“You cannot give 50 percent today and make it up with 150 percent tomorrow”
– John Wooden
I wake up.
My body is tired.
A piece of me wants to go back to bed.
But I know that’s not an option.
Today is my opportunity. Today is your opportunity.
You can move forward, take action, start achieving the life of your dreams.
Or you can go back to bed, watch some TV, drink another beer…
What are you going to do?
Who Am I To Talk About Discipline?
Let me back up for a second. My name is Izzy. I’m 30 years old. I live in Japan.
I used to be a teacher in America, but I hated my life. So over the course of 4 years I made some changes… Some huge changes.
I decided to follow my dream: to become an expert in martial arts, to become a ninja.
So I saved up money, moved to Japan, and eventually found myself in the historical city of Kyoto.
It’s ironic, 4 years ago, I had a job that demanded respect… But I lived with little respect.
I had no discipline.
I’d wake up late on the weekends. I didn’t read anything. I ate whatever food was in front of me. I procrastinated constantly.
I was wasting my life away.
Now things are very different.
I wake up daily at 5am.
I train 4 hours a day in Aikido, a martial art.
I study Japanese 30 minutes a day.
I read a book a week.
I take online courses.
I run my own business.
What allows me to do this? Why am I able to get at 5am and push myself to do these things daily?
It comes down to discipline.
What is discipline?
It’s simple: Discipline is doing the work… every single day.
Can You Be Disciplined?
Here’s an interesting question: Can you be disciplined?
My answer: Yes, without question.
How can I say this?
Because I know who I am, and I know who I was. Four years ago, as I battled with depression discipline had nothing to do with my life.
I woke up unhappy, struggled through the day, came home exhausted, wasted the night away, and did the same the next day.
But now, everyday I strive for discipline.
I strive to be a better person.
I strive to develop my character.
I know you can develop discipline, because of the experiences I have had. I’m not anyone special. I’ve simply followed a series of steps. I’m a dude with a dream who has dared to follow it.
If I can develop discipline, so can you. Period.
Discipline is a Skill to Be Nurtured and Developed
Here’s a question to ponder:
Is discipline a character quality or a behavior?
Is it both?
I believe it is both. Think about the implications of this. If discipline is a character quality and a behavior this would mean you develop discipline by practicing discipline.
And if this is a skill, that would mean you can become more and more disciplined over time.
The question this naturally leads to is:
How do you develop discipline?
Which brings us to the purpose of this post.
The 6 Step Process to Develop Discipline That Lasts
Below I share with you the 6 step process I have gone through to develop lasting discipline.
Step 1: Identify Your Life’s Purpose
Above all else you must know exactly where you want to go in your life. Once you know the direction you want to head you can begin to move like a laser in that direction.
My greatest driving force is my commitment to my life’s purpose. I want to become an expert in martial arts. I want the world to realize it’s possible to turn a crazy dream into a reality. l I want to live in America and Japan.
Knowing this drives my actions. I study Japanese, I run a business to help you follow your dreams, and I train with intensity.
Here’s a quick exercise that can help bring immense clarity to your life.
Grab a pencil and paper. Imagine 5 years have passed. All of your dreams have come true. What is a day in your life like? What activities do you do? What people are in your life? What people are no longer in your life? How much money do you make? How do you make money? Where do you live? How do you feel on a daily basis?
Write, write, and write some more.
Step 2: Identify The Actions You Must Take
Once you know exactly where you want to go in your life then you must identify the actions you need to take to get there.
Don’t make this difficult. Just let your brain flow. Look at your 5 year vision and determine the steps you will have to take to turn it into a reality.
My steps are pretty simple. I need to become fluent in Japanese. I need to train daily. And I need to create content that changes your life… so you can follow your dreams.
Step 3: Take The First Step
Once you have your plan in place the next phase of the game is to take action.
Look at your plan and take step 1. Don’t make this hard. Don’t worry about step 2, step 14 or step 79. Just focus on taking step 1.
When I decided to move to Japan, I started by saving a few dollars everyday. I kept it simple. I put the money in an envelope. Little did I know the doors that would eventually open.
It all started with step 1.
Step 4: Create Your Own Definition of Discipline
You probably were expecting something about discipline way sooner. But developing lasting discipline doesn’t work that way.
You first need to know your purpose, develop a plan, and begin to execute. Once you have that in place you have the essential building blocks to start developing true discipline.
There are 2 very powerful questions that you can answer to develop discipline. In this step I’ll give you the first question.
What does discipline look like in your daily life?
It’s just logical. To develop discipline you must know what discipline looks like in your own life. By reflecting and answering this question you will be creating a picture of discipline.
