Build Discipline: How to Get Back On the Horse Once You’ve Fallen Off

I have to go to spin tomorrow morning, which begins at 6:15am. I have to be there by 5:50am, or else the class fills up. I know it’s good for me, and in the past, I’ve always felt great after I’ve done it. But right now, I really do not want to go.

Discipline is a difficult thing to truly master. Some people are naturally disciplined, which to me means that they can more easily make themselves do things they don’t want to do. I think I’m pretty good at being disciplined, but then I face tasks like spin class tomorrow morning, or my resolve to write regularly. It’s easy to be disciplined for a while, it’s hard to be disciplined all the time.

So what do you do if you fall off the horse? Here’s a little step-by-step of how to get your discipline back:

  • Realize you’re off the horse. You know that nagging feeling that you should be doing something, but you’ve managed for a time to shove it to the back of your mind? If you want to regain your sense of discipline, you need to stop being in denial. You’ve slacked. You’ve weakened your resolve. You’ve broken your consistency. You’re off the horse, and now is the time to get back on. This is how I feel right now about spin, about running and about writing. Yes, I’ve been busy, but as they say, it’s not about finding the time, it’s about making the time. That time is now.
  • Get someone to keep you accountable. Grab a friend or a loved one and tell them exactly what you have to do (but don’t want to do). And then tell them you’re going to do it and maybe even when you’re going to do it. Tell them to keep you on track.

    My girlfriend is going to be there at 5:50am for spin tomorrow morning, and she will be mad as hell if I don’t show up. This motivates me.

  • Get reacquainted with the benefits and the glory that comes from what you’re doing. Remember why you wanted to do this in the first place. Make a list of the things you’ll get out of what you’re doing, and make it a point to regularly remind yourself that this is what you want, this will make you happy. Reaping the benefits of something you work hard for is infinitely more rewarding than something you got easily. Visualize the success, and how good it’s going to feel when you reach it.
  • Be inspired by someone else. Find or read about other people who have achieved what you’re trying to do, or are working on it too. Sometimes the discipline of others kick starts our own discipline. You might even find someone on this site that’s doing what you wish you could do. (I love Sarah Clatterbuck’s cycling story) Reach out to them, and ask them for advice.  You may find yourself with a buddy or better yet, a mentor, that can help you get through the difficult road to your goal.
  • Do it. There’s no substitute for this last step. Just do it. I’m going to spin tomorrow morning and I’m writing. Also, I’m in my running clothes as I type this because I just ran. Boom. Three things I’m just doing. Don’t think about it, don’t think about how you might fall off again. Just focus on this last step, if you only remember one thing from this article.  Don’t think. Just do that thing you don’t want to do. Get it done.

Just like anything else, you can build a sense of discipline through practice. Discipline isn’t just a skill, it’s an end in itself. There is even an argument that learning self control early on can even be an indicator of future success, which makes sense– being a disciplined person will help you succeed in just about any area of life, because for the most part, great success in life is hard. And doing things that are hard often requires discipline.

So build discipline within yourself; pick something hard to do that you may not want to do. I’m willing to bet that skill will translate directly into success.


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Jessica Chan
Jessica Chan is a graphic designer ( and Creative Director at Demand by Design, and enjoys running, dining at new places, traveling for fun, reading books on her iPhone, and staying fashionable. A devourer of fashion sites and beauty blogs on the one hand, and an avid listener of public radio and NPR on the other, Jessica is constantly filling her short-term knowledge to capacity with both the latest trends and the latest public issues. She was born in Canada, raised in LA, went to school at UC Berkeley, and has been living in the Bay Area for 8 years.