Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become. No single instance will transform your beliefs, but as the votes build up, so does the evidence of your new identity.
I used to have a clichéd notion that self-love was steamy bubble baths, yoga retreats, and treating yourself to a box of Belgian chocolates… But this stereotype becomes damaging when self-care is portrayed as a luxury to be indulged in from time to time. These days, I’m definitely more in the camp that self-discipline is self-love.
If you think about any of the things you want in life – whether it’s to save enough money for a deposit on your dream home, get a six-pack, or be in a monogamous relationship – your dreams all require sacrificing immediate pleasure in the moment to reap the rewards in the long-term.
And all of this fundamentally boils down to self-control on a daily basis.
It’s a difficult reality check when you reach adulthood, and you realise that you don’t have parents or teachers on your back any more to discipline you. I think that the process of maturity is really about developing your own inner voice of guidance, which leads to personal integrity. This means that you act in accordance with your best interests, set boundaries for yourself, and learn how to do the right thing rather than the easy thing.
In this post, I want to explore further why self-discipline helps you to develop self-respect and self-confidence. Then we’ll move into some daily habits that you can put into practice to develop this muscle.
Why Is Self-Discipline Necessary for Self-Love?
Love him or hate him, I couldn’t agree more with Will Smith on this one!
A few interesting things to pull out of this video are:
- The word ‘discipline’ has a bad rep – but it shouldn’t! Don’t confuse self-discipline with self-punishment, or holding yourself to ridiculously high standards so that you set yourself up to fail. This article explores how you can make this mindset shift when it comes to self-discipline.
- Talk to yourself like someone you care about – self-discipline is about learning to parent yourself. And like parenting, it is done with your best interests at heart. Will gives some relatable examples, always with the qualifier: ‘I love you too much to let you do that’. Being disciplined in these moments is a form of self-care, but speak to yourself in a kindly tone.
- Long-term fulfilment IS self-discipline – you have to focus on the bigger picture, and check your short-term impulses, in order to achieve lasting fulfilment in life. For me, it’s about being in alignment with my core values. For example, there are times when I really want to eat cheese. When I get Dominos, I’m drooling over other people’s pizzas, because let’s face it… vegan cheese has a long way to go! But does this mean I give in at the first sign of temptation? No! Because I know that being vegan matters more to my self-concept than the immediate gratification of my tastebuds.
Arguably, this is one of the things which separates us from animals. Humans have an understanding that you need to put in the work without immediately visible results, and have faith in better things to come.
And this is why if you really love and care about yourself, you’ll prioritise your long-term happiness through necessary hardship and even sacrifice in the moment.
9 Habits to Practice Self-Discipline on a Daily Basis
Are you the kind of person you’d want to be friends with? It’s a telling question. If not, then you’re probably not being true to your highest self. When you lack self-discipline, you erode a little bit of faith in yourself every time you say you’re going to do something then don’t follow through. This leads to inauthenticity, and attracts the wrong people and situations into your life.
The solution? You need to start showing up for yourself and being self-disciplined in your daily routines.
Start by identifying your core values and knowing your why. Remember that you’ve got to put the reps in like going to the gym. To create healthy habits, you’re naturally going to experience resistance, so it takes practice. It doesn’t just happen overnight!
Do the right things when it comes to looking after your body and stick to some simple rules, things like getting enough exercise and eating the right foods. These healthy habits underpin your self-image and how you feel about yourself.
What you want to do: Sit in front of the TV and watch an eight-hour marathon of Love Island, all the while wishing that your abs looked that chiselled.
What you should do: Get off the sofa and get yourself to the gym! The truth is that developing a daily exercise habit doesn’t have to be scary, intimidating or unmanageable. Even if you’re just doing a ten-minute home workout, you can make your dream body a reality by simply showing up with consistency every day.
Yes, it’s hard. And motivating yourself is more than half the battle. But if health is one of your core values, then you’ve got to treat yourself like someone you care about. Try to make it fun with upbeat music and mini-goals to challenge yourself!
2. Eat healthily
What you want to do: Hit your weekly weight loss goals as you graze on a family-size pack of Doritos.
What you should do: Prioritise your long-term health with the food you put in your mouth. Through your diet, you have the potential to switch on and off the genes that lead to chronic diseases, as well as being better able to manage your energy levels and control your weight.
So don’t reach for that cheat meal tonight! Whether you make the effort to cook more from scratch or use handy meal delivery services, treat your body with the respect it deserves.
For a week of healthy minimalist meal planning, check out my post here.
3. Take pride in your appearance
What you want to do: Either slob around in your slacks or hit the bottle of fake tan for a big night out. There’s no middle ground!
What you should do: Let’s be clear here – I’m not advocating that you pin all your self-worth on your appearance! But your subconscious is always listening, and how you look after your body is important. On days you’re working from home or don’t have plans, it can be so easy to not make any effort!
Try to be disciplined in your daily habits, even when you’re the only one there to see. Simply showering, having a consistent skincare routine, and changing into clean but comfortable clothes develops self-love. Note: this takes on even more importance when you’re going through a distressing time like a break-up, where your first instinct may be to let yourself go.
Remember that caring about your appearance is about your own happiness and wellbeing, so choose clothing and colours that make you smile.
