Self-Discipline Starts With You

“Perhaps the most valuable result of all education is the ability to make yourself do the thing you have to do, when it ought to be done, whether you like it or not: it is the first lesson that ought to be learned and, however early a person’s training begins, it is probably the last lesson that he or she learns thoroughly.”  – Thomas Huxley

David continually turns work in late.  Josh can’t seem to find the time to exercise.  Stacy keeps maxing out her credit card and paying the high interest rates.  Julie dreams of a better future, but keeps putting it off, thinking that tomorrow she’ll do what needs to be done.

What do all of these people have in common?  In one way or another, they struggle with issues related to self-discipline.  Huxley rightly states that one of the most valuable abilities in life is “to make yourself do the thing you have to do, when it ought to be done, whether you like it or not.”  A leader understands that there are no shortcuts to achieving their greatest potential.  And greatness usually begins with small steps in the right direction.

If you want water, you’ve got to turn on the faucet.

If you want to overcome your struggle with personal discipline, you’ve got to start moving in the right direction.  For me, the word start means:

Steps To Accomplishing Real Things

I know that nothing will happen until I start.  The water won’t flow until I turn on the faucet.  The question is: Where does one start?

I would offer these four areas:

Start With Yourself

There may be lots of reasons that you aren’t able to accomplish what you want to accomplish.  But the first person you must look at is yourself.  You can’t change others, you can’t predict your circumstances, and you can’t live like you only get 23 hours in a day.  Take a hard look at how you spend the time given you each day.  Find the things that you can change personally.

Start Early

When you start early, you provide yourself with more options than if you started late.  Early gives you greater flexibilty.  Late gives you stress and little room for excellence.  If you constantly put things off until the last minute, you won’t be able to do the things you really want to do.  Beginning early gives you breathing room for the unexpected.  It also allows you to produce more excellent work and results.

Start Small

We may often become overwhelmed by the goals that we set or the projects that we are assigned.  The best way to overcome putting off a big assignment is to break the project down into smaller, more manageable pieces.  When we accomplish a small part of the task or project, it actually gives us motivation and energy to move on to the next piece.  Break up your work into manageable sizes and tackle them one at a time.  Somehow, we’ve bought into the paralyzing myth that says we have to accomplish it all at once (that is, unless you waited until the last minute!).

Start Now

I’ve never seen anyone win a race by sitting on the starting line and thinking about what it would take to finish.  Every successful race began with a first step.  Every task will be accomplished with a first step.  Go ahead.  Turn the faucet.  When you do, water will begin to flow.  The key to self-discipline is moving ahead in the midst of feelings, fatigue, and fear of failure.


Interested in discovering simple and practical ways to improve your self-discipline today? Download my latest book, Leadership Starts With You. This book will assist you in developing your own self-leadership skills. It’s available for both the Kindle and the Nook. Visit to take the next step in leading yourself well.

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3 thoughts on “Self-Discipline Starts With You

  1. Thanks Tim, one of my favourite quotes relating to this is from Goethe, “Just begin and the mind becomes heated, continue and the task is completed”. It reminds me to just get started, no matter how small the step is.

    The other thing I have found is to visualise the end result, to see in my mind’s eye how this will look when done, rather than thinking about the task, which may be mundane in itself.

    This has changed the way I look at tasks, it’s not about weeding or mowing the lawn, it’s about maintaining a beautiful garden. It’s not about doing work for a client, it’s about maintaining a professional relationship with them, and ensuring everything runs smoothly for them.

    I wonder if half the trick is reframing what we want to achieve, so we focus on the right outcome?


  2. If David continually turns to work in late, may be there is a problem in his value system. Self discipline is a myth. Nothing “self” will motivate him if there is a problem in the core.

  3. The “self discipline is a myth” crowd are obviously mislead… motivation is a myth, self discipline is what keeps you going when motivation dwindles… and it will dwindle…I’ve got to laugh at people that are always trying to re-frame things… they just want to figure out how to like doing what they currently DO NOT like doing… that probably will never happen and instead of wasting valuable time trying to re-frame or examine value & belief systems they need to just do it.. to quote Nike…it doesn’t need to be fun, you don’t have to love it or even like it, you don’t have to have a passion for it (probably the biggest current myth prevailing), just get off your ass and do it. When did Americans turn into such a big bunch of pussies???!! The people that built this country would be ashamed of the current psych crowd that believes in the path of least resistance and the “follow your passion” crowd… sickening.