Self-Discipline: A Pathway to Calm

Many years have passed since my seventh-grade school year, but I still remember the large sign hanging on the classroom wall. It read, “Practice Self-Control.” A fitting reminder for a group of 12- and 13-year-olds with raging hormones and abundant energy.

The teacher was aware that our potential for future success depended on well-developed abilities to control our actions and behaviors and that for self-control to emerge, we needed to learn the art of self-discipline. The lessons I learned that year continue to serve me well.

Self-discipline and self-control are closely related concepts. Nathan DeWall, Ph. D., writes that self-control derives from monitoring our thoughts, feelings, and actions as well as maintaining high standards for ourselves and strengthening our control over impulses.  He suggests that self-control benefits the well-being of individuals and creates advantages for people as they function in personal relationships and in society.

Similarly, the team at Psychology Today defines self-discipline as the ability to manage impulses, emotions, and behaviors. Most importantly, they specify that the acts of management are practiced in the pursuit of long-term goals.

One of the benefits of practicing self-discipline is that it leads to a sense of calmness. When we take self-disciplined action to reduce the conditions of chaos and disorder in our lives, we’re able to go about our activities in a calm manner.

Access the Advantages of Self-Discipline

Labeling self-discipline as a “super-power,” Leo Babauta (author of Zen Habits) asserts that it’s one of the most important life skills to develop. He credits an increase in self-discipline with facilitating both personal and professional achievements in his own life.

To develop self-discipline, Babauta recommends finding motivation, taking small actions regularly, learning to tolerate discomfort, and being mindful of urges to quit. Additionally, he assures readers that perfection is not the goal and that failures are not to be feared when you’re trying to strengthen your self-discipline.

Additionally, let’s consider the advice of counselor/psychotherapist Noel Bell. He writes that building self-discipline enables you to make better decisions about your life choices, leading to a reduction in anxiety as well as improved feelings of happiness and self-confidence. Overall, improvements in self-discipline lead to smoother functioning as an individual and in relationships with other people.

Bell recommends these seven daily actions to build self-discipline.

  • Take time to think through your decisions; try not to make decisions in haste.
  • Get enough high-quality sleep on a regular basis.
  • Set and achieve 10 goals every day, even if they’re small.
  • Create a daily time-management system for yourself and stick to it.
  • Identify your nagging fears and confront them.
  • Eat healthy food and get some exercise.
  • Practice meditation for increased mindfulness.

The Quality of Calmness

According to, a person who shows no sign of anxiety or agitation exudes the quality of calmness. The manner and behavior of such a person may have a positive effect on other people around them. Additionally, a reputation for remaining calm under pressure may earn you accolades at work, in the community, or in personal relationships.

The Cambridge English Dictionary defines calmness as the quality of being peaceful, quiet, and without worry. But unless good luck delivers continuous positivity and ease to your world, it’s hard to always remain calm. Inevitably, stuff happens, and feelings of agitation, anxiety or even panic may set in.

The good news is that self-disciplined habits and behaviors can help you create positive circumstances to avoid anxiety-producing situations. Typical annoyances include missed deadlines, lack of preparation, failure to meet goals, and general disorder in your life. Small self-disciplined habits and actions can add up to create calmness.

While perfection is certainly not the endgame, improved self-discipline can contribute to a sense of calmness by facilitating well-ordered operations in daily routines. When you practice self-discipline to focus on tasks, meet deadlines, maintain your health, and manage your emotions, things generally run more smoothly.

Keep Calm and Carry On

The phrase “keep calm and carry on” originated as a public relations slogan created by the British Ministry of Information in the days leading up to World War II. In the years since the motto has resonated with people around the world.

Certainly, it takes self-discipline to remain calm and to carry on with productive daily tasks and community relationships in the face of wartime violence, deprivation, and uncertainty. To this day, the slogan provides excellent advice as we face many situations in our lives.

Embrace the “Suck”

Similar to the old British slogan, “embrace the suck” is a modern-day motto that resonates with many. It implies that self-discipline is necessary to endure negative conditions and to persevere toward long-term goals.

With origins in military jargon, the phrase “embrace the suck” has entered our everyday language. It means that while a current situation may be dangerous, uncomfortable, unpleasant, or boring, the act of tolerating the negative experience and pushing forward will lead to achieving worthwhile results.

Compared to our average lives, the self-discipline necessary for military service is extreme, but we can take a cue from those who have served. Embrace the suck can be anyone’s mantra for developing the self-discipline that leads to calmness.

Final Thoughts

Sometimes I’m lazy, or I want to eat junk food, or I just want to drift along without a care in the world. On some days, I don’t give a flip about achieving any specific goal or working on any kind of self-improvement plan. In my mind, there’s nothing wrong with those occasional feelings, if they don’t become habits.

I find that when I practice reasonable self-discipline, I proceed through life with a sense of calmness and self-esteem. I’m a stickler about deadlines, and I generally keep things organized. This includes my workspace and home as well as various types of materials, schedules, routines, and activities. The calmness that derives from the tiniest modicum of self-discipline allows me to feel relaxed and confident. How about you?

-Carol Benton

Photo by Nathan Lemon on Unsplash





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