Certified High-Performance coach, speaker, author, husband, adventurer, former commando-paratrooper, and tsunami survivor.

How to Build Self-Discipline for Success


Building self-discipline can be challenging, but the rewards of achieving success make it worth the effort. Have you ever said, “I should…” but didn’t do anything about it? No need to lie; the answer is yes. You are not alone! There was a time when I wanted to be healthy, but I didn’t want to pay attention to my nutrition. I wanted to be fit, but I didn’t want to work out. I wanted to be successful, but I didn’t want to do the things that lead to success. So I did like everybody else; I complained.

But to use my full potential and be a role model, I had to face the hard truth: if I didn’t change anything, I was settling for mediocrity.

“Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishments.” — Jim Rohn.

This article addresses one of the key topics featured in the no-bullshit guide to creating success and fulfillment in life and business, where you’ll uncover the 3-part formula to design and live a more rewarding life. It may sound too good to be true, but it’s a system that actually works. If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend that you do so now to gain a better understanding of what it takes to reach excellence. Additionally, you can read the 4 steps to reach excellence and learn a methodology you can apply to any subject to speed up your progress.

How to Build Self-Discipline for Success

What is self-discipline?

Self-discipline is the ability to control your behavior and make choices that align with your long-term goals. It involves setting clear goals, prioritizing tasks, and following through on commitments, even when faced with challenges or distractions. But that is just a boring definition; let me give you the condensed version: JFDI.”

= Just F*%^ing Do It!

It’s like a mantra! And I say it a lot to myself!

Why do we need to build self-discipline?

Because success doesn’t just happen! You have to be intentional about it, and that requires building self-discipline. You need to develop the ability to resist temptation or negative influences and learn to delay gratification in the short term to enjoy greater rewards in the long term. Building self-discipline helps you stay focused, achieve your goals, and build self-esteem and self-confidence. It is not a nice add-on; it is a critical skill in all areas of life. 

I wish we could press a button and be more disciplined, but alas, we are hardwired to be lazy! Your mind wants to conserve energy and go away from pain and towards pleasure. On top of that, we like what is familiar and certain. That’s why we resist change so much, even if it is for the better.


Change is not comfortable. But if you want to live your best life: you’ll have to be ok with being uncomfortable. Every time you choose comfort over growth, you step away from greatness.

Stop craving to see the view from the top of the mountain if you are not willing to walk.

It is our choices that define who we are! Motivation will get you started; building self-discipline will help you take consistent actions and reach the summit!

Building self-discipline is choosing freedom

“I value freedom, so discipline is not for me.” Wait, what? I think you don’t get it; discipline IS freedom! If you are on the rebel side, I understand that you don’t like rules. (I hate them if they don’t make sense, and sometimes in this society,… Well, I’ll keep that for another discussion.)

But self-discipline is about creating rules for yourself so you can live your best life. Is that not worth it?

In the military, I learned that discipline equals freedom. There were a lot of rules (and not all of them made sense, believe me!). I’m not going to lie; it took me a while to grasp that concept, but eventually, I realized that life is easy when you build self-discipline. Suddenly you don’t have to fight your lazy mind or make tiring decisions all the time; you just do what you have to do to reach success automatically.

Self-discipline allows you to control your own actions and make choices that align with who you are. It helps you resist external influences or distractions. It helps you break free from negative patterns and better use your time. Let me give you some examples:

If you dream of financial freedom, you need to develop financial discipline.

If you want to use your body to its full potential, you must build self-discipline for your health.

If you wish for more free time, you must be more disciplined in managing your time and yourself.

Building self-discipline gives you more freedom in any area of your life. Even if you are a free spirit, it doesn’t make sense to argue against what you want.

How To Build Self-Discipline and Choose The Right Thing

Self-discipline vs. self-compassion 

I bet you are wondering how those two concepts are connected. They are more than you think. After coaching hundreds of people, I realized I never really knew how to handle a client not doing what he said he would. I am not paid to be an accountability partner; I help people become their accountability partners. My rule is that I will not care more than they do about their transformation. The more they do, the more I do. As a metaphor, I can help them build the best workout routine, but I can’t do the reps for them! Makes sense.

So when this situation arises, I help them face reality and let them take responsibility for their choices without judging or blaming them. But I heard a few times something that made me tick: “I should not get too hard on myself.” I agree… BUT…

Where is the line between showing yourself self-love and using self-compassion to justify your lack of commitment and discipline?

If you are following me for a while, you know that I am not a fan of excuses (because they are for cowards and only lead to mediocrity). I even have a chapter of my book called: Be great or make excuses.

My guideline on how to have self-compassion without justifying your lack of self-discipline is that if you are doing your best and fail, you deserve self-love. If you are not doing your best, get your shit together and JFDI.

It might sound ruthless, but sugarcoating your screw-ups will not lead you anywhere, certainly not to success.

Three steps to building self-discipline and reaching your goals

I thought deeply about how to build self-discipline, and the key to me comes down to 3 simple steps:

  • Remember what you want 
  • Act accordingly
  • Repeat

Nothing fancy. Basic and simple, but yes, not that easy. The reason is that our mind is not always helping us do what we should. To stay on track, you must generate motivation, develop willpower, and build self-discipline. So let me give a better framework to put that into an action plan:

1. Choose your goal carefully

Motivation will get you started.

