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How To Build Self Discipline To Achieve Goals

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If you’ve struggled in sticking with New Year’s Resolutions in the past, this article is for you. How do I achieve my goals? How do I make this year different and not give up on my New Year’s resolutions? What are the best tips for following through on and accomplishing my New Year’s Resolutions? We share 5 actionable ways you can build discipline so that you achieve your goals this time around and start the new decade off right!


There was a point in time when I set dozens of goals and followed through with almost none of them. I would fall into old patterns of behavior and come up with very valid sounding excuses for why it was time to give up. Other times I would just forget about the goal until I found it in some notebook a few months later. In those moments I usually felt shame and wondered what the heck was wrong with me.

Why can’t I do what I say I’m going to do?

Fast forward a few years and here sits the girl who in the past year alone has developed (and stuck with!) 17 habits to improve her life. This is the girl who turned her marriage around, took the plunge and bought a school bus to convert into a tiny house on wheels, and started a business. This is the girl who changed her relationship with food, has exercised every morning for the past few months, and finally stopped hitting snooze! This is the girl who created a morning routine, has journaled every single day of the week, and can finally sit through 15 minutes of meditation. This is the girl that can drink 5L of water every day without forgetting and flosses every single night. 

I am so proud of this girl.

So I want to share what made the difference between the one that kept getting in her own way and the one that turned her life into what she imagined it could be.

The difference was discipline.

The difference was not giving up. Not starting something unless I was 100% committed to finishing it. Not overwhelming myself with so many changes at once.

If you wish you had more discipline, follow through, commitment, and motivation, here is exactly how you get from giving up to smiling proudly.

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Start tiny

Small wins fuel big results

ANA MCRAE

If you’ve struggled with sticking to your goals in the past, stop trying to overhaul your entire life all at once! It takes A LOT of energy to change habits. You’re mentally exhausting yourself if you’re trying to change 10 things simultaneously. Nobody has enough willpower to sustain that many changes.

Related post: How To Be Successful When Willpower Doesn’t Work

The biggest key to building discipline is starting small.

In order for me to start following through on my commitments, I needed to become the type of person that followed through on her commitments. 

I needed to change my identity. 

No longer was I the girl that said one thing and did another. 

Achieving ONE win started an avalanche of wins and led me to become the best version of myself.

I built a daily 5am 30 minute strength training workout routine not by one day deciding I was going to do that every day for 3 months, but by starting with 5 minutes of yoga a few times a week.

Starting tiny allowed me to build the foundation of a new habit. On top of it I could improve further and further until I was where I wanted to be.

I can’t reiterate this enough: start small!

With 2020 here, I bet many people have New Year’s Resolutions mapped out in the fancy new planners they recently ordered, and are ready to make leaps and bounds in the 10 different areas of their life…

Related post: How To Set Intentions For The New Year

And I love that ambition. But those same people come to me 3 months later and ask why they could only achieve one of their goals.

You know why… You went too big when you should have started small.

If you’ve got New Year’s Resolutions this year, make sure you’re not doing these 4 things wrong.

Make sure your resolution is one tiny goal that doesn’t seem grandiose, and is not worth proclaiming to the world, but will guarantee that you achieve it and start an avalanche of successes.

Get to the WHY

One thing that holds a lot of people back from achieving their goals is that they’re afraid of inconveniencing other people. 

They feel guilty about asking their husband to watch the kids so they can exercise, or saying no to happy hour with friends so they can train for a marathon, or asking the restaurant to leave the dairy and the carbs off the plate so they can feel good tomorrow. 

We feel bad about doing something good for ourselves because we don’t realize what an IMPACT a better version of ourselves can make.

I once skipped 6 months of ‘me nights’ (the evening I take to myself once a month to read, journal, grab a latte, browse the bookstore, go for a hike, etc. while my husband and kids fend for themselves) because I felt like a bad mom and a bad wife for needing time to myself. 

But when I realized that a calmer, more patient, and happier version of me was better for everyone around me than an overwhelmed, at her wit’s end, cranky version of me, that changed. 

The way to being a better mom and wife was by taking an evening to myself BEFORE I needed it. With that change in mindset I was able to recommit to ‘me night’ and stopped feeling guilty for asking my husband to bear the load. Instead I replaced the guilt with gratitude, and focused on how grateful I was that my family has enabled me to take time to myself when I need it.

