People who learn of my habits sometimes say “I wish I had your discipline.”

But no one is born with high amounts of discipline.

As humans, we naturally seek dopamine releases and the path of least resistance.

We do things that feel good for a millisecond, even if we know they’re making our lives worse in the long run.

This is how we’ve evolved over millions of years and it takes a lot of practise to go against these instincts.

Your brain drives you to look at porn. It drives you to eat calorie bombs. It wants you to be lazy and conserve your energy for emergencies and famines.

Your brain doesn’t understand that the above aren’t real worries for the majority of people anymore.

How do you build up discipline and willpower?

In the past, I’ve had terrible discipline. It is something I’ve had to build.

I used to do the following:

  • Snooze my alarm 6 times, or set 5 different alarms at 10 minute increments, leading up to the time I needed to be awake.
  • Drink 4 litres of sugary Coca Cola (not zero) in an evening and hate myself for it, then do it again the next evening. And the next. Oh and I was eating chocolate every evening too – and a lot of it – whilst playing videogames until 4am.
  • Eat 12 chocolate bars (small ones – but still 130 calories each) in one go.
  • Rack up credit card debt, buying things I didn’t need and couldn’t afford.
  • Stay up watching YouTube videos in bed for 3 hours longer than I meant to, then be tired for work or miss the gym the next day.
  • Spend 90% of my waking hours playing video games if I had the chance and let important things go – like cooking for myself, keeping a relatively clean home, or doing the dishes.

You get the picture.

The point I’m making is this:

You don’t just become someone with crazy levels of discipline one day. You have to train yourself, taking small steps, and it takes time. Some of us (me) are naturally lazier and have to work harder. Trying to change it all at once doesn’t work.

You might want to do all of the following:

  • Exercise 5 times a week
  • Stop smoking
  • Cut your alcohol consumption in half
  • Start paying more than the minimum on your credit card
  • Work on your own business daily
  • Stop eating junk food
  • Start meditating
  • Write in your journal
  • Etc.

But this is TOO MUCH to change at once!

You WILL fail. Once you let one of the new habits go, it is easier to to just give up on all of it. And then you feel like shit. You changed… for 2 weeks, then you’re back to your old ways.

You have to ask yourself what’s the most important thing to change first.

Habits will snowball. But start with one and allow yourself to build momentum.

But making big changes are scary!

Ask yourself, how can I break that thing down into a small chunk and get really good at doing that small chunk?

If you have a list of things you want to start doing, pick one of them and then make it easy to win.

Don’t aim to go to the gym 5 times per week at first. Just aim to go twice.

Once you can make it to the gym twice per week, up it to 3 times.

Don’t try to add another new habit until you’ve made the first one automatic!

Your new habits don’t have to be hell!

For example, you want to lose fat. However, If your gym routine consists of being barked at by a gym instructor, and having instructions to do pushups, burpees, sprinting on the spot, etc. being yelled for an hour – you’re probably not going to keep that up.

Physical activity is not punishment for food eaten during the week. You don’t need to work yourself until you’re dripping with sweat, your legs can hardly support you and you want to get sick.

There’s no need to follow a routine like this. MOST people would find that hell. I certainly wouldn’t enjoy it.

Your workouts don’t need to actually make you that sweaty at all. Lifting programs that will transform you into a more muscular, stronger version of yourself have NO requirement for feeling like crap. Usually only the last couple of reps in a set are really hard, and much of the time is spent sitting resting between sets. Even those last couple of reps don’t make you feel sick or sweat, you just might struggle to move the weight from point A to point B…

Guess what? You will still make AWESOME progress! Loads of my clients thought they hated working out, but when I got them on a simple full body workout program for beginners, they realised they actually enjoyed it.

If your motivation is fat loss, you’ll actually have FAR more luck if you just spend more time focusing on your diet and getting your macros for fat loss on point.

That is SO MUCH MORE LIKELY to result in fat loss and is 1000X easier than being put through an unsustainable torture program by a drill sergeant.

Keep things sustainable

You don’t need to be optimal all the time.

They key thing is that you make yourself better every day. Just get better than you are now. Then when you’ve solidified that habit, get better again.

Keep getting better, week to week, month to month, and those changes will compound in a pretty amazing way over a year and longer.

Rob W. James

Rob W. James is an online coach specialising in body transformation. He writes regularly on his blog at nothingbarredfitness.com

You can also find Rob W. James on Twitter.