It’s almost two weeks since the ball drop, and many of us didn’t magically become someone else as the calendar turned to 2022, did we? Yet somehow many of us had hopes this year would be different and somehow the motivation would come so naturally and effortlessly. Spoiler alert, sometimes the motivation is there! Most people know what they want and why they want it, but there is something that just gets in the way time and time again, keeping us from getting, being, doing and living the life we really think we desire. Any guesses? It’s self-discipline.

Before you put this paper down, or start scrolling, think about it! Something must happen between our wants and our results that holds us back, and if we’re honest, it’s usually US that gets in the way. Self-discipline isn’t an old term that only means bad things, we’ve done that to the word. We somehow decided that we deserve to have everything we want, but don’t have to have self-discipline to get there, and that’s why we aren’t where we thought we’d be. The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary shares: “self-discipline: noun: correction or regulation of oneself for the sake of improvement.” Some of the words it lists in relation to self-discipline include, “continence, restraint, self-command, self-containment, self-control, self-government, self-mastery, self-possession, self-restraint, will, willpower.” These aren’t bad words, in fact if you look a little closer, they might even reveal that self-discipline is also a form of self-care and self-love.

Self-discipline is described as a noun, but it takes action! It takes a concentrated effort to decide that you aren’t going to allow yourself to get caught in distractions that can keep you from what you really want. Once people start a task, activity, or project, they can usually keep it going, unless they become distracted. The motivation is there, the goal is in mind, but it’s the distractions around us and inside us that can keep us from finishing anything to everything. Think about what your distractions may be? Is it your phone, your workspace, your thoughts, your senses? Perhaps it’s even a combination! No matter what there will always be distractions but it’s how you react or don’t react to them. That takes practice!

Self-discipline is something that can grow over time, just like working a muscle!  Just like exercise makes people feel a lot better from the feel-good chemicals they produce, self-discipline can do the same! According to there was a 2013 study by Professor William Hofmann focusing on the relationship between happiness and discipline, and its findings are still relevant today. Hofmann defines discipline as “the ability to override or change one’s inner responses, as well as interrupt undesired behavioral tendencies (such as impulses) and refrain from acting on them.” This means resisting every passing thought or whim to take you from your focus.

How do we practice then?

Choose or reinstate your goal – make sure it is something specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-sensitive.

Find Your Motivation. This is your reason why! How you want to think, act, feel, etc.

Identify your obstacles. What/who gets in the way and why?

Prepare your tactics to overcome these obstacles before they happen. Decide you will not look at your phone and get it out of the way. Decide you will head straight to the gym after work before going home. Whatever it is, think of all the ways you can jump that hurdle before you get there.

Practice. Make mini steps forward! Anything – do something that is an action towards what you really want. Re-evaluate as you go and if you identify more obstacles or distractions – go back to the tactics piece.

We sometimes already know what we need to do, but we just need to get started in order to get there. Once you start to experience the mini successes, that can be the momentum you need to keep your focus and self-discipline. But it takes desire, dedication, and commitment. Self-discipline is very rewarding once you start to use it, but you must start. If you want to write more, set aside a specific time to write, decide how long, decide how you will overcome the obstacles that have gotten in the way before, how will you jump those hurdles? Now write! The same goes for exercise, taking photos, going back to school. Follow the steps and go!

No matter what it is you desire, you are the only one who can truly get you there. You are also the only one who can completely keep you from getting there. There is a reason that people share about what works for them to find self-discipline – it’s because they have taken the time, put in the work and are repeating the rewards of making all those things they wished and hoped for a reality. That can be you too! It can even start today! But YOU must be the one to get the ball rolling. If you want something different, if you want to live the life you always dreamed, it can start very small, but it must start. You are where you are today, because of you. You are a product of all your past actions. As Henry Ford says, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right,” YOU are why!


Mary Hoadley

Director of The Wellness Center