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how can i be more disciplined how to be more disciplined dopamine and motivation

How can I be more disciplined: 7 steps to achieve your goals

Published Oct 23, 2023 | Updated Feb 8, 2024

Self-discipline or the “effortful regulation of the self by the self”[1] is a trait that often separates success from mediocrity. It is the ability to control one's actions, thoughts, and behaviours in pursuit of long-term goals and objectives[1]. Wondering “how can I be more disciplined”? While it may sound simple in theory, mastering discipline can be a lifelong journey. However, with the right mindset and techniques, anyone can develop a greater sense of self-discipline. In this article, you will delve into the concept of discipline, explore its benefits, get useful tips on how to be disciplined, and learn more about dopamine and motivation.


How to be disciplined : Unlocking your full potential with the science of self-discipline

To effectively take control of discipline, it's essential to begin with a clear understanding of what it means. Discipline can be defined as the ability to delay gratification, make sacrifices, and stay focused on long-term goals, even in the face of distractions or temptations[2]. It is about channelling your efforts and energy toward achieving your most important objectives.

Studies have shown that individuals with high levels of discipline tend to be more successful in various aspects of life, including career, health, and relationships[3]. A longitudinal study on 140 students found that those with higher self-discipline achieved better academic performance[4]. Understanding the significance of discipline can serve as a powerful motivator for developing this trait. Here are some of the benefits of self-discipline:

  1. Increased productivity

    Discipline allows you to prioritise tasks, stay organised, and maintain a steady work ethic. As a result, you become more productive and achieve more in less time.
  2. Improved mental health

     A study on medical professionals has shown that practising self-discipline can reduce stress and anxiety[5]. By mastering the ability to regulate your thoughts and emotions, you can better manage challenging situations. This leads to improved mental health and a better sense of well-being[1].
  3. Better decision-making

    Self-discipline helps you make better decisions by allowing you to think clearly and logically. You are less likely to make impulsive decisions that you may regret later.
  4. Increased self-confidence

    When you have self-discipline, you are more likely to achieve your goals. This leads to increased self-confidence, feelings of pride and a sense of accomplishment[6].
  5. Better relationships

    Being disciplined also means being reliable and consistent in your commitments, which can enhance your personal and professional relationships. Self-discipline also helps you maintain healthy relationships by helping you regulate how you express your emotions and communicate effectively[7].

How to stick to a routine? Here’s 7 tips for better self-discipline

Self-discipline is a skill that can be cultivated and strengthened over time. It's something you develop through practice and dedication. Here are some strategies to help you foster self-discipline:

  1. Start small: Begin by tackling one area of your life where you'd like to exercise more discipline. Whether it's sticking to a daily exercise routine, maintaining a budget, or studying consistently, start with a manageable goal[1].
  2. Create a routine: Establishing a daily or weekly routine can help you build discipline. When certain actions become habitual, they require less effort and willpower to maintain[8].
  3. Avoid temptations: Identify the temptations or distractions that derail your discipline and take steps to minimise them[9]. For example, if you're trying to cut back on social media, use apps or settings that limit your screen time.
  4. Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness techniques, such as meditation, can improve your self-awareness and self-control[10]. They can help you become more attuned to your thoughts and impulses, making it easier to resist temptations.
  5. Seek accountability: Share your goals and progress with a trusted friend or family member who can hold you accountable. Knowing that someone else is aware of your commitments can motivate you to stay disciplined.
  6. Keep a journal: Record your progress and reflect on how self-discipline has positively impacted your life. This can serve as a source of motivation and a reminder of the benefits you're reaping.
  7. Celebrate small wins: Acknowledge and celebrate your achievements, no matter how small they may seem. This positive reinforcement can encourage you to maintain your discipline[11]. Treat yourself to something you enjoy as a way of recognizing your efforts.

Overcoming common obstacles: practice makes perfect

While cultivating self-discipline is essential, there are some common obstacles that can impede your progress. Recognizing these challenges and having strategies to overcome them is crucial for maintaining discipline. Procrastination is a significant barrier to discipline[12]. To overcome it, break tasks into smaller, manageable steps, and set deadlines for each. Use techniques like the pomodoro technique to work in focused, time-limited intervals[9]. You can read more about time management and how to do the pomodoro technique here. There will be days when motivation is in short supply. On such days, rely on discipline rather than motivation. Commit to taking small steps, and once you start, you may find that your motivation increases[13]. Self-criticism and doubt can undermine discipline. Cultivate self-compassion and challenge negative self-talk by replacing it with positive affirmations and encouraging words. Embrace the concept of good enough and focus on progress rather than perfection. Treat yourself with kindness and understanding, especially when you face setbacks or challenges in maintaining discipline. 

