Self-discipline And Success

As you sow, so shall you reap. The key to lasting change is to sow tiny seeds. Small changes, aggregated and compounded over time, grow to major accomplishments. This helps you build the self-discipline that you require to make lasting changes. Self-discipline and success go hand-in-hand.

Title Photo by Mikhail Nilov from Pexels

The One Practice That Assures Accomplishment

Once upon a time, there were two friends, Tommy and Tammy. It was the new year, and they both wanted to lose some weight and get in better shape. Tommy decided he’d cut out all junk foods and desserts. Of course, he’d have to keep treats on hand for his family, but he decided he could resist these temptations himself. He planned to eat only at mealtime – no snacks. Tommy joined a fancy new gym across town. There was another gym closer to his house, but he figured the new gym would be more of a motivation. He figured he could work out at least an hour a day.

Tammy decided to make small changes that she thought she could stick with. She made a plan to replace one processed food with a whole food each week. Instead of cookies and sweets, she bought fruit. Rather than buying processed heat-and-eat meals, she found some simple recipes using real vegetables and meat. She didn’t try to make all the changes all at once. She took tiny simple steps to move from her unhealthy diet to a healthier way of eating. Tammy also joined the gym – one that was close to her office. She decided to stop after work on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and change into her workout clothes. That was all she required of herself to meet the goal. Of course, once she had changed, more often than not she completed her workout.

“There is one special quality that you can develop that will guarantee you greater success, accomplishment, and happiness in life,” writes Brian Tracy in a blog post entitled, “Successful People Are Self Disciplined“. “Of a thousand principles for success developed over the ages, this one quality or practice will do more to assure that you accomplish wonderful things with your life than anything else. This quality is so important that, if you don’t develop it to a high degree, it is impossible for you to ever achieve what you are truly capable of achieving.” [Tracy]

That quality is of course self-discipline. “Self-discipline is the bridge between goals defined and goals accomplished.” [Gleeson]

You Reap What You Sow

“Whatever a person sows, this he [and she] will also reap.” Galatians 6: 7b [NASB]

What’s your BIG (Bold-Important-Gratifying) goal? (Don’t have a BIG goal yet? Try this first. Maybe you want to lose XX number of pounds. Or you want $$$$$ in a savings or investment account. You’d like to start a business. Or perhaps a nonprofit foundation. You want to end world hunger – that’s a fine BIG goal.

But whatever your specific BIG goal, there’s one thing I know. You’re going to have to make some changes. How do I know this? Because you are right now the total of all your thoughts, beliefs, and most importantly, your actions up until this moment. If you want to have or be different, you’ll have to do different. Today, you’re reaping what you’ve sown in the past. If you want to reap a different harvest tomorrow, you must do some different sowing today.

Being and having and doing something new and different will require taking different actions and learning new behaviors, and that requires self-discipline. Whatever your goals and aspirations, if they’re different from what you have right now, some things will need to change. And self-discipline is required for changing. Self-discipline and success go hand-in-hand.

Why Is This Important?

“The heights by great men reached and kept
Were not attained by sudden flight,
But they, while their companions slept,
Were toiling upward in the night.”
~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

You won’t accomplish a BIG goal without sustained effort over time, perhaps a long, long time. To put in the time and effort requires self-discipline. Brian Tracy says:

“All great success in life is preceded by long, sustained periods of focused effort on a single goal, the most important goal, with the determination to stay with it until it is complete. Throughout history, we find that every man or woman who achieved anything lasting and worthwhile, had engaged in long, often unappreciated hours, weeks, months and even years of concentrated, disciplined work, in a particular direction.” [Tracy]

To burn paper, you must heat it to a temperature of 451° F. When you heat it to 400° F, 415° F, 425°, even to 450° – nothing happens. But when you heat it that one extra degree, to 451° F, the paper bursts into flame.

Consistency is key to lasting change. “Change can take years,” James Clear writes in Atomic Habits, “before it happens all at once.” It is important to continue taking tiny steps toward your goal, day after day, even though you won’t see much improvement, perhaps for a long, long time. Then one day, like the “overnight success”, you suddenly become aware of how much you have changed.