Answering this question will also help you identify what to start doing and what to stop doing to develop discipline.
Step 5: Determine The Impact of Discipline On Your Life
Now, that you know what a picture of discipline looks like I’m going to give you the 2nd powerful question:
What impact will it have over the next year if you practice discipline daily?
Basically, this is establishing a purpose or “why” behind the discipline.
Here’s the bottom line: discipline is not easy, but if you know that your daily actions are taking you to a place you’d love to go than you are drastically more likely to partake in discipline on a daily basis.
Step 6: Assess, Adjust, and Act
Taking time to step back and reflect on your life is critical. It allows you to grow from your experiences and will help you identify the steps you need to take next.
Once a week find a relaxing spot and answer the following questions:
1. What actions did I take that are moving me towards my vision? (Keep doing these)
2. What is preventing from achieving my vision? (Stop doing these)
3. What do I need to start doing to accelerate my progress? (Choose 1 new action).
Use this to guide your next steps.
Discipline Is a Consequence
There is an unfortunate misunderstanding about discipline.
The misunderstanding is that discipline is some magical force that some are just blessed with.
That’s not the case. Discipline is a consequence of knowing where you want to go in your life and knowing how to make it happen. The stronger your purpose for fulfilling this vision, the more discipline you will have. Plain and simple.
What has held you back from being more disciplined in your life?
Share your own strategies that have helped increase your daily discipline.
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39 thoughts on “Develop Discipline That Lasts: The 6 Step Process”
My life changed (for the better) when I learned to find joy in the discipline…Gets down to daily choice points and many small victories over self.
Patrick J Roden PhD
it’s amazing how much of a positive impact simple discipline can give us. Yet, it’s also ironic because there is pain with the positive.
Thanks for taking the time to comment Patrick :).
I’d add surrounding yourself with disciplined, passionate and inspiring people. Connections like these makes discipline normal instead of something extraordinary you have to fight for on your own.
Great steps and inspiring story Izzy, thanks for sharing them.
Man, that is an awesome addition! That is a huge difference maker. My sensei’s embody the level of discipline they teach. It inspires me to push my body everyday.
Awesome point man!
Ah, hello, Izzy. I felt like I was reading my own story. I was a teacher in America. I was extremely unhappy with the way my life was going. I was horribly undisciplined because I had my priorities so mixed up, and I was always so damn tired. It’s funny how two teachers can end up on different continents doing very different things (while I too own my own business, I’m far from a ninja!) but relying on discipline to make it happen. I do think it’s important to question everything, and I do mean everything, in your life.
What I love is your request for people to define what discipline looks like in your daily life. It’s so easy to say, “In five years I want to ______,” but do you take actions every single day to make sure that happens? That is what separates dreaming from doing – making that commitment every single day to make something happen. So happy it’s happening for you!
Hi Tammy :).
Reading over your comment I was reminded of this quote: “The secret of your success can be found in your daily agenda”
I think that it’s easy to want big things in our life, but to know the work we must do today to make it happen can be overwhelming. In many cases I don’t think people make the connection between the way they live their life today and where it will lead them in 5 years.
Pretty awesome to hear that you were able to take that leap as well.
Thanks for taking the time to comment Tammy :).
Very Inspiring! Of many self improvement articles I have read this one jumps out at me and makes it mandatory for me to move from my stagnant disposition.
Awesome to hear that Adam :).
Thank you for taking the time to comment.
If we think about discipline as a state of consciousness, we realize that discipline is remembering what we want.
I’m not totally sure I understand what you are saying here Gary.
Is discipline a conscious state? or is discipline an action?
I can know something in my head, feel it in my heart, but if I never take action… that means I lack the discipline to follow through right?
I always thought that discipline is something you are gifted with , but never realized it can be learned and practiced, thank you for such a great article.
I’m so happy to hear this Dharmesh. It’s one of the major reasons I wrote this article. It’s to let people know that discipline is a skill that can be developed :).
Thanks for taking the time to comment.
Very inspiring blog, Izzy, I like your post. It catches my attention a lot. I’ve been meditating on how to discipline myself, but never reach that level. I guess by reading your post and write down the five years passed in my life, I realized a lot of things about discipline that I didn’t know. From now on, I’m gonna take a different serious approach of that. Thank you.
Awesome to hear Watson :).
I think a lot of people fall into the trap of believing that discipline is some magical all powerful force that is secretly discovered.
But in reality, you gain discipline by practicing discipline… Which is pretty painful :). Especially in the beginning.
Thanks for taking the time to comment.
I wrote about this very topic myself, but I came to a very different conclusion. I find that most people see discipline as persistently forcing themselves to do something they don’t really want to do, in order to achieve something they see as desirable.
