How to master self-discipline


This is a post published by PumpUp member @coachmelissa. Check out her website at 

A craftsperson masters her or his trade through repeated practice, care and continuous learning, and devotion to her or his purpose. 

The same elements are needed to master the craft of discipline:

  • Repeated practice
  • Single-minded devotion to the purpose
  • Continuous learning
  • Care

Here are some extremely useful tips:

  1. Do the task even when you’re not in the mood. Procrastination is such a common problem that I believe it to be universal. How often have you told yourself, "I’m not in the mood to do this"? The task is probably difficult or confusing. It’s uncomfortable and you’d rather do things that are easier, that you’re good at. You’d rather clean your house or trim your nails or check your email than start a task that could have had the biggest impact on your business/life. But if we wait until we’re in the mood, we’ll never master anything.

    Instead, practice this: Plan to finish the most important tasks first, write them down in your agenda, and start doing them, no matter what. Don’t check email or social media, or go clean something, or do a quick chore or errand. Sit down, and do it. It will be uncomfortable. You can still do it even if it’s uncomfortable.

  2. Exercise even when you really don’t want to. Yes, this is the same thing as procrastinating — we put off exercise for many reasons, usually because it’s hard, because we ‘don’t have time’, and because we’d rather do something easier. Change your perspective. View exercise not as punishment, but as an act of self-care. You wouldn’t skip brushing your teeth for a week, would you? Your teeth would rot. Similarly, skipping exercise for a week rots your body.

    Instead, practice this: Tell yourself you’re going to do a workout/run at a certain time, always plan your workouts ahead of time (I could never stress this enough, it is crucial). I tell all my clients to do this: plan. Take your agenda out, as you write your tasks, write down your workouts by blocking 20-30mins or even 1h of that day ONLY for your fitness. And then show up. Do it even if you’re tired or feeling lazy. Ignore the lazy feeling, the distractedness, and suck it up. You’ll find that you feel great for having done it. Either way, you’ll start to master doing things that are uncomfortable


  3. Sit with a little hunger. We tend to panic when we get hungry, and run for whatever piece of junk food is closest to us. What I’ve learned is that you can be hungry and it’s not the end of the world. We don’t always need to be stuffed and satisfied with crazy delicious food. 

    Instead, practice this: Don’t eat if you’re not hungry. When you get hungry, sit there for a moment and turn to the hunger, and see how it really feels. It’s not so bad. This practice isn’t to make you starve yourself (not great), but to show you that a little discomfort won’t ruin your life, and that you can make conscious choices about when and how much to eat.

  4. Talk to someone about something uncomfortable. We avoid difficult conversations, because they’re not fun. They’re scary, uncomfortable. But that leads to all kinds of problems, including resentment, a worse relationship, worsening the situation, and more.

    Instead, practice this: When you have a problem with someone, instead of replaying the problem in your head, talk to the person in a gentle, compassionate way. Try to see the situation from their point of view, not just yours. Bring it up with a simple, “Hey, can we talk about ___?” And tell them how you feel, without accusing them or making them feel defensive. Ask them how they feel about it. Approach it with the attitude of finding a solution that works for both of you, that preserves your relationship. What you learn from this is that pushing through an uncomfortable situation will resolve a lot of difficult problems.

  5. Stick to a habit. One of the hardest things people face when changing their habits is that it’s difficult commit after the initial enthusiasm dies down. It’s easy to stick to a habit for a week — but what about pushing through the second and third weeks? It gets a lot easier afterward, but a lot of people drop the habit too early.

    Instead, do this: Commit to one small habit for two months. Reserve just 5 minutes a day for that habit, and do it at the same time each day. Set as many reminders as you can so that you don’t forget. Track the habit on a calendar or log it, so you see your progress. Show up every day and do it. You’ll start to master the formation of new habits, which will open up all kinds of opportunities.


  6. Turn toward the problem. When we have a problem, we avoid even thinking about it. Think about whether you have one of these problems: you’ve been avoiding exercise, you’re overweight, you’ve been avoiding a major project, you put off dealing with your finances, you’re unhappy about some situation in your life. Often these are uncomfortable situations, and we’d rather not face them.

    Instead, practice this: See the obstacle as the path. Don’t avoid the obstacle (the difficult situation, or the problem you fear), don’t go around it, don’t ignore it. Turn toward it. See it. Acknowledge it. Figure out what’s going on. Find out how to navigate within the problem. You’ll find that it’s not easy, but not as bad as you thought, and you’ll be happy you did it. And more importantly: you’ll get stronger from facing the problem.

  7. See good in the activity. Discipline really derives from learning that you don’t need some incredible reward — there’s inherent good in just doing the activity. For example, if you’re going to eat healthy food, you don’t need to make it taste like your favourite dessert or fried food— you can just enjoy the act of eating fresh, healthy food in itself. If you’re going to exercise, it doesn’t need to give you a flat stomach or nice arms immediately— you can just enjoy the activity.

    Practice this: No matter what the activity, find the good in doing it, and the activity becomes the reward.

  8. Meditate. People think meditation is difficult or mystical, but it’s fairly simple.

    Practice this: Take 2 minutes to sit still, and focus on your breath, noticing when your mind wanders and gently returning to the breath. There are lots of other ways to meditate, but this is the simplest, and it shows you how to watch the urges that come up, and see that you don’t need to act on those urges. As the days go by, add more minutes to your meditation session. With time it will get easier to keep your mind clear of thoughts.

You might not be good at these at first, but that’s why you practice.

You’ll learn to get comfortable with discomfort, to show up even when you don’t feel like it, to stick to something even when the enthusiasm wanes, to not act on your urges right away, to enjoy any activity as a reward in and of itself.

Does life need to be pure discipline and no fun? Of course not. But if you can enjoy any activity, in the moment, why not learn to master something that will pay off for you in the long run?

Follow Melissa on PumpUp @coachmelissa. Check out her website at