Christian Living, Encouragement

Self-Discipline: A Key to Success

Have you ever wondered how people become successful? Have you ever listened to them talk about their schedules? I have listened to quite a number of them and they have one thing in common; Self-Discipline.

 “All success begins with self-discipline. It starts with you.”  Dwayne Johnson

What is Self-Discipline?



Self-discipline is the ability to control one’s feelings and overcome one’s weaknesses. It is also the ability to pursue what one thinks is right despite temptations to abandon it. In order to be successful, whether in personal or professional life, you have to be self-disciplined. Your thoughts, emotions, habits, and behaviors must be put in check. It is difficult to be successful in anything you do if you cannot discipline yourself. You can set wonderful goals and even pray over them but without self-discipline, they will just remain on paper never to be crossed out as achieved. Regardless of how beautiful your goals are, whether highlighted in different colors and stuck on the wall or written out in a computer or tablet, they cannot be accomplished without self-discipline.

“Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishments.” Jim Rohn

Before we get to how we can build self-discipline, Let me mention a few people in scripture who lacked self-discipline hence some disastrous consequences.

King David

David was a man after God’s own heart but his lack of self-discipline in the area of women got him into major trouble with God. There was a woman who was taking a bath outside. David happened to be walking around in his castle. I wish he had been praying hard or reciting the psalms when he saw Bathsheba. Maybe he would not have called for her. But he did. He stared at her for a bit too long and all he could think about was laying with her. And so he did. After they had finished their business, she went back home. A while later, she set him a message telling him that she was pregnant. You know when you plant a seed in fertile ground, it must produce. And the seed he planted produced fruit. Now he had to come up with a plan on what to do in order to cover up his deed. He sent for Bathsheba’s husband Uriah. His intention was to have him go home and sleep with his wife so that when the baby came, everyone would think it was his child and not David’s. But he could not get this man to do this. The man refused to go home. This is what he said in 2nd Samuel 11:11,

“Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in huts (temporary shelters), and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are camping in the open field. Should I go to my house to eat and drink and lie with my wife? By your life and the life of your soul, I will not do this thing.”

Look at that. Uriah had honor. When Uriah was presented with an opportunity to go and spend time with his own wife, he refused. He could not bring himself to go home. He is the one who was out in the fields and without a doubt would have loved to be with his wife but the thought of enjoying himself while his brothers were out there in the open field where danger would fall upon them anytime was not something he could do. Talk about self-discipline. Uriah made a decision.

Self-discipline includes making a decision not to do what your mind and body wants you to do when you know your actions
go contrary to the Word of God or are going to be detrimental to yourself and others.

David did not stop and think about what he was doing. In fact, he asked who she was. You would think after hearing that she was someone’s wife, and as a matter of fact, a man who was out fighting for him, he would have thought about the man. Noooo he thought about a way to fulfill his own needs. He wanted her and he just had to have her. Later, David had Uriah killed. And then he took his wife. David was punished by God for what he did against an innocent man. In 2 Samuel 12: 11-12 and 14, the bible states,

Thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, I will raise up adversity against you from your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, before the sun.’ ” However, because by this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child also who is born to you shall surely die.”

David lost that son he had made with Bathsheba and Absalom his son slept with his concubines in broad daylight. Lack of self-discipline is too costly. We have to learn to crucify the flesh daily. The bible says,

“Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is killed off for good—crucified.” Galatians 5:24(MSG) bible.


Ammon was King David’s son. He wanted his half-sister Tamar. He needed to have sex with her badly. And he did but he raped her and then threw her out. Due to lack of self-control he caused a lot of pain and anguish to a young woman who would have had a family of her own. Two years later, he was dead; killed by his half-brother Absalom because of his shameful act. Was his life successful? He missed out on life because he could not discipline himself. His actions affected his life and Tamar who never got married but stayed in her brother Absalom’s home. Her life had ended as she knew it and she was never able to move on from that day.

Let’s look at someone who had self-discipline.


King Darius had been observing Daniel. And after watching him for a while, he was contemplating on giving him a promotion. When some of the governors heard about it, they started thinking of ways they could bring him down so that he would not be promoted. The problem is, they could not find anything wrong in his actions. He was faithful in all he did so they could not find any fault.

Self-Discipline makes you faithful in the tasks you have been given to do.