For most people, discipline is essentially punishment for not being desirable. But the real idea of “having discipline” is simply having the motivation to achieve good, healthy habits. Therefore, discipline is achieved when you form motivation into habits which maintain the result you have already achieved.
Attempting to practice discipline is futile. When you fail to meet your concept of self-discipline you end up feeling guilty. By releasing yourself from the guilt of not being disciplined you’ll be empowered to create the habits you want by focusing on motivation without the need for persistent practice.
I’m gonna respectfully disagree with you man. If it’s easy to do, then it doesn’t require discipline.
Forming a habit itself requires discipline. Yes, I get up at 5am daily. I’ve turned it into a habit. Does it take me discipline, not near as much as it used to.
Discipline is a life long process.
When you said this lne :”Therefore, discipline is achieved when you form motivation into habits which maintain the result you have already achieved.”
That’s pretty much the point of establishing discipline through a purpose which is what I wrote in this article.
In regards to feeling guilty. I think you should feel guilty if you set a goal, make a plan, and then you don’t make it happen. Yes, there are times when the plan needs to evolve and adjust. But trying to completely avoid guilt when you don’t follow through is the equivalent of breaking a promise and not feeling bad about that.
Not in all cases, but in many guilt can be a great thing. Guilt is something we feel deep in our soul when something isn’t right. For example making a commitment and not following through.
I know that procrastination is a biggy for me, so once I have steps lined up I try to do something that forces me on, for example: 1. I had no idea how to set up a website or blog, so I bought the domain name, the emails, etc,etc I knew what I wanted but didn’t know how. By committing in advance it was easier to follow through. If I hadn’t I would still be researching and have nothing done 2. I booked myself on a coaching course, not knowing where I would get the money or the time. I found both. 3. When I know I am avoiding something I often set up a meeting with the relevant person before I am ready. And guess what, I end up being ready.
If we know the why the how follows. We find a way. And each time it helps build our discipline muscles.
Darn good point Keith!
You did a few things that I think are really powerful. First off, as you pointed out you knew your “why”. Second, you broke it down into baby steps. And then last you took action :).
Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment.
Nice, truly salute your decision to totally change your life by moving to a new country and chasing your dream. But discipline really playing an important role in our life. Without it, success will never come.
“Without it, success will never come.”
Truer words have never been spoken man. Okay, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration :).
Thanks for taking the time to comment Jason.
I love this but I don’t know how to get step 1 (and I’ve always struggled with it). It sounds like you really really KNEW you wanted to be a ninja. When I look five years down the line, I can see myself in Paris working on my own, or as a school founder in the US , or as a law student, or hiking the Appalachian trail or..or..or…(these are all things I’ve considered in the last year). I can’t get to a clear goal which is paralyzing and I’m wasting my life. I’ve been incredibly successful at 29 years old, but I’m not fulfilled. Anyone have tips on developing a clear goal? Mine changes daily. I’m also currently committed to living where I live for the next three years because of a job, so sometimes I feel like the desire to run away is actually based on my current circumstances, not a dislike for my job.
Hi Caitlin :).
You bring up such a great question. I’m going to answer your question with some thoughts and then a few questions.
I think one of the dangers that we learn through our schooling and cultures is that there is always a “right” and “wrong” answer. This leads us to constantly search for black and whites. In many cases this is great, but in other cases it can be quite harmful.
In finding what you want to do with your life, I believe it is a process that evolves if we take intentional action to where we “think” we should go and then reflect on it.
What have you always wanted to do?
If anything was possible what would you do?
If you had a million dollars what would you do?
They seem like the same question, but they are slightly different. When you answer these questions look for patterns in your answer. Look to see if there are certain emotions you are searching for. In many cases we might not actually want what we think we want, rather we want the emotion that we think it will give us. Does that make sense?
Please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to have a more in depth dialogue about this. You do seem to have drive and focus which when coupled with a direction is insanely powerful :).
Izzy, Yes, discipline is a state of consciousness. And, yes, discipline is remembering what we want.
If I’m in a murky state of consciousness, not clear about what I want, obviously discipline is still a distant possibility.
If I’m awake, however, and know what I must do to move to the next stage of my development, and if I feel an urgency about moving into my potential, I will have a clear focus for my energy and actions.
For instance, let’s say that I realize that my health is in jeopardy because of my weight and poor physical condition. I can find the discipline to change my current habits, mindset, and life trajectory only if I can remember every day, every hour, what I want–vibrant good health.
I want to be healthy. That awareness now moves into the center of my consciousness. I don’t forget and then indulge in overeating. I don’t forget that I must exercise today.
