6 Steps for Improving Will Power and Self Discipline

Copyright Emily Sirkel Photography

In my post last week I talked about being a snooze-hitting, oversleeping, foot-dragging greeter of the morning. I am also a chocolate addict (Nutella!!!) and a chronic procrastinator. Essentially, I struggle with will power and self-discipline.


Copyright Emily Sirkel Photography


So, I declared that I was going to create a personal plan for becoming a person of discipline and post it here for all to see.


I’ve had a week to think about it, and I’ve come up with the following 6 steps:

1.  Set big, concrete goals. It’s very unlikely that I will achieve self-discipline if I don’t know what I want to be disciplined about! Here are a few of my big goals that I know will take a lot of self-discipline to achieve:

  • Attain and maintain a healthy bodyweight
  • Learn to speak Spanish
  • Write a book

2.  Break it down into smaller steps. What do I have to do to achieve those big goals? What does discipline look like for these specific goals? Here are some examples related to the first goal on my list, “attain and maintain a healthy bodyweight:”

  • Go to bed early enough to get 8 hours of sleep.
  • Faithfully get up every morning to exercise before work.
  • Utilize my standing desk instead of sitting at work.
  • Eat smaller servings and healthier choices.
  • Refrain from second-helpings and limit processed foods.
  • Drink lots of water.

3.  Remember the reasons. Michael Hyatt once said: “You lose your way when you lose your why.” It’s not enough to focus on your goal; you need to focus on why you want to reach that goal if you want to finish the race. It’s easy to lose momentum and start slacking when you’ve lost track of your purpose in trying in the first place! Continuing with my healthy bodyweight goal, here are some of my reasons:

  • To feel healthier, look better, be more comfortable, and have more energy.
  • To reduce risk of developing worse health problems.
  • To set an example for my future children and improve their chances of being fit and healthy.
  • To feel good about myself and to wear cuter clothes!

4.  Identify potential obstacles and make a plan to preempt them. If you’ve come to realize that you lack self-discipline in certain areas, then you’re probably also aware of what it is that trips you up. Sometimes simply knowing there are potato chips in the pantry or ice cream in the freezer is enough temptation to overwhelm my strongest defenses. My preemptive strike? Restock the pantry with baked whole grain snacks and replace that ice cream with frozen grapes. Here are some other examples of my anticipated obstacles:

  • Obstacle: Too tired to get up with my alarm and go to the gym. Strategy: Go to bed earlier, pack my gym bag the night before, set my alarm a few feet from the bed so I’m forced to get up to shut it off.
  • Obstacle: Eating too much because I still feel hungry, the food tastes good, and it’s available. Strategy: Plan out my calorie intake for the day, then determine ahead of time what portions are appropriate for each meal or snack and only put that much on my plate. Eat slowly, chew each bite, and drink water between bites to reduce feelings of hunger.

5.  Make it public/Invite accountability. By inviting accountability, I’m no longer relying solely upon my own self-discipline. This might be cheating… but I’m okay with it! For me, when I tell someone I’m going to do something, I’m much more likely to do it then if I just think it privately in my head. So, consider this blog post to be my public declaration of my self-discipline-building intent!

6.  Get started. Now. This close to the New Year it’s really easy to postpone new endeavors until the first of the year. While that’s fine and dandy, I think waiting to start can be a trap. Believe me, I’m talking to myself when I say this: What’s wrong with right now? Stop making excuses and get started!


Question: In what area(s) would you like to improve your self-discipline? Do you have a special plan for achieving that goal? Share in the comments below!


The Art of Will-Power and Self-Discipline

The alarm trills loudly next to my left ear, emitting from the cell phone clutched in my hand, half buried under the pillow. My fingers automatically twitch against the buttons, silencing my wake-up call and continuing the snooze cycle for the sixth time. Five more minutes…


Copyright Emily Sirkel Photography


I actually am a morning person. Once I’m up, I’m cheerful and alert, ready to tackle the day. It’s just that getting-out-of-bed detail that proves to be a problem. Getting up in the morning has recently become even more difficult for two reasons: First, an early Christmas present from my parents – a memory foam mattress topper – has proven to be a blessing and a curse. It is incredibly comfortable, but also dangerously seductive, whispering sweet temptations about staying in bed all day.


The second issue is another blessing-curse paradox. I am blessed to have a job where I am able to choose my own work schedule, but this freedom means I do not have to be at work at a specific time, allowing the “five more minutes” refrain to sing in my head unrestrained. For a while my husband and I were carpooling, so my exit from bed in the morning was dictated by his work schedule. But now that he is self-employed and works from home, this is no longer a factor. And I really like my sleep.


So I confess, I have become a snooze-hitting, oversleeping, foot-dragging greeter of the morning. My self-discipline in this regard has hit a record low. And down there with it is my self-restraint in regards to chocolate consumption (give me a jar of Nutella and a spoon and I’ll return the clean spoon within a day).

I could also mention my house cleaning, gym attendance, and Christmas newsletter writing – but I don’t want to get depressed.


So, the point is, I struggle with will-power and self-discipline. While I pride myself in being dependable, meeting or exceeding expectations, and reliably fulfilling my responsibilities to others, when it comes to fulfilling my promises to myself, I tend to come up short.


I have had “bouts of success.” In the past I’ve accomplished noteworthy personal goals that required significant self-discipline, like going an entire year without drinking soda, spending money on nothing but bills and necessities for a month, abstaining from sweets for forty days, or losing thirty pounds. But more often than not, my best intentions get lost in distractions, excuses, procrastination, or momentary personal gratification.


As the end of the year approaches, New Year’s resolutions begin to bounce around in my head. But I don’t want to just make some half-hearted New Year’s resolutions yet again; I want to take steps toward building lasting habits of self-discipline. So, in next week’s blog post, I will share with you my personal plan for becoming a person of discipline.


In the meantime: What tips do you have for overcoming procrastination, excuses, and the various other traps that tend to sabotage your own self-discipline?