If you go to work on time and work hard, you will eventually be noticed. And God will cause you to be promoted. If you are not hard working and always get to work late, something will be found against you and you will eventually be let go. If you are hardworking, it does not matter who says what against you, eventually all the good that you are doing will be seen. The best policy to work is do your work as unto the Lord. Colossians 3:23-24 states,

 Whatever you do [whatever your task may be], work from the soul [that is, put in your very best effort], as [something done] for the Lord and not for men, knowing [with all certainty] that it is from the Lord [not from men] that you will receive the inheritance which is your [greatest] reward. It is the Lord Christ whom you [actually] serve.

The only place in his life they knew they would charge him with fault was concerning his relationship with God. They decided this was the best cause to take. They manipulated the king by making him issue a decree that whoever petitioned any other gods or man for thirty days apart from Darius should be thrown in the lion’s den. And Darius was so happy to sign that decree which could not be changed. He later found out that this plan was concocted against Daniel but there is nothing he could do.

Something worth mentioning; Daniel did not make any excuses not to have self – disciplined. Lets look at him for a minute.

  1. He was not in Israel but had been captured and brought to Babylon as a teen. He was in a foreign land.
  2. Secondly, he had been made a eunuch. Anyone who served the king in the capacity that he did would not be allowed to have a family. This meant he could never start a family. He would never have a wife and children. This did not stop him from taking steps to have a disciplined not only in his professional life but also when it came to personal and spiritual life. The bible says he used to pray three times a day.

How many times have you used excuses even if they seem valid because of the wrong that has been done against you so as not to do something you know needs to be done? You see cases in which Daniel’s disciplined himself; when he decided not to eat the meat that had been given to him after he just got to Babylon. You also see his self-discipline when he had to pray continuously for twenty-one days in order to get an answer from the Lord.

Back to Daniel’s actions. After Daniel found out what the governors had done, he did not change what he used to do. Daniel 6:10 states, Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home. And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days.

Self-discipline would not allow him to stop doing what he did. He continued to pray to the same God he used to pray to. Only God would get him out of the predicament he now was in. He would not stop. When things are going crazy in your life, you will not stop doing what you do to achieve your goals just because you failed in something or something did not go as you planned it to go. You will stick with it until you see yourself getting closer to successfully completing your goals.

What are the advantages of Self-discipline?

  1. You are able to create small daily routines. When you created small daily tasks or routines, you become well organized and create repetition. It is this organization and repetition that brings success. We generally brush our teeth two times a day; in the morning and just before bedtime. This repetition keeps our gums healthy. Once you make something a habit, it becomes part of your daily routine.
  2. You are able to focus on your routines therefore building stepping stone goals to your vision. You will do away with procrastination, disorganization, confusion and a tendency to quit. You will create clarity and simplicity and balance.
  3. You are able to break your vision into measurable goals with timelines. When I was in nursing school, I learnt a lesson that has stayed with me even today. In nursing school, we used to write care plans. In a nursing care plan, there is something called outcomes. Outcomes are what one would want to see positively happen to a patient. Outcomes and goals are sometimes used interchangeably. But generally an outcome or a goal has to be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time bound.  When you have self-discipline, you are able to look at your vision, write out several goals, make them specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time bound in order to achieve your goals.

Before we talk about how to build self-discipline in order to be successful, let me talk about some successful people in our time.

Usain Bolt

He is now retired but when he ran, he entertained a lot of people with his 100m and 200m races which he dominated. He smashed world records and won gold medals in the 2008, 2012, and 2016 Olympic games. in June 2017, Forbes Magazine estimate his net worth as $34.2 million. He did not become successful by sitting on the couch and eating potato chips all day long. He had to work hard. He already had the talent but had to train hard in order to achieve success. It is not enough to have talent. You have to work hard to succeed. Remember the three people in scripture who were given talents. The one with five put his talents to work and produces another five. The one with two put his talents to work and produced another two. The man who was given one talent buried his. It did not produce anything. It still remained as one talent. And in fact it was taken away from him. If you don’t work out your talent, it is as if you don’t have it. Usain Bolt had talent and he put his talent to work so that it could produce for him. He used to go to the gym for 90-minute workouts geared toward developing explosiveness. He also had to maintain his lean physique. He had to struggle through scoliosis he has had since childhood which made his back slightly weak so instead of loosing hope he worked on his back. He also had to eat healthy in order to stay healthy.

Michael Phelps

In order of Michael phelps to be successful, he used to swim nearly 50 miles a week in peak training phases. He would train five to six hours a day six days a week. His goal was to be the best of all time so he went five straight years without missing a day of practice. 365 days multiplied by 5 years is how many times he was in water. Maintaining this kind of training, he had to have self-discipline. It is said that sometimes he would play music so that he did not get bored. Even though he had natural talent, he still had to train. Whatever he needed to do he did and it got him medals. He has a total of 28 medals— 23 gold, three silver and two bronze — setting the record for the most medal wins by any Olympic athlete. At the 2016 Olympic Games, he won one silver and five gold medals, making him the oldest individual gold medalist in Olympic swimming history, as well as the first swimmer to win four consecutive golds in the same event, the 200-meter individual medley. Phelps has set 39 world records, the most of all time.

