Self-discipline: A form of self-care missed by many

By Sakuni Weerasinghe


I’ve always been quite adamant about self-care and taking mental breaks whenever necessary. As adults, most of us undergo a lot of stress throughout the week. So much so that an entire day of self-care seems necessary. Whether it be juggling multiple projects at once, missing out on quality sleep, or balancing going out with friends and spending time with family, many of us happen to over-exert ourselves. It is true that in pushing our boundaries and constantly caring for others, we often forget to care for ourselves.

With the amount of attention that the term “self-care” has received over the past couple of years, it has become synonymous with indulgence. For those of us who have the luxury to do it, run a bath; drop in a fancy, multi-coloured, rose-scented bath bomb; and close our eyes as we listen to some smooth jazz. This may then be followed by binge-watching your favourite sitcom; episodes you have probably watched over and over, that now you can recite the lines to, even before the actors do. When the night draws in, you would probably find yourself tucked in bed, watching videos on YouTube of “funny animals”, or having a light read that takes you back to your teenage years. Paints quite the picture, doesn’t it?

Don’t get me wrong, it’s absolutely necessary to take care of your skin, watch videos, and read books that make you happy. It could also be well deserved after enduring all you have during the week. Yet, this can easily turn problematic if we resort to remaining stuck in a repetitive cycle of being not so productive and consider it to be the only form of self-care. 

What we ought to realise is that self-care is more than this. Self-care is also about taking care of your mind, in terms of being disciplined to respect yourself, expand your abilities, explore your passions, learn new things, and stick to your goals. 

Self-discipline is self-care.

This is not as new a concept as it may seem. Give it some thought – is there a better way to shower yourself with care, and the respect you deserve than to be self-disciplined? This could imply something as small as turning off the TV after two episodes of F.R.I.E.N.D.S (*gasp*) or swapping mind-numbing material online for an inspirational TED talk. It could be as big a step as starting the first chapter of that book you’ve been meaning to write, learning the most basic guitar chords to achieve your dream of some day being a guitarist, or arranging a meeting with your mentor to assess your progress. These forms of self-care may not be immediately gratifying. In fact, they may be outright boring or frustrating at the very beginning. Yet, all of these are incredibly important forms of self-care to develop and expand yourself.

Self-discipline is needed, more so today than ever before. It serves as a reminder that dreams can be achieved, whenever we decide to get out of our heads (and beds). Self-discipline enables us to persevere and develop the resilience needed in order to take those initial steps in achieving our goals. It leaves no room for self-limiting behaviours like procrastination. Self-discipline involves respecting ourselves, and pushing ourselves just as we would for a friend.

The underlying idea of self-discipline is that we can be more than what we are now.

So let’s take a look at how we can develop self-discipline.


Find motivation


Not just extrinsic motivation in the form of rewards and accolades, but rather intrinsic motivation that is attached to the feelings of satisfaction and fulfilment in working towards achieving your goals. Reward yourself for sticking to your adaptive behaviours and healthy habits. You could also evaluate whether your goals are aligned with what you value, in which case it becomes easy to find motivation and discipline yourself.


Remove distractions


Make a conscious effort to remove anything that is distracting and that could possibly deter you from engaging. You may block entertaining websites until you complete your assignments or switch off your mobile. Make sure your environment is conducive to goal achievement. 


Make sure you don’t ‘wait for the right time’


Nothing kills more dreams than waiting for the right time. Start small, with baby steps, and you’ll find yourself closer to your goals in no time. Challenge yourself to step outside your comfort zone by starting now.


Think about the benefits in the long run


We often give into instant gratification and what is pleasing right now, and as a result, avoid anything that is difficult or painful to endure at the start. When you weigh the pros and cons of developing good habits and meeting goals and analyse the benefits you would achieve in the long term, it helps you endure a little discomfort at the start. This will enable you to persevere and as a result, develop good self-discipline.


Evaluate how you want to change


Ask yourself what you want to do differently in life. Make a list of the habits you wish to adopt into your lifestyle. You can use dedicated self-care applications at hand to guide you. Most importantly, forgive yourself for the mistakes made along the way.