When You Develop Self-discipline

Tommy was all in on his New Year’s goal. He’d made some big changes in his diet and in his exercise routine. He expected to see some pretty impressive changes within a couple of weeks. But those weeks came and went and not much was different. Plus, as he watched his family munching on snacks or enjoying dessert after dinner, he soon found himself slipping back into old behaviors. And the fancy gym was so far from his office, it soon became a big chore to make himself go there after work. Tommy began having that same old familiar feeling he had become accustomed to – change was too hard and he just couldn’t do it. He felt like a failure.

Tammy was excited by her New Year’s goal, too, but she had approached it quite differently. She began by making small, seemingly insignificant changes in what she ate. She got her family on board with the changes so they were all eating just a little healthier. And her plan to go to the local gym and change into her gym clothes was working . . . there were very few times she did that when she didn’t continue with her work out. But even on those rare times, she could still count it as a win. Even though Tammy didn’t see any real outward changes yet, she felt differently inside. She knew eventually the changes she’d made would start to manifest in outward appearance. She felt in control. And the more she did them, the less thought or effort she had to make. They became less of a choice and more of her standard behavior.

“People with a higher degree of self-control spend less time debating whether to indulge in behaviors and activities that don’t align with their values or goals. They are more decisive. They don’t let impulses or feelings dictate their choices. They are the architects of their own beliefs and the actions they take to achieve a desired outcome. As a result, they aren’t as easily distracted by temptation and tend to feel more satisfied with their lives.” [Gleeson]

self-discipline and success

Sow Tiny Seeds

As you sow, so shall you reap. That’s the Law of the Farm. The key to lasting change is to sow tiny seeds. Small changes, aggregated and compounded over time, grow to major accomplishments. And, importantly, this helps you build the self-discipline that you require to make lasting changes, to adopt the one practice that assures accomplishment. Self-discipline and accomplishment go hand-in-hand.

“So you have to start making yourself do things that help you exert control,” Stuart Wilde writes in Infinite Self: 33 Steps to Reclaiming Your Inner Power. “Invent things, one after the next — some disciplines of a minor nature, others more major, but get the ego used to the idea that you are going to get it doing things it doesn’t necessarily like. It’s got to buy the idea that you are in control. For the most part, it doesn’t matter what disciplines you pick as long as you pick something.”

Here are some of the benefits, as identified by Zorka Hereford at Essential Life, you’ll acquire when you begin the practice of daily disciplines.

  • You build self-confidence.
  • You accomplish more and are more productive.
  • You can maintain a high tolerance for frustration, obstacles, and negative emotions.
  • You obtain better health, better finances, and a good work ethic.
  • You reach your most difficult goals more efficiently.

“The more disciplined you become,” writes Hereford, “the easier life gets.” [Hereford]

Our friend Tommy tried to do too much too soon and his self-discipline crumbled. He miscalculated how long it would take him to reach his goal and how much effort was required. Tammy built up her self-discipline “muscle” by doing small things consistently. This allowed her to build win upon win. She began to experience the link between self-discipline and success.

100 Self-disciplines

“You have to start making yourself do things that help you exert control,” said Stuart Wilde. Here are 100 ways to help you do that. Some are of a minor nature, others are more major. Certainly don’t try to do them all at once. Pick one. Do it every day until it becomes a habit. Then add another one. And don’t limit yourself to the items on this list. They are suggestions only. Feel free to modify to suit your situation, or add your own.