Others worth mentioning

“There is no secret to success. Dedication and Hard Work.” –Christiano Ronaldo

“I Didn’t get there by wishing for it or hoping for it, but by working for it” –Estee Lauder

“The best way to succeed is to discover what you love and then find a way to offer it to others in the form of service and working hard.” –Oprah Winfrey

“Always aim high, work hard, and care deeply about what you believe in. And, when you stumble, keep faith. And, when you’re knocked down, get right back up and never listen to anyone who says you can’t or shouldn’t go on.” — Hillary Clinton

Building Self – Discipline

  • Do what you like to do Some of us are not able to build self-discipline because we either have not figured out what we are meant to do or what we were created to do or we are copying others who seem to be successful. It is difficult to discipline yourself if you are working in a job you don’t like. Many people find themselves in careers because they were forced by their parents or they went in it for the money. When you do what you like to do, then building self-discipline becomes easier. Look at it this way; it is easier to discipline yourself when you are doing what you love to do. What you were created to do because doing that thing comes naturally.
  • Know your weaknesses – You cannot overcome what you don’t know. You need to know what areas you are weak in so that you can put safeguards as you are overcoming these areas. Judas Iscariot had a weakness of the love of money. This is what destroyed him. What are your weaknesses? What makes you not able to discipline yourself? Once you find out what it is, ask the Lord to help you overcome it.
    The next thing you have to do as you are asking for strength is to:
  • Get rid of the temptation – Judas Iscariot should not have been carrying the money bag because he used to steal from it. The more he carried, the more he stole, the more his habit grew. He gave the enemy a foot hold. The temptation was money for him so he should have given that money bag to someone else. You have to get rid of things that will slow you down from achieving your goals. It maybe the time you spend on social media. I had to do away with two of my social media apps because I was always using them which wasted much of my time.
  • Allow someone to encourage you – This does not have to be someone who talks to you everyday. You can look at some people lives and say if they could do it, then you can do it too.
  • Avoid Jealousy – Jealousy leads to unhealthy competition which eventually takes you away from your vision and makes you take actions that you could have never taken before. If you see someone who is successful, ask them how they got where they are. You may be surprised what you learn from them. I tell people all the time, instead of talking negatively about someone who is doing well, ask them how they achieved their success.
  • Prioritize correctly – I had to learn this the hard way. A certain lady pretended to be a friend only to do very strange things. Out of her drama, I learnt to prioritize. Focus on themes that drive you to your goal. I generally don’t get caught up in long discussion that don’t help me get to where I am going. This is a waste of my time. As I have grown, I have understood one thing ; when people ask you to do something, it is rarely for your benefit. They are looking out for themselves. So someone can really eat up your time. A friend of mine and I were talking a few months ago and I said to her, I stopped doing stuff for people. I teach them because I don’t want to be called every three days to be asked to do something else. Everyone has the capacity to learn something new every day. We all have God given brains.
  • Learn to say no – When you don’t learn to say no politely, you will go on overload. I had this conversation with my sister just the other day. We were talking about someone who has created a habit of borrowing her money. My sister generally loves to help but she was done. She found out that some individuals would wait for her end of month paycheck and then start asking her for money. It felt like she was sharing her paycheck with them. Am all for helping but if it is negatively affecting you, then you have to draw boundaries. If you take on more than you can handle, you run the risk of losing sight of your goals and eventually your vision.
  • Learn to ignore – There are people’s words you have to shut out of your life in order to have self-discipline. So what if she talked about you? So what if they said you don’t know what you are doing? If you get so bogged down by people’s talk, you will waste time thinking about what they are saying. Time is very important when it comes to self-discipline. When you stare on the wall in deep contemplation of the person who said this and that about you, then you are wasting precious time. Learn to ignore and move on. Don’t get involved in unnecessary talk either; wasting hours and hours talking about someone who talked about you.

“With self-discipline most anything is possible.” Theodore Roosevelt

1 Corinthians 9:24 which says, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Run your race and do not look at what others are doing because the energy you use to look at others is energy you would use for your race.


©Martha Macharia
Author of Waiting for a Husband, The Godly Way

Speaker and Radio Show Host
President of Woman Transformed



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