These changes won’t be easy, because I’m testing a new level of consciousness.
I’ll need a partner or partners to stay awake–stay conscious, or I will forget and then my discipline will evaporate.
All personal change requires a new level of consciousness.
I’m mapping these challenges of consciousness at http://www.thepoisedlife. com
Giving into comfort in the now rather than freedom in the future is what has held me back in certain areas of my life. I am actively working to reduce this in certain areas of my life including my fitness and professional career. Thanks for the inspiring post.
Awesome to hear Craig. If you get a chance can you please share a few of the things you are doing to reduce the desire to always be comfortable. I’m sure we could all benefit from what you have to say :).
Great post, I hope to one day have that level of discipline in my life. I’m working on it. Thanks for the wonderful post!
No better day than to start practicing today… right? :).
Thanks for taking the time to comment.
How cool is it that you now live in Japan?! Inspirational! I’ll admit, I can be driven and disciplined in some things but others where I “wish” something was different than it is, I wondering why nothing changes.
Stupid right! As you write, it boils down to doing the work that needs to be done. Thanks for the swift kick reminder!
I think you put it best man. When it comes down it, you have to do the work. But I will throw out, it’s most powerful when coupled by moving in a direction that you feel passionate about.
Thanks for taking the time to comment Darrell :).
Very nice article!
Hope the inspiration you provided last long for me..
Izzy, this is a beautiful post. So well spoken. Through financial discipline, I saved enough money to take a year off of work, so that I could change my life. I’m at the tail end of that year and I feel more at peace with my life and my future than I ever have before. I have a family that relies on me financially, so I have some responsibilities to fulfill in the short term. I will be returning to work in a month. I’ve got plans to nurture my new dreams and set the wheel in motion. It takes discipline to return to work, but it will take even more discipline to keep the wheel turning while my plans are cemented. But at the end, I will accomplish my dreams and start working on the next chapter. A disciplined life is a beautiful and rewarding thing.
I have a ton of discipline in my life in many areas.
Fitness, health, relationships etc.
making change in terms of career etc. with a family to support is very scary.
I want ro be the best coach on the planet.
This has really inspired me
Izzy – sorry it took a minute to catch you over here. You are the master of discipline and I will never want to face you in a discipline challenge or on the Aikido mat.
I thin one thing that is helping you stick with razo focus to your dream is discipline. And I’m wondering what is keeping me from the same discipline. I think I know my purpose but why am I not embracing it more and running at a faster pace with it? I may be taking it a little bit too much at my own pace. A little too leisurely? I’m getting things done but not at a rapid pace, slowly but surely (I’d like to think) And without any written action plan.
this post is going to make me reflect more on discipline and make an attempt to answer your second question – what will a year’s worth of discipline result in.oh, after I answer your first one of course. Thank you!
Thank you for posting. After reading this, I feel like I can do anything. I BELIEVE I can do anything! I took notes! I did the exercise and answered the questions. I think you have helped me see the light….:-)….Not only are you a Ninja, but you are an inspiring, helpful person that is helping people change their mind sets and lives for the better. Thank you. You are appreciated!
Izzy, your story does inspire and is a great illustration that one can transform their personality by taking small, consistent steps.
For me, your number 5 should be first. Answering that question ‘why’, and being very clear and confident about it gives one the courage and motivation to make that plan and take that very first step. Without being very clear why we are doing something, the initial enthusiasm quickly fades away and gives space for excuses why it’s not so important to stick to our plan.
I’ve also observed that in order to avoid overwhelm, it’s a good idea to constantly remind ourselves that small steps in the beginning are OK, and that they will build up to serve our higher purpose/goal.
This message was so timely. I realized that I was pretty unhappy with my current job and this really affected my performance at work and left me frustrated.
I took charge of myself and decided I will go back to college and take a course that suits my purpose. Am two weeks in campus and really excited in what am doing.
Thank you, this requires disciplines to achieve results.
Hi Izzy – I absolutely love your article, this is really very helpful. And your story is quite exciting as well.
When I’m having difficulties to take action and to move forward with my projects, I usually take a 10 minute break and either read a few pages in one of my inspirational/motivational books or I watch a short inspirational YouTube video.
This really helps me to get started and once I’m started it is much easier to continue.
Thanks Izzy, trying to make it a permanent habit now. I still hit snooze a little too often.. Thanks for sharing!
Thank you so much for this blog. I’ve bookmarked this page so that I can return to it whenever I feel like having a ‘day off’ from acting on my goals.
Off to tick off my ‘daily non-negotiables’ right now and spring into action! :)