When you’re setting your goal, there will always be some form of sacrifice. You can’t let it stop you. You need to get crystal clear on how accomplishing this goal will benefit people other than you (because it almost always does!). 

Making the goal about something greater than yourself gives you another reason to follow through.

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Eliminate all resistance

Have you noticed how the boom of technology has focused entirely on taking minute inconveniences out of our daily lives?

Don’t want to walk outside to hail a cab? Use your thumb on the Uber app. Don’t want to use your computer to look up the weather? Use your voice to ask Siri. Don’t want to plug your phone in to charge at night? Just set it on a wireless charging pad.

Every technological improvement in modern life has come from eliminating some inconvenient and seemingly unnecessary obstacle between you and the thing you want.

If you want to improve your life, you mus apply this same mindset to your goal… you must eliminate every inconvenience and obstacle associated with achieving success.

There needs to be no resistance between you and the action you need to take.

This is why clearing out your pantry from any processed food is a prerequisite to eating only whole foods – the simple act of eliminating the worse choice enables you to make the better choice consistently.

This is why having your gym bag packed and shoes by the door is a prerequisite to getting a work out in the morning – the simple act of having to pack your bag before you go creates another obstacle between you and the action you need to take. Eliminating the obstacle makes taking action easier.

Habits are by nature unconscious. “They are stored in a way that allows for the brain to think about other things” (source).

The key to achieving your goals is by making them habitual.

Make your success the path of least resistance.

Benjamin Hardy talks more about this concept in his book Willpower Doesn’t Work, which I review in this post.

Discipline comes when you make discipline easy.

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Hold yourself accountable

None of us can do it alone. 

The human need for connection is powerful and we can harness it to make habit changes easier.

Find an accountability partner that you can share your successes with, and that will also call you out on self sabotaging behavior. Locate that person in your life that will hold you to a higher standard and believes in your ability to become a better version of yourself.

Find your tribe.

And if you’re in a situation where you have no idea who that could be, work with an experienced life coach to get you results faster.

You can also put some stake in the game, so that a loss becomes more painful than the action required to win. 

Promise to give your friend $250 if you don’t move your body every day for 30 minutes. Tell your accountability partner you’ll clean their bathroom  if you eat dairy this month. 

Find something you really don’t want to do, and make it the cost of not following through.

PS – If you’re finding this advice valuable, there’s lots more where that came from in our Move Your Mountains email community! Every week I deposit gems of practical advice and inspirational tips to help you power through to your goal!

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When you sign up, you get a free goal setting template & success checklist to make sure you’re on the fast track to success! Join us in our movement to building lives exploding with joy!

Feel the success

If you keep picturing yourself giving up on your goal and you let that little voice in your head tell you you’re not cut out for this, you don’t stand a chance.

Every day, take time to set your intention and visualize a successful outcome.

It’s simple. Close your eyes for a minute (or five) and see yourself achieving whatever your goal is. Who do you see? What’s around you? What do you smell? How do you feel? 

Picture every detail of your success and feel the emotions that rise up when you realize you finally did it.

Our emotions are incredibly powerful. They make or break every aspect of our lives. Use this to emotionally invest yourself in success.

This visualization exercise is effective because it changes your perception of yourself from someone who always gives up, to someone who is going to win this time.

And as we discussed at the beginning of this article, changing your mindset will change your identity will change your results.

Just do it

No matter what, you must follow through.

If you’ve set a tiny goal and you know WHY you’re invested in it and you’ve made it the path of least resistance and you’ve pictured yourself being successful, all that’s left is to just do it.

And there’s nothing to say that it will be easy, but no matter what, you must follow through.

You need just one tiny win under your belt to change who you are forever.

It took me ONE morning of not hitting snooze, to avoid that bad habit for months. 

Once I broke that pattern, I was no longer the girl who always hit snooze, and I could be whoever I most wanted to be.

We buy into the misconception that motivation creates action, but it’s actually the complete opposite.

Action creates motivation 

ANA MCRAE

Stop breaking promises to yourself.

Follow through.

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As you can probably tell, I am super into goal setting. It’s one of my most favorite hobbies and I am obsessive about creating a life for myself that knows no limits. Building discipline is a huge part of achieving any goal you set.

Related post: The Ultimate Guide To Setting Goals And Achieving Personal Growth

I fully believe in your potential to transform your current state and build a life exploding with joy.

You have everything you need to do it.

Just start small, and go from there.


What habit did you first start with when focusing on building your self discipline? Let me know in the comments below!


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