m not talking about Doing pushups or running around the perimeter – those were the easy stuff. I actually loved doing those punishment-pushups because you got to train more. – it sucked if you were put as the duty officer of the day or got extra hours at night guard. Those were the painful moments.
When the Times Get Tough…
Of course, drill sergeants can be sometimes unfair and they tend to abuse their power over the recruits but they still get a few things right.
When you’re training, it’s supposed to be difficult.
In fact, it has to be harder than anything you could potentially encounter in a real conflict. An actual war would be still unimaginably strenuous and dangerous, but what you can and need to do is prepare yourself for the worst case scenario as well as you can in the present already.
I’m not telling you that you should hire a personal drill sergeant to pull you out of bed in the morning or check whether or not you’ve been drinking enough water…
The idea is that in a situation where discipline is imposed on you externally, you have no other choice but to adapt and get things done.
And the problem is that if you’re left with only weak self-discipline, then you’ll never improve or change for the better.
…the Tough Get Going
So, what’s the secret to self-discipline?
We already talked about Newton’s First Law of Motion – that once you stay disciplined the easier it gets – but how do you even begin motion when there’s no externally imposed drill sergeant screaming at you?
It’s Extreme Ownership
If you’re not familiar with this then Extreme Ownership is the concept and the best-selling book of ex-Navy SEAL commander and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt Jocko Willink.
Taking extreme ownership over everything in your life puts full responsibility on YOU. Not your parents, not your genes, not your spouse, not your boss, not the weather, not the government, not your limiting beliefs – on YOU.
It’s not about writing down your goals, making new year’s resolutions, telling yourself “ah, I’m going to do this-this and that” but it’s about having a shift in mindset and shattering your self-identity.
My Episodes of Taking Extreme Ownership
Looking back, I can recall several moments in my life where I’ve taken extreme ownership over my life.
When I was little, our parents gave me and my brother a chore to carry these old bricks left over from the renovation to another place. They were next to the house and we had to take them like 40 meters away under a tree. Not a big deal, but there were a lot of bricks, maybe like a thousand of them.
So, I and my brother were carrying them and after an hour we weren’t even halfway done. It would’ve taken us at least 2 additional hours to get it over with. There was no deadline or rush to complete the task so my brother said something like: “let’s finish it for today and we’ll continue later in the evening or tomorrow.”
I stood there and thought for a moment – we’ve already been doing it for an hour and we’re all warmed up. It would be more difficult for us to do it later.
Because what else would’ve we done. We would’ve gone inside, played some video games or watched some movies, get all comfortable enjoying ourselves and having a good time, but we would’ve also lost momentum.
Don’t Lose the Momentum of Discipline
How often do procrastinate on something just because it’s more uncomfortable to start the task than it is to maintain it?
- Once you’re at the gym already then it’s easy to get an amazing workout because you’re already there.
- Once you get the first set done it’s easier to do another one and another one.
That’s momentum and it applies to everything you do – to your fitness, to your goals and finance.
But back to the story…
I tried to persuade my brother that – “dude, let’s get it over with and then we have the entire evening for ourselves.”
What I was basically telling him – let’s suffer a little bit now so we could get a reward afterward – but he didn’t listen. He went inside and I kept carrying those bricks for another hour.
Now, being the caring and good-willed brother I am, I left a few hundred of those bricks for him as well so I didn’t do all the work for him. But the difference in mindset is quite profound.
And I’m not trying to judge my brother or anything because children usually don’t have that sort of a long-term perspective but it’s one of those episodes in my childhood that particularly points out.
Another example of extreme ownership comes from when I was an exchange student in the UK for a year. The semester had been finished and I was heading back home.
When I Really Had to Take Ownership
I remember being at the train station of Edinburgh, purchasing a train ticket to the airport with my last bit of money – my bank account was literally at 0,0005 pounds.
A few months ago, I had just started my blog as well but I was making no money from it. I knew that it’s what I needed to do for building up my brand and influence But I didn’t want to take another job for the summer, like waiting tables, bartending or something else similar. It would’ve taken up time from creating content and been a huge distraction.
Instead, I followed one of the craziest military tactics in history and I burned my own boats.
When Ancient Greeks invaded an island or a coastal region, they set fire to their boats before they went to the assault. What they did was make success and victory the only possible solution. If they knew they didn’t have anywhere to retreat, they would start to fight even harder because their entire lives literally depended on it.
When the Spanish conquistadors assaulted the Aztec empire in the 1500-s, their leader Hernan Cortez used the same strategy.