Make use of a natural motivation booster

When your motivation is low and you feel like your self-discipline will go down the drain you can always make sure to boost the motivation hormone, dopamine. The reward and pleasure chemical dopamine has an enormous influence on your motivation[14]. Dopamine is released to motivate you towards achieving your goals[15,16,17]. Let's say you want to start using your kitchen to keep yourself healthy. Your brain provides a low level of dopamine to give you the motivation to go to the kitchen and get cooking when you’re hungry. Once you cook your healthy meal and eat it, your brain then rewards you with an increased surge of dopamine, which leads to a positive feeling. To ensure dopamine can get released, your body needs to get enough of its building block first. You can opt for a protein-rich diet including meat and soybeans or you can try out a high-quality supplement[18]. brain feed has developed the world’s first natural 800mg tyrosine capsule from fermented corn which helps your body produce enough dopamine to stay motivated. Use the code ‘NEW15’ at checkout to get 15% off your first purchase. 

Staying on board with your plans 

Discipline is an ongoing commitment. To maintain long-term discipline, you must continually evaluate and adjust your strategies. It’s important to regularly review your goals. Periodically reassessing your goals and priorities gives you the chance to evolve your goals in order to adapt to your life circumstances[19]. Embrace your flexibility and learn from your experiences. If you’ve noticed that a particular strategy hinders your potential, adjust it or try something new. Be creative with it. It’s advised to surround yourself with sources of inspiration that remind you why discipline is crucial[9]. This could involve reading motivational books, listening to inspiring podcasts, or following role models who embody discipline. Above all, make sure you practise patience. Building and maintaining discipline is a journey that demands patience. Understand that setbacks are part of the process, and use them as opportunities for growth.

Discipline is a powerful tool that can empower you to achieve your goals, lead a more fulfilling life, and overcome common obstacles. By understanding the concept of discipline, recognizing its benefits, and employing effective techniques, you can cultivate self-discipline and maintain it over the long term. Remember that discipline is about progress, and with dedication and perseverance, you can take control of your self-discipline and unlock your full potential.



[1] Moore, C. (2020). 17 Self-Discipline Exercises to Help Build Self-Control. Positive Psychology.

[2] Bear, G. G., & Duquette, J. F. (2008). Fostering Self-Discipline. Principal Leadership, October 2008, 10–14. 

[3] Lonczak, H. S. (2019). 40+ Benefits of Self-Control and Self-Discipline. Positive Psychology.

[4]Duckworth, A. L., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2005). Self-Discipline Outdoes IQ in Predicting Academic Performance of Adolescents. Psychological Science, 16(12), 939–944. 

[5] Sherlock, C. & John, C. (2016). Adaptation Practice: Teaching doctors how to cope with stress, anxiety and depression by developing resilience. British Journal of Medical Practitioners, 9(2), a916. 

[6] Gómez-Miñambres, J. (2012). Motivation through goal setting. Journal of Economic Psychology, 33(6), 1223–1239.

[7] Moneva, J. C., & Bandino P. Gatan. (2020). Emotional intelligence and self-discipline in senior high school. International Journal of Research - Granthaalayah, 8(1), 69–77. 

[8] Verplanken, B., & Orbell, S. (2022). Attitudes, Habits, and Behavior Change. Annual Review of Psychology, 73(1), 327–352. 

[9] Gleeson, B. (2020). 9 Powerful Ways To Cultivate Extreme Self-Discipline. Forbes.

[10] Bowlin, S. L., & Baer, R. A. (2012). Relationships between mindfulness, self-control, and psychological functioning. Personality and Individual Differences, 52(3), 411–415. 

[11] Wei, L. T., & Yazdanifard, R. (2014). The impact of Positive Reinforcement on Employees’ Performance in Organizations. American Journal of Industrial and Business Management, 04(01), 9–12. 

[12] Wilson, B. A., & Nguyen, T. D. (2012). Belonging to Tomorrow: An Overview of Procrastination. International Journal of Psychological Studies, 4(1), p211. 

[13] Clarabut, J. (2023). Why taking small steps helps you achieve more. Wellbeing people.

[14] Mohebi, A., Pettibone, J. R., Hamid, A. A., Wong, J.-M. T., Vinson, L. T., Patriarchi, T., Tian, L., Kennedy, R. T., & Berke, J. D. (2019). Dissociable dopamine dynamics for learning and motivation. Nature, 570(7759), 65–70.

[15] Russo, A. M., Payet, J. M., Kent, S., Lesku, J. A., Lowry, C. A., & Hale, M. W. (2022). Acute treatment with 5-hydroxytryptophan increases social approach behaviour but does not activate serotonergic neurons in the dorsal raphe nucleus in juvenile male BALB/c mice: A model of human disorders with deficits of sociability. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 36(7), 806–818. 

[16] Tomova, L., Wang, K., Thompson, T. A., Matthews, G. A., Takahashi, A., Tye, K. M., & Saxe, R. (2020). Acute social isolation evokes midbrain craving responses similar to hunger. Nature Neuroscience, 23(12), 1597–1605.

[17] Krach, S. (2010). The rewarding nature of social interactions. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, 4(22).

[18] Foods highest in Tyrosine (n.d.). My Food Data.

[19] Re-evaluating your goals in the midst of change (n.d.). Lucidchart.

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