How Self-Discipline Makes All the Difference

In my Muay Thai kickboxing class, the instructor talks a lot about discipline. The cornerstone of martial arts training, self-discipline is even part of the “Student Creed” we have to recite before leaving class (along with things like perseverance and honesty), and he often ends class with a speech with cutesy quotes like: “A disciplined life is a happy life.”

But there’s one saying that always seems to get me. Recently, he ended class by saying: “If you have self-discipline, you can have anything.” And now that I am officially training for a half marathon, and — I don’t want to jinx it — the scale is budging ever-so-slowly in the right direction again, I can say with absolute certainty that self-discipline is the absolute most important quality I’ve had to develop along my health and fitness journey.

As I’m sure any runner would agree, it takes a special kind of self-discipline to pull yourself out of bed before the sun rises to log miles, or to lace up your sneakers after a grueling day at the office. And anyone who has ever attempted to lose weight knows that there’s often nothing standing between you and that extra slice or pizza or a heaping bowl of ice cream except your own ability to tell yourself no.

To me, self-discipline is about saying you’re going to do something — and then actually doing it. It’s about making yourself a priority, and keeping your own promises. It’s about setting a goal and not allowing yourself to quit. It’s about developing the strength to deny yourself something that may be easier or more fun — e.g. skipping your run to lounge on the couch, opting for the cheeseburger instead of the salad — because you know it will only hinder your own success.

As someone who used to tip the scales at over 260 pounds, I can tell you exactly what it’s like to not have any self-discipline at all. While I was always an over-achiever in the classroom, when it came to my health, laziness was the name of the game. If I didn’t “feel like” doing something, I didn’t do it. If I had a sudden craving for a milkshake, off to Baskin-Robbins I went. I’d promise myself I wasn’t going to overeat at a restaurant, but then proceed to order the greasiest, most unhealthy option on the menu — fettucine alfredo was my go-to meal of choice — and polish off the entire plate. My short-lived attempts to exercise were always lackluster at best — I could stick to a walking regimen for about a week, tops, before allowing myself to quit.

In some ways, I’m sure it sounds fun to do (or, in my case, not do) whatever you want, whenever you want. There’s a certain freedom that comes with giving up on yourself and having no goals. By the time I started college, I had completely resigned myself to a life of obesity; I figured I was “meant” to be fat, so I did absolutely nothing to stop piling on the pounds. It’s just oh-so-easy easy to stuff your face with whatever happens to be in front of you, and never have to worry about the ramifications to your health.

At first, developing self-discipline meant having the strength to say “no” to the temptation to skip a workout or eat something that I knew would come back to haunt me on the scale. But these days, the ability to set my own goals and stick to them has proven more rewarding that I ever thought possible…and I’m finding that it’s getting easier.

Last week, I earned my brown-tip belt in Muay Thai, which in my school is granted after approximately 18 months of training. This week, after returning from a weekend getaway (more on that later), I went out and pushed my body through five miles. Every morning, I plop myself in front of my laptop in my home office, even though the TV is just steps away and sometimes I just don’t feel like working.

Sometimes, self-discipline means sacrifice. But to me, developing self-discipline has proven the only way to really have everything I’ve ever wanted in life.

What are some ways you’ve practiced self-discipline to reach your goals?


  1. EXACTLY!! Yes yes YES to all you said here. It’s not “will power” it’s self discipline. That’s the key to any success. The willingness to do what is hard. To do what maybe isn’t what you really WANT to do in the moment but you know you NEED to do it. And to do it day after day, week after week, month after month. I try to use some of the ideas of some 12 step programs and just tell myself that today, I will make the right choices. I will do the exercise that is planned and I will stick to the food program I’ve already decided is the plan for the day. Because as you know, it’s very easy to get discouraged when you have a hard day or your tired (my biggest downfall) and just throw in the towel. The good thing about self discipline is that you can grasp back on to it at any time! And when you make these goals – getting your brown tip belt, running 5 miles, making a weigh in – success is SO DAMN SWEET! :)

    Keep up the good work!

    • Thanks so much, Kelly! You are right, as always! :-)

      There are so many people who ask how I found the “motivation” to lose weight, work out, etc., but the truth is, I’d say I’m only motivated to make “the healthy choice” about 50 percent of the time (and even that may be pushing it).

      The rest is all about making a commitment and sticking with it…no excuses! And we both know that the rewards are what make it all worth it in the end!

      Thanks again for reading! :-)

  2. I totally feel you- I cannot believe how hardcore disciplined I was about school, work and goals, but when it came to my personal health I either flat out neglected it or disregarded it entirely. Health and wellness was the one thing I was rebellious about- I could eat what I wanted, however/whenever I wanted it and if I didn’t “feel” like running or going to yoga, I didn’t. It’s amazing how things have changed… it’s important to focus in and dedicate yourself to the goal, knowing it will get easier and old habits are hard to break at first.

    You are rockin’ it girl! :)

    • Thanks so much, Shannyn! You’re so right. It’s easy to focus on things like school or work, where other people rely on you, but when it comes to doing something that’s just for YOU…it’s not always so easy! Taking that first step is hard, but once your lifestyle starts to change, it does get easier!

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