How to Build Self-Discipline: Part 4 – Tips and Tricks

In the last three posts, I defined self-discipline, explained the role of habits, and provided a short framework for creating habits that last. In this post, I’ll share some tips, tricks, and resources that will increase your likelihood of success.

Get Help from Others

We are often more comfortable when we know that we have someone on our side rooting for us. If you’re looking for support and an opportunity to support others, there are communities of people online who are likely attempting to form the same habit that you are. Below is a list of some general goal-setting sites along with some fitness goal-setting sites:



You can also find a real-life partner. It’s a novel concept in today’s digital age, but you probably have a friend, neighbor, or significant other who shares some of the same goals that you do. Form your own, real-life, support group!

Reward (or Bribe) Yourself

Daniel Pink, in his book Drive, recommends experimenting with StickK, a website where you publicly commit to a goal and must hand over money if you fail to achieve it. The principle is simple. You set a goal, set the stakes, get a referee, and add friends for support.

Perhaps the most intriguing part of using StickK is setting the stakes. You can set it up so a predetermined amount of money is sent to a charity of your choice if you fail. To motivate you to stick to your habits, you may want to pick an anti-charity . For example, if you’re a Republican, you can set it up so money is sent to the Democratic National Committee. If you choose that route, pick something you feel very strongly about.

You could also set mini-goals. After accomplishing a mini-goal, treat yourself with a “now that” reward (see Part 3 of this series for an explanation).

Make Your Commitment Public (or Not)

There is some debate about whether or not making  your commitments public helps you or hinders you in reaching your goals. Do whatever works for you.

If you choose to make your commitment public, you can share your goals and desired habits on Twitter and/or Facebook, or your social networking site of choice. Make sure you check in daily so your friends and followers are kept abreast of your progress. They can also help keep you accountable.

Or, you could always follow this guy’s advice:

Write a Contract

If you don’t like the idea behind StikK, but like the idea of a commitment contract, you can write up your own contract detailing what you hope to accomplish. Include rewards for success or punishments for failure. Sign and date it.

It doesn’t have to be a complex legal document, just something simple and straightforward. has several examples here.

Find Inspiration

There are endless sources of inspiration. It all depends on what works for you personally. Leo Babauta, from Zen Habits, has a great list of possible sources of inspiration.

You could also find a find a hero to emulate, someone who you look up to. For example, if you find yourself fighting temptation, you could ask yourself: what would my hero would do (WWMHD)?

Associate Your Habit with an Existing Habit or Trigger

Using the power of association can be a powerful tool in your habit-building toolbox. If you can associate your behavior with another of your existing habits, or some other trigger, you’ll be more likely to succeed.

For example, if you want to write daily, you might try associating writing with logging in to your computer at home, making it the first thing you do.

You could also set alarms to trigger your desired behavior.

Eliminate Temptations

Temptation is going to be your greatest enemy when attempting to form a habit. Eliminate from your environment anything and everything that is going to get in the way of your success.

If you’re trying to eat more healthily, get rid of all of your junk food. Eat before you go to the grocery store so you’re not tempted to buy the bag of salty potato chips you know you’re going to crave. Pack a lunch when you go to work, so you’re not tempted to go out to eat for fast food.

You get the idea.

Be Easy on Yourself

Finally, you need to be easy on yourself. Creating habits that last takes work. Failure is going to happen and that’s OK. The important thing is you keep trying, keep looking for support, learn from your failures, and keep going until you find the process that works for you.

Forget all of that negative self-talk that you’re tempted to engage in. The truth is: we aren’t perfect, but we are all capable of positive change.

Missed a part of the self-discipline series? Click one of the links below:

Have any other tips or tricks for sticking to your habits? Please share them in the comments!

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