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How to Become More Disciplined Without Relying on Willpower

by Michael Leonard on July 27, 2021

How much more could you accomplish if you had more discipline in your life?

Would you… lose weight? Make more money? Start your dream business? Have more freedom and time with your schedule?

To help you gain more discipline, I wanted to share some principles and techniques I’ve learned from Craig Ballantyne. He’s commonly referred to as “The World’s Most Disciplined Man” and author of several books including, The Perfect Day Formula. According to his website, he’s helped over 260 people make their first million dollars and is also the founder of Early to Rise.

Before sharing some of the best tips I’ve learned from Craig, let’s first differentiate willpower vs. discipline, as there seems to be a huge disconnect.

 

Discipline vs. Willpower

If you’re like most people searching for more discipline, chances are you’ve wondered what is the difference between it and willpower.

According to Dr. Benjamin Hardy, “Your willpower is like a muscle. It’s a finite resource that depletes with use. As a result, by the end of your strenuous days, your willpower muscles are exhausted and you’re left to your naked and defenseless self — with zero control to stop the night-time munchies and time wasters.”


Meanwhile, discipline is the practice of training expected to produce a specific characteristic or pattern of behavior. The more you do a specific action or routine, the more it becomes automatic and part of who you are. As self-help expert and author Robin Sharma said, “Discipline is built by consistently performing small acts of courage.”

Essentially, if you try to rely on willpower to achieve your goals, it’s going to feel like a huge challenge. I’m sure you’ve probably experienced that in your own life, whether it's using your willpower to hit the gym, avoid certain foods, or do a specific task at work. It can work for a little while, but eventually, your willpower leaves.

But if you learn how to retrain your mind and become more disciplined, you won’t need to rely on willpower that fades throughout the day. Sure, you might use willpower from time to time, but you won’t rely on it nearly as much and should help you achieve your goals significantly faster.

The great news is that you can upgrade your level of discipline, unlike willpower. Here’s how…

 

Step 1: Create Your Vision

Craig taught me the first step to gain more discipline is getting clear about your big-picture vision. Without a crystal clear idea of what you want to achieve in your life, it’s easy to lose discipline and not hit your goals.

As Tony Robbins said, “We need a compelling future, something that will get us up and excite us. If you don’t have that, life feels very dead for high performers.”

Most importantly, having a vision makes it easy to avoid temptation and lock in your self-discipline. A vision will help you stay focused and remind you of what you want for the long term. Plus, it will likely speed up how quickly you can turn your vision into reality.


If you have never crafted a vision statement, start by asking yourself these types of questions:

  • What is my mission in life?
  • How do I measure success?
  • What am I doing on a daily basis?
  • How do I feel about my family/career?
  • What is my role in family and business/career?
  • What are the three most important accomplishments I want to achieve in the next 3-5 years?


Once you have your own roadmap of success, then you can structure your days to make it happen.

 

Step 2: Create Meaningful Goals

Goals are great, but so many people set too many goals or aren’t clear about how to get the result. As Craig said in his book,

“Goal setting is not fantasy. It is about adding deadlines on your dreams, accepting ownership of your future, and identifying the actions you must take.”


Craig is very detailed about this process and recommends only setting four, 90-day goals. This way you can stay focused, committed, and not get overwhelmed. When you only have four main goals, it makes it much easier to not rely on willpower, as your time and energy aren’t as spread out.

Plus, 90 days is great because you get a lot done and still stay motivated as the finish line is close. Craig recommends setting these four outcome goals:

  • Health goal: Example - Lose 10 pounds and 1% body fat in 90 days.
  • Wealth goal: Example - Earn $5,000 from a side business in the next 90 days.
  • Social self-goal (your relationship with others): Example - Take your family on a vacation before the end of the quarter.
  • Personal enrichment goal (your own self-improvement): Example - Read a book a week for three months.


Then, for each of these goals, create process goals. This is the process to make sure you achieve them by breaking them down into daily and weekly steps.

Start to think about the process to make those goals become a reality. Write them down and review them regularly, so increase the chances of making them happen. Plus, when goals stay top of mind, you are much more likely to achieve them too.

 

Step 3: Get After Your Goals Early

Once you’re clear about the big picture and break it down into tangible goals, everything else gets easier. But Craig says the key is to make sure that you get working on your goals early in the day.

Because I’m sure that you have probably noticed that willpower tends to fade as the day goes on. But if you can dedicate yourself to a certain amount of time in the morning before the chaos of the day, discipline is so much easier.

As Craig said in the Perfect Day Formula,

“One of the reasons you must attack your number one priority first thing in the morning is that you are armed at that early hour with the greatest willpower to act and avoid getting into trouble. The morning holds the fewest external distractions and temptations from other people.”

Make it a priority to work on at least one of your goals every single morning. This will help you start the day with momentum that will likely lead into all other areas of your life.

 

Step 4: Create Rules for Your Life

One part of the book that surprised me was how Craig sets “rules for his life.” These aren’t suggestions, but more like commandments on how he chooses to live his life. He has a total of 12 rules that cover all aspects of his life.


For example, some of his non-negotiable rules are:

  • “I write for at least sixty minutes first thing every morning.”
  • “I will help ten million men and women transform their lives.”
  • “I create a to-do list at the start and end of every workday and update my daily gratitude and achievement journal.”
  • “I do not engage in confrontations with anyone, in-person or online. This is a waste of time and energy.”


When you set your own non-negotiable rules, it makes it easier for you to prioritize what’s important to you. And it makes it so much easier to say no to activities that don't get you closer to your vision.


Step 5: Never Give Up

Life will try to pull you in a million different directions, but it’s up to you to stay focused. Will you have days when you mess up and lack discipline?

Of course, you’re a human being… mistakes are inevitable.

Life’s not about being perfect, it’s about knowing who you are and making sure to hold yourself accountable. It’s about continuing to persevere so you can achieve everything you’ve ever wanted and not end up with regrets.

When you have a vision, goals, a morning routine and rules for your life, discipline becomes part of who you are. Pretty soon, willpower will be something you rarely rely on and instead, operate with a ton of integrity.

As Craig said at the end of the book, “You must stay strong, controlling what you can, coping with what you can’t, and concentrating on what counts.”


Remember, discipline is the key to ending the year strong. It’s the trait that will help you go from where you are to where you want to end up.

As best-selling author John C. Maxwell said, “Motivation gets you going, but discipline keeps you growing.”

Hopefully these tips from Craig Ballantyne will help you achieve more discipline in your life so that you can turn your goals into reality.

But the best part about having a clear-cut set of rules is that you avoid decision fatigue. When you have a hard yes or no to big issues, you don’t have to waste valuable time and energy figuring out the answer. This makes self-discipline a no-brainer!

Start by identifying 5-10 rules that will help you achieve your vision. Write them down, review them regularly, and update as needed.

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