The #1 Trick to Be Disciplined (This Will Change Everything!)

How to Be disciplined

Hey, I'm Emilie!

A certified life coach, meditation instructor, and spiritual entrepreneur. I’m here to help you create a vibrant life around your higher purpose and heart’s desires. 

“Self-discipline is the ability to make yourself do what you should do, when you should do it, whether you feel like it or not.” ―Elbert Hubbard

Why can some people easily do the things they want, even when these things are difficult – like exercising regularly, quitting sugar, or waking up at 5am – while for others, it’s such as struggle?

And for those of us who struggle with self-discipline, is there something we can do about it?

This article will answer both of these questions.

First of all, if you struggle with self-discipline, I sympathize with you. I have close to zero self-discipline.

I rarely manage to do anything I don’t feel like doing unless there are some severe consequences attached to it. It has caused some serious issues in my life, especially when it came to building my business. For the first five years, I refused to spend any time and energy building an audience because the task seemed too daunting. All I did those first years was create products, which is a task I like. After five years of working on my side hustle, I had several products ready but no one to offer them to. If I had done the work of building an audience from the beginning, it would have saved me a lot of time and frustration.

Not being disciplined is frustrating. It often leads to feeling disappointed with ourselves and unfulfilled because it can prevent us from reaching our goals and full potential.

That’s the story of my life. That’s also why I felt very relieved when I read Gretchen Ruben’s book, The Four Tendencies.

How to be more disciplined

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The Four Tendencies

The Four Tendencies is a framework that explains how we respond to inner and outer expectations based on our personality profile (“Tendency”).

Outer expectations are things like deadlines, rules, guidelines, and requests—think “external pressure.”

As for inner expectations, they are the demands we place on ourselves, like keeping New Year’s resolutions or building and breaking habits. Failing to meet our inner expectations can be perceived as a lack of self-discipline, but it’s not quite that simple.

In this article, I’ll quickly describe the Four Tendencies (or “personality profiles”) to help you figure out which you are. Then, I’ll share some strategies to be more disciplined for each Tendency.

The Four Tendencies are the Upholders, the Questioners, the Obligers, and the Rebels.

Self-discipline

Upholders

Upholders (19% of the population) easily meet both outer and inner expectations.

They are organized and reliable and have no problem meeting deadlines and following the rules and directives. They also have no problem doing the things they must do even when they don’t feel like it (ex: going to the gym). They are innately disciplined.

Their motto is “I can do the things I want to do, and I can do the things I don’t want to do.” –The Four Tendencies

As long as they have clear expectations and intentions, they easily follow through on their commitments to both themselves and others.

If you lack self-discipline, you’re unlikely an Upholder.

How to be more disciplined

Questioners

Questioners (24% of the population) question ALL expectations.

They need to know the ins and outs of an issue, situation, or request before making a decision. They then meet an expectation (inner or outer) only if it makes sense to them, and they resist any rule or demand that doesn’t.

“Questioners are motivated by reason, logic, and fairness. (…) Their motto is ‘Why this task, why this way, and why now?’” –Gretchen Ruben

Questioners need a reasonable explanation for doing something. For example, they wouldn’t do a water-fast unless they have a reason to do it (ex: a health condition). If an action is justified, however, they’ll do it without any difficulty.

If you’re reading this article, I doubt you are a questioner since questioners don’t have difficulty following through on their commitments to themselves.

However, suppose you are a Questioner and still have trouble making yourself do certain things. In that case, the solution is to have a stronger “why” justifying the action.

That being said, if you lack self-discipline, you’re likely an Obliger or a Rebel.

How to be disciplined

Obligers

Obligers constitute the larger group, with 40% of the population. They readily meet outer expectations like requests from other people or deadlines, but they struggle to follow through on the demands they place on themselves.

For example, an Obliger who wants to get in shape would have a tough time going to the gym if there were no external pressure. To meet their inner expectations (ex: to get in shape), they need external accountability.

The good thing is that it’s usually easy to find outside accountability.

