Persisting Until You Reach Your Goals

In January 2011 my cousin, a couple of friends and I decided to do the New York Marathon in November that year. In March I signed up to do an MBA at the Waikato-Tainui College for Research and Development and the University of Waikato. On top of that I had a busy job working for a government agency that required regular domestic travel.

How did I manage to achieve so much, so consistently in my personal life and career?

Part of the answer lies in self-discipline.

I woke up before dawn each morning to run. I worked very efficiently in my job, ignored distractions, and devoted all of my attention to high-value projects. In the evenings and on the weekends, I attended my classes and dedicated that time to doing my assignments.

Self-discipline is what pushes us to deliver on our best intentions and goals, even when we don’t feel like doing so. If we have self-discipline, we are able to put off short term pleasure (or endure short term inconvenience or discomfort) in the pursuit of long-term gain.

This is why self-discipline is so important.

Awhimai Reynolds completing the 2011 New York City Marathon
Completing the NYC Marathon


What is Self-Discipline?

Self-discipline is the ability to push yourself forward, stay motivated, and take action, regardless of how you’re feeling, physically and emotionally. You display self-discipline when you deliberately choose to pursue something better for yourself and you do it in the face of distractions, hard work, or unfavorable odds.

Self-discipline is different from self-motivation or willpower. Motivation and willpower contribute to self-discipline and similar to persistence, they are the ability to follow through on your intentions, and hard work.


Why Work on Your Self-Discipline?

Self-Discipline is useful in many areas of our lives.

For instance, it’s what pushes you to do high-quality work, even when you don’t feel like it. Believe me there were many cold, wet and windy mornings when I didn’t feel like going for a run. Self-discipline gives you the strength to stay professional in your mahi, even when you’re ready to throw in the towel. Self-discipline helps you stick with and achieve tough goals that you set for yourself. It also enables you to keep going through to great success, despite what others might see as impossible odds.

It can also improve learning and enhance performance. Studies have shown that students with a high degree of self-discipline retain more knowledge than those without self-discipline. Additionally, researchers discovered that students with strong self-discipline were more meticulous in their tasks, which improved their performance.

Research has also shown that measuring a person’s level of self-discipline is a more accurate predictor of success than measuring their IQ.


How to Develop Self-Discipline


1. Choose a Goal

Begin by choosing just one goal that you want to focus on to develop your self-discipline. I know I had more than one in 2011 but I’ve been doing this for years. Starting small is the best way to start developing your self-discipline. As your discipline gets stronger you can spread the focus to more areas of your life as I did.

2.Find Your Motivation

Once you’ve chosen your goal, list the reasons why you want to achieve it. Try to express these reasons in a positive way. “I wanted to complete the New York marathon just to prove to myself that I could do it.” When you list the reasons why you wanted to achieve something, you’ll find it much easier to get the job done.

3.Identify Obstacles

Now you need to identify the obstacles that you’ll likely face when working toward your goal, and devise a strategy for overcoming each one. Once you’ve identified obstacles, come up with a strategy to overcome each one. For me, I set out my running clothes and shoes the night before so they were all ready for me to put on quickly and easily the next morning.

Often our self-discipline dissolves because we haven’t identified the obstacles that we’ll be facing and we haven’t developed strategies to overcome them.

4.Replace Old Habits

When we’re developing self-discipline, we’re often trying to break a bad habit and replace it with something more productive. However, if that habit is tied to a certain time of day or routine, breaking it can leave a hole. If we don’t replace it with something else, then its absence becomes even more noticeable. I set my alarm clock on the other side of the room so I actually had to get out of bed to switch it off.

5.Monitor Your Progress

As you work on your self-discipline, pay attention to how you’re feeling as it develops and strengthens. You might feel free, happy, proud, and energized. I know I always felt like this after my morning run. Over time, your self-discipline will strengthen and you’ll be able to apply it to lots of other areas of your life.

Self-Discipline is an essential quality. It’s a key differentiator between leaders and followers; people who are successful in life and those who aren’t. Make sure that you develop it!

Arohanui, nā Awhimai