It’s easy to think about our bodies when it comes to self-discipline, but how often do we stop to consider the ways in which we’re sharpening and honing our minds? Master the ability of self-discipline in this area by reading regularly, and going to bed at the same time.
4. Have a consistent sleep routine
What you want to do: Go to bed at 1am, then snooze your alarm in the morning until you stumble bleary-eyed into your home office five minutes before work starts.
What you should do: Most people set an alarm in the morning, but do you also have a set bedtime? If you’ve read Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker, you’ll know that developing a disciplined sleep routine (ideally between 7-8 hours) is one of the best things you can do for the health of your mind.
It also means that you can build a morning routine which works for you. If you wake up earlier and prioritise the things which matter to you – whether that’s yoga, a healthy breakfast, or maybe even building a creativity habit – you develop respect for yourself. It will also have a ripple effect on making positive decisions throughout the rest of your day.
What you want to do: Scroll social media for two hours, or binge another mindless Netflix drama.
What you should do: How do you receive information? Do you mindlessly consume, or do you care about the information you’re taking in? To form your own opinions, I would advise developing the self-discipline of a daily reading habit. For example, if you commit to just 10 minutes of reading every day, that’s roughly equivalent to completing 10 books in a year!
If you treat your body with respect through exercise and healthy food choices, then remember that you also deserve to treat your mind with self-love.
6. Take a cold shower
What you want to do: Turn on the hot tap, light some candles, and sink into a blissfully relaxing bath.
What you should do: I get it, a cold shower is probably the last thing you want to put yourself through right now! Why would you do something that is going to be so uncomfortable?
Well, that’s exactly the point! If you know that your comfort zone is killing you and that you need to do the things you’re afraid of, then a cold shower can be a great way to discipline your subconscious mind. It rewires your brain to accept that you can cope with difficult things.
If you recognise that you consistently let external factors determine your thoughts and emotional state, then give it a try! Your brain will be screaming ‘No!’… So this is the ultimate test in self-discipline for building tolerance in your life towards situations you can’t control.
From breaking through the resistance you experience with meditation to keeping a clean home… you may not want to do these things in the moment! But long term, they’ll help you to create a life that you’re proud of.
7. Limit screen time
What you want to do: Escape to a fantasy world. If you just keep scrolling a little bit further, surely your own life will spontaneously combust into the perfect images you’re seeing from your favourite influencers?!
What you should do: Do you realise how many hours of your life you’ve wasted on social media? As you’re browsing aimlessly through Facebook and Instagram, you could be using your time intentionally to create the life of your dreams. Losing an unintended half hour to scrolling can be so automatic and unconscious, that it can be difficult to develop this habit without self-awareness and strict self-discipline. But I promise you, your future self will thank you for it!
8. Maintain a tidy home
What you want to do: Leave last night’s dirty dishes to soak, and hope that the magic cleaning fairies tidy up whilst you sleep.
What you should do: I know what it’s like to live in a mess. I used to tell myself the self-fulfilling story that I just wasn’t a tidy person! But the truth of the matter is that it only takes self-discipline and a desire to change to live in a calming space.
The concept of ‘tidy house, tidy mind,’ is probably not a new one to you. But by developing just a ten-minute cleaning habit and never going to bed with a dirty sink, you can experience joy through the space you live in. In short, showing your home respect is an extension of the respect you show to yourself.
What you want to do: Ermmm… Literally anything else!
What you should do: Sit with your wandering thoughts as a passive observer. This can be a difficult habit to develop, but if you are disciplined, you can learn how to better control your thoughts and emotions. Develop your own meditation process – start small with 5 minutes and build up this muscle slowly.
Photo credit: Streaks habit tracking app
How Can I Track My Progress?
Even when you know why you want to develop healthy habits, it can still be difficult to stay on track! For this reason, I’d strongly advise using a habit-tracking tool.
If you prefer something that you can visibly display in your home, and enjoy the satisfaction of physically ticking something off, then try a habit-tracking calendar like this one or this one.
If you want something more dynamic where you can easily review reporting, then a habit-tracking app would be the best option for you. These apps are incredibly satisfying, helping you to keep accountable to your daily tasks and increasing your willpower when it comes to self-discipline!
Remember that perfection is the enemy, and life gets in the way on some occasions. So don’t be afraid of missing a day. The best advice I’ve ever read is to try not to miss two days in a row. This keeps you on track towards your goals, whilst also allowing for days or weeks where it might be more difficult to follow your normal routine.
By tracking your progress, you can also praise yourself with personal rewards. These should be things which are motivating and meaningful to you. For example, treating yourself to a spa pamper day, or finally getting your hands on the Harry Potter PlayStation game (just me?).
Forgo Instant Gratification and Your Future Self Will Thank You
To be the person you know you’re capable of being, you’ve got to develop your own set of rules to live by.
Self-discipline is the definition of self-love, because you’re acting in the best interests of your future self. Even and most especially during those times when you really don’t feel like it!
If this all sounds like really basic stuff and even kind of boring, then that’s because it is! I’m sure that you already know these things on some level, but it’s much harder to put your own code of conduct into practice! How many of these things can you truthfully say you commit to on a daily basis? I promise you that if you do all of these things consistently, you’ll establish the foundations for your dream life and compound interest will do the rest!
For further reading, check out my ultimate guide on simplifying your life and finding fulfilment.