We all want to be successful. And while we’d all love it if our goals were easy to reach, sadly, it’s not that simple. The truth is, success takes a lot of hard work. And one word – discipline.
Discipline is one of the key things that successful people have in common. Because let’s face it, it isn’t wishful thinking that will take you to where you want to be.
So, what exactly is it about disciplined people that makes them successful in life?
In this article, I’ll show you ten traits that set them up for success. Take note: these traits aren’t innate. You can cultivate them yourself and get started on the road to your dreams!
Let’s dive in!
1) They take care of themselves
Let’s begin with the most basic place discipline shows up in a diligent person’s life – self-care.
For disciplined people, their body is a temple. Or more accurately, it’s the machine that lets them get things done. They know that to be able to achieve their goals, staying healthy is at the top of the to-do list.
So, all those things that the average person struggles with? Things like exercise, eating nutritious food, and sleeping well? Those are actually pretty basic for disciplined people.
They’re the types who won’t balk at starting their day with a 5 a.m. workout or saying no to junk food.
2) They have clear goals
Another thing that disciplined people have in common is that they know what they want. They have a clear vision and a plan to get there.
They break down their goals into smaller, achievable tasks and work on them consistently.
Having clear goals gives you direction and purpose, and it makes it easier to stay motivated. It gives you a “why” that keeps you on track when you’re just not feeling it.
Which leads me to my next point…
3) They practice mind over matter
It’s only natural to feel unmotivated from time to time. Even disciplined people aren’t immune to that.
But they do have one trait that keeps them going – the mental strength to overcome unpleasant thoughts or attitudes.
Mind over matter is a concept that’s easier said than done. Think about all those times when you didn’t feel like working. Wasn’t it hard to talk yourself into pushing on?
But disciplined people have figured out the trick to it. From visualization to affirmations, they have a whole range of strategies to keep themselves going.
4) They have self-control
Self-control is another key trait of disciplined people and is directly connected to the principle of mind over matter.
When faced with temptations, most people find it incredibly hard to say no.
I, for one, find it almost impossible to stop snacking on potato chips. In fact, I used to have a bag to go with a glass of wine every night before bed.
You might think, that’s okay, it’s such a small thing! But you know what I’ve realized over the years?
If you can’t control yourself with the small stuff, how can you be disciplined in the big ones?
That really changed my perspective and eventually helped me ditch that unhealthy potato chip habit!
As American mountaineer and CEO Jim Whittaker once said, “You can never conquer the mountain. You can only conquer yourself.”
5) They are patient and persevere in the face of challenges
Fortunately, if you know how to exercise self-control, this will also spill over into your emotional reactions.
One of the indicators of a disciplined mind is an emotionally intelligent approach to problems.
Let’s say you’re working on a project with a team. You’ve got an important deadline coming up, but one of your co-workers has messed up and delayed the project’s progress.
Anybody’s kneejerk reaction would be to get mad and frustrated – that’s completely natural and expected.
But if you’ve got some self-control strategies, you can easily apply those to this situation and develop an attitude of patience in the process.
This allows you to focus and persevere on resolving the problem instead of blowing up and losing your temper.
6) They are consistent
When we talk about discipline, we can’t leave out one essential trait – consistency.
You see, for you to form good habits, you need to do it regularly.
American businessman and author Harvey Mackay put it right when he said, “If you are persistent, you will get it. If you are consistent, you will keep it.”
If you want to be healthy, for instance, you can’t work out a few times and leave it at that. For long-term goals, you need to buckle down and keep at it consistently over time.
Otherwise, you’ll risk losing the gains you’ve already gotten. Being consistent helps you build momentum and make progress toward your goals.
7) They know how to manage their time
As a freelance writer with a flexible schedule, one of the first things I learned that would serve me best is to prioritize time management.
It’s actually a misconception that people like me have it good because we can work anytime, anywhere.
I mean, yes, in a way, that’s true, but here’s what people are missing: just because you’re on flexible time doesn’t mean you can afford to dilly-dally.
On the contrary, it calls for an even more disciplined approach. You want to achieve more in less time, so you can have enough time left for a good work-life balance.
That’s why disciplined people take time management to heart. You’ll see it in the way they have to-do lists, blocks of time allotted for tasks, task delegation, and other time-management strategies.
8) They are focused
All that talk about time management points to one other thing: disciplined people know how to focus and stay focused.
In this day and age, there are so many things vying for our attention. Our phones light up practically nonstop with notifications from all the apps we use.
These little interruptions can really be disruptive if you’re not careful. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of checking out a notification and getting lost in the rabbit hole of endless scrolling on social media.
But that isn’t the case with disciplined people. For them, the ability to focus is one that comes with practice – with mindfulness and energy-conserving strategies.
Thus, they are able to concentrate on the task at hand and avoid distractions, getting into a state of flow where they perform best.
9) They have a system
What does this ability to focus mean? How can you get it yourself?
It’s pretty simple: build a system that allows you to do that.
That’s the most important thing I learned from James Clear’s “Atomic Habits,” a book about building good habits.
One of the things that stood out for me in the book is this – “If you’re having trouble changing your habits, the problem isn’t you, the problem is your system.”
And this – “You do not rise to the level of your goals, you fall to the level of your systems.”
Do you see where I’m going here?
If you want to be disciplined, you’ve got to have a system that works for you.
It’s good to have goals, of course, but what you should focus on is the process that gets you there. Simply put, you change your habits by focusing not on what you want to accomplish but on whom you want to become.
Let’s go back to my potato-chip situation:
Instead of saying, “No thanks, I’m trying to quit junk food,” I could say, “No thanks, I’m a healthy person.”
Do you see the shift in perspective here?
I’m no longer thinking of quitting potato chips as the outcome. I’m thinking instead of who I want to become – a healthy person. That’s a frame of mind that will have me thinking differently about the way I do things.
I know it’s a rather tiny example of a system, but my point is, to build discipline, you need a system that operates on a set of beliefs to guide your actions.
10) They have a good sense of accountability
Another reason why disciplined people are the way they are is because they have a huge sense of responsibility. And that includes being responsible for their own actions.
You see, self-discipline is an internal process. It comes from within you. Everything you do is driven by internal motivation.
That means you own your actions and the consequences of those actions. When you make a mistake, you don’t make excuses or blame others for them.
Compare this with someone who’s driven by external factors, such as fear. An employee like that would probably slack off when the boss isn’t around.
In contrast, disciplined people will do the job, whether or not the boss is there. It’s no wonder they’re the ones who ultimately get noticed and promoted!
So there you have it – ten traits of disciplined people that prime them for success. It’s definitely not an exhaustive list, but hopefully, it’s enough to get you started on cultivating habits for success.
And remember, you don’t have to do all of them at once, so it doesn’t feel so overwhelming. Just pick one goal, break complex tasks into smaller ones, be consistent, and develop a system that works for you.
With constant practice and mindfulness, you’ll be just like the disciplined role models you look up to!