They could hire a coach or personal trainer, find a gym buddy, join a running club, or ask their partner to remind them to go to the gym. Other examples of external accountability are study groups, programs like Weight Watchers, and book clubs. Someone could even commit to giving a certain amount of money to a friend if they don’t exercise four times a week.

If you’re an Obliger and have difficulty achieving your goals and building or breaking habits, you can solve your “discipline issue” with an accountability system.

There’s nothing wrong with that; and remember, Obligers are 40% of the population. Once you have found an external accountability system that works for you, you won’t have any difficulty following through on your commitments to yourself, and you will progress much faster toward your goals.

How to build self-discipline

Rebels

Now, Rebels. This Tendency is a tough one. It’s the smallest group with only 17% of the population, including myself.

Rebels fail to meet both inner and outer expectations. They defy all forms of control and also resist their expectations for themselves. They are obsessed with freedom and value choice, self-expression, and identity.

The Rebel’s motto is “I do what I want when I want, and the way I want.” –The Four Tendencies

When you consider that the definition of self-discipline is “the ability to make yourself do what you should do whether you feel like it or not,” it’s clear that Rebels are not disciplined.

Although outer accountability works for Obligers, it doesn’t for Rebels. If you think you’re a Rebel, too, I sympathize with you because I know it’s not easy.

But there’s hope!

Since it’s my personal Tendency, I spent quite a bit of time looking for solutions and strategies, and I’m happy to share them with you.

First, trying to go against our Rebel Tendency and trying to force ourselves to do things we don’t want to do is kind of a waste of time and energy.

To achieve any goal, it has to be important to us. Then, we must continually remind ourselves of the reasons why we want it. It’s also helpful to be well aware of the consequences of not achieving that goal. 

Let’s say I decide to do a 7-day water fast starting Monday (true story). It’s very likely that, on Monday evening, I’ll feel hungry and want to eat something. The only way I’ll stick to the fast is if the reason I’ve decided to fast in the first place (the desired outcome) is more important than actually eating. Each time I have a food craving during my fast, I’ll need to remind myself of my “why.”

I’ve failed many times with water fasting in the past.

What helped me during the last couple of times I did one was to write down my “why” on a sheet of paper before starting the fast. Then, each time I felt like eating, I read my “why” and then decided what was more important to me: the outcome I was trying to achieve with fasting or simply eating something.

Note that I could choose to eat something if the result I want to accomplish with fasting is not that important to me. My success will depend on how much I want to attain this outcome.

That’s the first strategy I use to follow through on my goals: writing down my goals and why they matter to me. I then read them every morning and every night before going to bed, and every time I don’t feel like following through.

Another strategy I’ve found is to visualize my most important goals. I wrote an article about “How to Change Your Identity and Upgrade Your Life,” in which I explain the exact formula I use to program my subconscious mind to help me achieve my goals and vision for the future.

If you’re a Rebel, this technique could be a game-changer. This technique will help you remember your goals and why they truly matter to you throughout the day, and it’ll then be easier to do the things you must do to achieve them. You’ll even do it unconsciously.

This technique can help you achieve your fitness goals, your business and career goals, your relationship goals, or almost any other type of goals you may have.

The bottom line is that Rebels’ success depends on how badly they want to achieve or avoid something. Trying to force ourselves to do things we don’t want to do is like swimming against the current. A better way is to constantly remind ourselves of what we want and why we want it.

Gratitude Journal Prompt Ideas

Let’s Quickly Recap

Upholders and Questioners don’t have any difficulty meeting their inner expectations; they are naturally disciplined.

Obligers need outer accountability to follow through on their commitments to themselves. If you’re an Obliger, you simply need to find an external accountability system that works for you. It’s a pretty straight-forward solution, and once you’ve found a sound system, you’ll be able to achieve any goal you have.

As for Rebels, they can do anything they want. If you’re a Rebel, before setting a goal for yourself, make sure the intended outcome is something you genuinely desire.

I hope this article has helped you. I encourage you to read Gretchen Rubin’s book, The Four Tendencies. If you still aren’t sure of your Tendency, you can take her quiz here.

Let me know what you think about the Four Tendencies in the comments below!

Have a beautiful week.

Emilie

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