  • floss
  • save 10% of income
  • walk
  • exercise
  • send a Thank You note or note of encouragement to someone
  • meditate/pray
  • breathe
  • practice compassion
  • practice kindness
  • be on time
  • say “Thank You”
  • do one thing
  • ask “Now what needs to be done?”
  • say a good good-bye
  • stretch
  • work on your most important task
  • put things away/back where they belong
  • say “I love you”
  • read
  • take the next step toward your goal
  • journal
  • do more than is asked of you/go the extra mile
  • plan and prioritize
  • “carry water, chop wood, do the dishes”
  • practice a skill
  • go outdoors
  • replace one unhealthy food with a good-for-you food
  • deal with something you are tolerating
  • eat one meatless meal
  • get sufficient sleep
  • drink water
  • toss one thing
  • strengthen your core
  • listen to understand
  • be flexible
  • laugh
  • do something fun
  • rest/nap
  • think
  • track your spending
  • make your bed
  • track your activity
  • track your food intake
  • start over/start again
  • do a little more than yesterday
  • forgive: yourself and others
  • find the “seed of good”
  • slow down
  • work faster
  • be here now
  • Be ALIVE!
  • DWYSYWD = Do what you say you will do
  • just get started
  • execute the task at hand
  • do today’s work today
  • ask “What’s important now?”
  • experiment
  • identify and disrupt an unhealthy habit
  • do something selfful
  • do an ordinary thing extraordinarily well
  • practice humility
  • do less of something
  • do more of something
  • recycle
  • spend less
  • turn off the TV
  • turn off the phone and computer
  • respond actively and positively
  • care less (as in Ryan Holiday’s “I don’t know” and “I don’t care”)
  • try something new (new food, new place, new activity, new practice)
  • perform a random act of kindness
  • listen to or read something you disagree with
  • see the other side
  • challenge an assumption
  • keep a gratitude journal
  • clean something
  • buff up your surroundings
  • make a positive habit easier to do
  • step outside your comfort zone/be uncomfortable
  • ask for something you need
  • be accepting
  • listen openly
  • dim house lights after dinner
  • shut down electronics at least one hour before bed
  • go to bed and get up at about the same time every day
  • do a balancing exercise
  • do an exercise to improve range of motion
  • eat mindfully – chew each bite 30+ times
  • stop eating when 80% full
  • live joyously
  • do what you can do
  • embrace the drudgery
  • observe and learn
  • listen and connect
  • take immediate action
  • finish strong!
  • seek the lesson
  • embrace obstacles
  • reduce choices
  • improve your environment

How To Start

Start with a tiny change, a small, easy-to-do action. Then tie it to a habitual activity you’re already doing, so it looks like this:

After I _____ then I’ll _____.

or When I _____ then I’ll _____.

For example, “After I pour my first cup of coffee, I’ll do a Sun Salutation.”
Or, “When I finish supper, I’ll dim the overhead lights.”

What you decide to do isn’t the important part of building self-discipline. The important thing is to pick something, then do it every day or every time you do the action you’ve tied your new habit to. Consistency is the key to success.

When To Start


The “Day After Perfect”

Jon Acuff calls it the “day after perfect”. You know that day. You set out to accomplish some big goal or even to start a new tiny habit. Then you miss a day and you “quit the whole endeavor”. Once the streak is broken, you don’t start back. I say “you”, but it has happened to all of us.

To improve your self-discipline, you must prepare – in advance – for the day after perfect. “Reject the idea that the day after perfect means you’ve failed,” Acuff writes. “That’s just not true. You get to try again. Today, tomorrow, next week.”

“Day 1 isn’t the most important day of a goal. The day after perfect is . . .” [Acuff]

Self-discipline And Success

Could you use a little more self-confidence? How would you like to reach your goals more effectively and efficiently? Do you want to accomplish more? To be more productive? All while improving your health, your finances, and developing a good work ethic?

To be successful, you must develop self-discipline. As Brian Tracy said, “this one quality or practice will do more to assure that you accomplish wonderful things with your life” and is absolutely necessary for success.

  • Pick a small, simple discipline that you can practice daily.
  • Connect it to a daily habit that you already have.
  • Celebrate when you perform the discipline.
  • When (not if) you miss a day, start again. And again.
  • Add other small disciplines as you see fit.

That’s the process for adding small, simple daily disciplines that “assure that you accomplish wonderful things with your life”. And it’s one step in embracing your Excelerated Life™!

Excelerated Self-discipline™ — doing what you say you will do — is one step in creating your Excelerated Life™, a life of flourishing and well-being, and a life of meaning, purpose, and service.

Read more about the Excelerated Life.


Acuff, Jon. Finish: Give Yourself The Gift Of Done. New York: Portfolio/Penguin, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, 2017.

Clear, James. Atomic Habits: Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results. New York: Avery, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, 2018.

Gleeson, Brent. “8 Powerful Ways To Cultivate Extreme Self-Discipline.” Forbes. Forbes Media LLC, August 25, 2020. Web. December 11, 2021.

Hereford, Zorka. “Self-Discipline – The Foundation for Success.” Essential Life Essential Life,. Web. December 11, 2021.

Tracy, Brian. “Successful People Are Self Disciplined.” Brian Tracy International. Brian Tracy International,. Web. December 11, 2021.

Wilde, Stuart. Infinite Self: 33 Steps to Reclaiming Your Inner Power. New York: Hay House, 1996.

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