Acquiring Self-Discipline

Contributed August 3, 2021 by Cheryl Viola, Executive Director, MBA

There are many qualities that contributed to a person’s success and happiness. Remember successes to each person are different. To have sustainable long-term happiness we must all acquire self-discipline. This could mean improving our work ethic, wasting less time, building stronger relationships. It could be personal goals like earning a higher degree or achieving weight loss goals. People with self-discipline are more capable of dealing with challenges.

I was watching one of those sappy hallmark movies the other day and in the movie, a tech company CEO said to the person she was mentoring “It is how we rise to a challenge that defines us. Don’t crumble to the challenges.”

Some of the challenges I have faced, have brought me to my knees, and it has also provided me with the greatest growth.  To succeed at accomplishing goals, we need to develop and maintain self-discipline.

Yet some people struggle with self-discipline while others seem to have mastered it. How many of you admire that person who sacrifices sleep to rise early to get in the morning exercise? We observe others and are inspired by their dedication to a personal goal. Self-discipline is your ability to control your actions, feelings, and emotions. It is remaining focused to achieve success.

Self-discipline is like a muscle. The more you work on it the more you develop it, and the stronger you become.  It comes by setting small goals, slowly over time we increase the level of the challenge.

How do we achieve and strengthen our self-discipline?

1.         Choose a Goal

Start with one goal.  Make it small and easy to accomplish. This could be like exercising one evening a week or reading one leadership book a month. Starting small is the best way to develop self-discipline.

2.         Find Your Motivation

This requires self-reflection. Find the “Why”. Why do you want to achieve the goal? It needs to be deep and meaningful. If you want to exercise to lose weight, that is not meaningful enough, instead, you want to lose weight to have more energy to play with your kids.

One trick is to have your goal written where you can see it every day. When I was on my weight loss journey my daily reward was my shower after the workout. I hated being sweaty and for me I knew that if I showered first, I wouldn’t exercise, my daily reward for exercising was a nice hot shower. Simple, right? But that was my motivation.

3.         Identify Obstacles

What things will stop you from achieving the goal? An obstacle could be a favorite television show or binge-watching on Netflix. Maybe sleeping in and hitting snooze too many times is an obstacle.

4.         Replace Old Habits.

Once you have identified the obstacles, you will need to break the old habits. Getting up 30 minutes earlier to exercise or blocking the time you need to read by sacrificing the Netflix show. It doesn’t have to be a lot of time. Remember to start small and make it attainable.


In the famous movie, The Wizard of Oz the viewers observe Dorothy, who travels the yellow brick road to distant lands and fast challenges. Along the way, she meets people who become her greatest friends and supports cheering her and helping her along the way. Yet, her journey is accomplished due to self-discipline to keep going forward to achieve her goal of returning home.

Mastering self-discipline is not always an easy task. I know from personal experience that acquiring self-discipline is the same as getting up regularly to exercise. The more we practice and use self-disciple the easier it becomes.  It is not the challenges or obstacles that define us, it is how we rise above them. What will you do today to rise above the challenge you face?