It all starts with what you want and why you want it. Motivation comes from “motive”: a reason for doing something. And usually, that’s the first problem. People are too often chasing things that don’t really matter to them, at least not deeply. Their reason is not big enough, and eventually, they quit. Your goal is not something just “nice to have”; you have to be slightly obsessed with it. Otherwise, you’ll likely give up when things get hard or when the reward is delayed.

Why do you want to build self-discipline?

Why is reaching your goal important to you?

Are you willing to struggle for it?

What is the cost of not doing it?

So are you ready to commit to a better life? Notice that I didn’t say do you want comfort, certainty and easy. If your answer is yes, keep reading! If not, choose another goal.

Motivation is the driving force behind your actions and behaviors. It is why you do things and the energy that will fuel your efforts. You can’t just build self-discipline with nothing in mind; you need an objective, a dream, a vision, or a desire to struggle for. 

To build motivation, you have to remind yourself about what you want; visualize it, feel it and remember why it is important to you.

Willpower will keep you on track.

Willpower is a momentary force that helps you make the right choices in the face of temptation or adversity. It is like a mental muscle, and just like every muscle, after a while, it gets tired. You can train the muscle, but you can’t ask for more than its capacity. That’s where self-discipline comes into play, so you don’t have to use willpower all the time. 

To build more willpower, you can set a reward and a consequence and track your progress, like putting a cross in the calendar every time you do what you should do (you’ll be less likely to break the chain of progress).

2. Plan for success

Self-discipline will help you reach your goal.

Motivation and willpower work together to help you achieve your goals. And you need both! But without a strategy, you set yourself up for failure. To navigate the moment your motivation is low while avoiding emptying your small resource of willpower, you must create automatic behavior and an identity shift.

To go from goal to accomplishment, you must take action! Nothing just appears like that. Self-discipline is how you take consistent actions.

Who do you need to be?

What do you need to do?

For when?

Dream big but take tiny steps. As the proverb says, the only way to eat the elephant is one bite at a time.

What is the first small step you could take to move forward?  Take your calendar now and plan it!

When you create a plan and start new habits, you adjust your behavior to reach your goals. Then you automatically do what you should be doing without an excessive need for motivation or willpower. Plan rationally, then remember to JFDI.

Last tip; approach your goals from your strengths, not weaknesses! Focus on what you are a genius at and what energizes you, and delegate or outsource the rest.

“The pain of self-discipline will never be as great as the pain of regret.” – Anonymous.

3. Create the right surroundings

We are highly influenced by our environment. It’s hard to work when everybody parties or to order a salad when everybody has fries, right? By creating the right surrounding and conditions, we increase our chances of reaching our goal and achieving success.

Your internal environment:

What is a new belief you need to adopt about yourself?

Your external environment:

1. Distractions: what is taking your focus away? What should you get rid of, stop doing, or set rules about? Is your environment reflecting order and discipline? What do you need to change?

2. People: Who do you need to say no to? What agreement do you have to make? Who do you need to spend more time (or less time) with?

Accountability: find a buddy or coach to help you confront reality and support you in your journey.

And celebrate your progress! (if you are a high achiever, chances are that you don’t celebrate enough, read more about how not to make this critical mistake)

How To Build Self-Discipline and Reach Success

Summary: building self-discipline for success 

To summarize, motivation will get you started, willpower will keep you on track, and self-discipline will help you reach your goal. Self-discipline is necessary to stay on track and gives you the freedom to create your best life. But just like success doesn’t just come, you have to be intentional about it.

If you want to be more self-discipline:

Choose your goal carefully

Highly disciplined people know what they want to achieve and why it matters to them.

Plan for success

Highly disciplined people focus on the most important tasks first and delegate or postpone less important ones. They establish a daily routine that helps them stay on track and avoid wasting time. They seek feedback and use it to improve their performance. Most importantly, they are consistent in their actions and behaviors, which helps them build momentum and achieve their goals.

Create the right surrounding

Highly disciplined people keep their environment organized and have systems in place to stay focused and avoid distractions. They recognize that they can’t do everything on their own and seek out the support and guidance of others. They also understand the importance of caring for themselves and prioritize activities that support their physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

It takes effort to build self-discipline but it is worth it.

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Download Chapter 1 of my new book: "The Illusion of Time"

After nearly dying in a tsunami, I dove deep into personal growth, trying to find answers to my questions. I promised myself to live every single day to the fullest and inspire others to do the same. But for that, I had to get better at life. In my book “The Illusion of Time,” I put together 11 lessons to not suck at life and make the most out of it.

Download Chapter 1 of my new book: "The Illusion of Time"

After nearly dying in a tsunami, I dove deep into personal growth, trying to find answers to my questions. I promised myself to live every single day to the fullest and inspire others to do the same. But for that, I had to get better at life. In my book “The Illusion of Time,” I put together 11 lessons to not suck at life and make the most out of it.

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