Discipline – How to Avoid a Life of Regret

November 6, 2008 by Kevin Ngo

When many people hear the word discipline, it conjures up negative feelings. Feelings of being controlled, being told what to do, restricted, and trapped. Rightly so. Growing up, we’ve all had to deal with parents and teachers trying to get us to do things we don’t want to do. In that perspective, discipline is negative in a way.

What about SELF-discipline? Since you’re disciplining yourself, a choice you are making, the definition changes. It went from others making you do things you don’t want to do at the moment to making yourself do things you might not want to do at the moment. The difference is that self-discipline is a choice you decided to make in order to improve yourself in some way or to simply get something done.

What is Self-Discipline?

Simply put: Getting yourself to do the things you need to do when you need to do them whether you feel like it or not.

The Rewards

There are tons of rewards for having self-discipline with the obvious one being that you get more things done. There’s also the sense of satisfaction and pride of accomplishment. Imagine being in a position where the majority of your goals are reached. What a feeling that would be!

Probably the greatest reward though, is not having that feeling of regret. There’s a saying:

“We must all suffer from one of two pains: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. The difference is discipline weighs ounces while regret weighs tons”.

That feeling of regret and thoughts of “I should’ve” are some of those things in life that’s hard to get over. Even a nasty break up will heal over time. But regrets, those can last a life time. You’ll always be left wondering, “if only”. It’s a feeling no one wants to have. If that’s the case, shouldn’t everyone have the self-discipline to do whatever is necessary to accomplish their goals?

The Challenge

Unfortunately, there’s a thing call instant gratification and procrastination. We don’t do the things we know we should do when we need to do it because NOT doing it is more pleasurable at the time, so we just put it off. Psychologists say we do things for one of two reasons: To gain pleasure or to avoid pain. The reason we fail to follow through on what we need to do is we look at the short-term pleasure of NOT doing it or the short-term pain of doing it.

If you wanted to discipline yourself to workout everyday, the goal would be to get yourself to do it long enough until it becomes a habit, but until then, you need to focus on the long term rewards of following through instead of any short-term benefits or pain avoidance you might have come up with to persuade yourself not to follow through.

How to Develop Self-Discipline

1. Get clear on the end result and have strong enough reasons for getting it.

You have to know exactly what it is you want to accomplish and know why you want to accomplish it, otherwise temptations can easily take you off track. When you have a purpose and reasons behind that purpose greater than any short-term satisfaction you can come up with, it will be easier to fight off temptations to get off track. If you don’t, you’ll be in for a rough ride.

2. Create a sense of regret for NOT following through immediately.

Instead of having regrets later on for not doing something you intended to do, why not create that feeling of regret right away, so afterwards, you can actually do something about it to change it? To do this, you’d have to visualize yourself sometime in the future where enough time has passed by that you can’t do anything to change the situation. How would your life be 5 or 10 years from now if you keep putting off things you know you should be doing? Where would you be physically, financially, and emotionally? Really feel the pain. Imagine looking into the mirror and seeing your future self. If you really get into it, it can be an emotional and inspiring experience. When you snap back to reality, you’ll have a sense of great relief knowing that you can change that future of regrets.

3. Take smaller steps.

Often times, we set ourselves up for failure and when we do fail, we blame it on ourselves and our self-esteem goes down. Here’s what I mean. If you wanted to get into shape and haven’t been working out for the longest time and suddenly decide you’re going to start going to the gym everyday for 2 hours, you might be disappointed. Take smaller steps. Start out with something you’re confident you can do like 20 minutes a day, then build up.

4. Evaluate your strategy.

Sometimes you’ll run into a situation where you’re disciplining yourself perfectly. You’re getting yourself to do what you intended to do, yet you find that you’re not getting the results you want. Just remember to evaluate your strategy. Know what’s working and what’s not and do more of what’s working and less of what’s not.

5. Start with the little things.

Developing self-discipline is like building a muscle. The more you do it, the stronger it will get. If you have a hard time getting yourself to do things like go to the gym, work on your business, or even getting up before noon in the morning, you need to start disciplining yourself with the little things. Make it a goal to finish everything you start even if it’s something simple like cleaning your room or mowing the lawn. When you continually do this, you’ll get into the habit of getting yourself to keep going even if you no longer feel like it. As your self-discipline muscles get stronger and stronger, those bigger projects will become easier and easier to do.


Self-discipline is one of those “traits” that you must have if you want to be successful. Anyone can do anything if they feel like it. It’s the person who doesn’t feel like it but does it anyway who gets ahead of everyone else. Fortunately, it’s something you can develop through repetition. The more you discipline yourself to do certain tasks even when you don’t feel like it, the easier it will become because those actions you’re taking will eventually become habits. Once things you dreaded doing but you know you must do in order to achieve your goals become habits, you’ll make it look easy. That’s when life starts to get interesting. So don’t just read this and decide to get started when you feel like it, get started now!

Until next time…

Love Life. Do Good. Live Well.

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  1. Syrena February 10, 2010
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  2. eric August 10, 2010
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