He had just a few hundred men in his army and they went against millions of Indians. It was courageously foolish but it gave them the ability to go past failure – they’re literally in a sink or swim situation.
Sink or Swim
I burned my boats in Edinburgh and went home.
Despite being broke, I put in massive hustle the entire summer. Every day, I would spend 8–10 hours of creating content, writing articles and e-books. By the end of it, I had written 4 books, some of which were on the bestseller list on Amazon, and in so doing I was able to keep myself afloat.
Instead of waiting for the perfect moment, taking the easy route or quitting my blog, I took extreme ownership of my profession and turned pro.
Jocko Willink – an obvious badass – is also well known for getting up extremely early (pun intended).
He’s usually up at 4:30 AM and he keeps himself accountable by always posting a picture of his watch on either Twitter or Instagram. After that, he has a brutal workout, reads a bit and has already accomplished more than most people get to do during the entire day.
Extreme Ownership helps you to detach yourself from yourself
- You come to terms with what you want to accomplish and commit to finishing it.
- Whenever you hit an emotional barrier, it’s a conflict between your desires and will.
- Keeping ownership in mind allows you to remember your priorities and act in spite of how you feel because you know it’s the right thing to do.
Discipline is Freedom
You’d think that discipline is restricting and confining but it actually gives you more freedom. More freedom in your overall life as well as in action.
- The more disciplined you are with your health, the more energy you have.
- The more disciplined you are with your time management, the more free time you’ll end up having.
- The more disciplined you are with waking up, the more things you’ll get done.
This small little mindset shift can change your world.
Instead of living in a safe world where everything is taken care of for you, you realize that none of your fortune is guaranteed and that in nature you’d have to be the one making shit happen.
You have to take full responsibility for everything you do, think and accomplish.
It’s a Privilege…
Let’s be honest, our modern world is already far too comfortable.
People have this mindset for immediate gratification and they’re too soft. I mean, you’re pretty much safe in most parts of the world and you’re not going to die if you go through some discomfort. Even burning your boats won’t kill you because you’ll still get some support or assistance from the government and social service.
Therefore, being able to procrastinate, to sleep in in the morning, to get fat, to lose your fitness or to even spend an extra minute on Facebook is a huuuuuuge privilege or modern society.
You can literally be a couch potato or a homeless person without dying completely.
Remember this quote by Christopher McDougall the author of Born to Run when you don’t feel like getting up:
Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up, it knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve. It doesn’t matter whether you’re the lion or a gazelle-when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.
Gratitude and Self-Discipline
I think it’s something most people massively take for granted. They’re not even grateful for having access to the Internet or education not to mention having a roof over their head or healthy food.
- You have to be grateful for getting to eat plain vegetables that nourish your body, that fight disease and keep your body well.
- You also have to be grateful for eating dirt and grinding yourself through mud because it reminds you of how fortunate you really are.
For me, being grateful is one of the biggest things that keeps me disciplined. I know what I need to do and I’m going to do it because it’ll lead to a better life.
It’s a matter of trading with the decisions you make in your every day life.
Every decision is restructuring your brain and creating the person you are.
To break the cycle, you have to be aware of it and mindfully act differently.
I’m going to give you a 3 stage process that will change your mindset and change your practice so that you could become more disciplined out of habit.
The First Shift = Mindset
The foundation of self-discipline is ownership like we talked about already – taking full responsibility for everything you are and have. It’s about becoming the person in charge of your entire life.
When you’re forced to take ownership over everything, then it’s a sink or swim situation – No one can do things for you – to cook your food, to make your bed, to wipe your ass or to earn your living – you’re the one who has to own it all.
It starts with becoming independent and growing up, basically.
The second part of this first mindset shift is INTEGRITY – being really honest with yourself. Most people unconsciously lie to themselves about their potential, their habits, and their results.
You have to create a trustworthy relationship with yourself because if you can’t even trust yourself then who else can you trust?
Are You Honest WIth Yourself?
What are you doing when nobody is watching?
- Do you procrastinate?
- Quit your responsibilities?
- Turn a blind eye to your behavior?
- Deliberately do the wrong thing?
Whatever it may be, you want to align your intentions with your actions.
You can say whatever you like: “But I really do want to be successful and start helping people,” but at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what you say, unless you’re actually capable of doing it. Actions speak louder than words.
It’s easy to do the right thing with everyone else around because of accountability but it requires a whole lot of integrity to do the right thing when no one is watching.
If you really want to grow and reach your desired outcome, then you have to be able to be aware enough to see yourself from an external perspective and evaluate your actions objectively. Turning a blind eye or not even recognizing that you’re doing something wrong can lead you to a dead end.
I always try to maintain an honest and righteous relationship with myself. If you can’t even trust your own word then what worth does it really have? What about you?
Taking Extreme Ownership over everything is the starting point for getting integrity.
If you want to lead and inspire others, you have to start with yourself. Become a leader and an inspiring figure for yourself before you take on a position of leadership over others.
The Second Shift = Practice
After drawing a line in the sand, and saying enough is enough, you have to shift your mindset into action. It’s about planting your feet firmly on the ground and actually practicing self-discipline.
Actions speak louder than words – your mindset isn’t enough, you have to actually do what you said you were gonna do. Thomas Jefferson said: “Action is what defines and delineates you.”
To stick to your word and stay disciplined you need mindfulness and willpower – to float like a butterfly but sting like a bee – to notice yourself in the midst of your chaotic habit loop and to act differently.
You need to detach yourself from the situation and from your self – you have to attain a meta-perspective.
- Where am I right now?
- What am I doing?
- Should I be doing this?
- What do I need to be doing instead?
If you recognize your behavior, can look at it objectively, understand what you need to do instead, then it’s easier to act against your will.
Practices like meditation, journaling, mindfulness and realizing that your ego is just an illusion will help you to achieve this meta-awareness, which I’m not going to go into too much detail here.
The Third Shift = Habit
If you stay disciplined once, then it’s going to cause a pattern interruption in your habitual way of behaving.
- You first disrupt the habit – you resist temptation and stay disciplined
- Then you see that you’re capable of sticking to your word, which reinforces the self-identity that you’re a disciplined person instead of a weak-willed one.
- This creates a competing neural pattern in your brain that you can refer back to in the future.
That’s where the third and final shift needs to happen – you have to keep strengthening these new pathways.
Neuroplasticity is a dynamic process and summed up by the axiom:
Neurons that fire together wire together. Neurons that fail to link fall out of sync.
Meaning, you have to wire staying disciplined and showing willpower with the triggers and reactions you get.
How to Rewire Your Brain to Staying Disciplined
Your habitual habit loop would look something like this:
- Smell fresh doughnuts
- Instantly get the sugar cravings and the desire to eat the doughnuts
- Buy the doughnut and eat it
If you were to follow that habit loop all the time, you’ll get obese and diabetic because there are doughnut shops everywhere. Instead, you have to re-associate that same process with this:
- Smell fresh doughnuts
- Get the cravings but remind yourself that you’re not going to eat doughnuts because you’re
- a) not the kind of person who falls into such traps that easily
- b) you have some greater fitness goals you want to accomplish and eating that doughnut would simply be a distraction and
- c) this is the best one – you want to strengthen your willpower and relish the feeling that you’re not going to eat the doughnut even when they put it under your nose – you’re not going to do it because of your indomitable will.
- Get the same feeling of reward because of having stayed disciplined and holding true to your self-identity.
Both of these scenarios have the same strength in terms of neural connections. Your subconscious mind doesn’t know who you are, what you’re trying to accomplish or where’s the situation. It can only read the messages your perception and actions send it.
Discipline is a Pattern
Every thought you have, every action you take is a signal that the brain interprets as reinforcement of those same thoughts and actions. Your brain is just creating these connections because it thinks you’re already doing the right thing for survival and it keeps strengthening these bonds further.
The problem is that what our brain and body want aren’t always aligned with the conscious self-identity we’ve created or the goals we have.
So, there’s your 3 stage process of becoming disciplined
- First, you shift your mindset to taking extreme ownership over everything in your life and being honest with yourself
- Secondly, You practice the skill of mindfulness and willpower which are needed for noticing yourself during the day and doing the right thing
- Thirdly, you reconstruct your neural networks through interrupting your current habit loop and re-associating it with the self-identity you want to embody
You can adapt this to a wide range of self-identities – to being extremely disciplined or to being slightly less but the basic blueprint is there.
Listen to this on Audio
I’m sure you can find this advice more practical and applicable than just the standard punch yourself in the face and just do it motivational talk because it’s worked for me and many of my clients.
But that’s it for this episode. Keep in mind, this podcast is about Body Mind Empowerment – developing yourself physically as well as mentally and staying disciplined is a crucial factor in achieving any of your goals.
If you already haven’t then make sure you leave us a review on iTunes and other social media platforms.
You can also buy the Stay Empowered T-shirt. I’d love if you tagged me on Instagram wearing it.
Thanks for listening
My name is Siim