Achieve Goals with Self-discipline

New Year's resolution

New year illustration displaying the text ‘new year’, as well as a bottle of champagne and a glass of champagne with bubbles
New year illustration by the author

Many resolutions are made with the best intentions at this time of year but may not be followed through.

Have you ever asked yourself what separates those who realize their dreams from everyone else?

Will Smith has a catchy phrase that can help explain it. In his own words:

Everyone wants to go to heaven –but no one wants to die.

The metaphor means that achieving our goals takes hard work and dedication, and not everyone is ready to do it.

While some may seem to have more self-discipline than others, this doesn’t mean they were born with it. Instead, these people likely found creative ways of building up their willpower and determination.

Having a bit of clever planning can help us maximize our own resourcefulness for those moments when we need absolute focus.

People with seemingly unlimited self-discipline are not superhumans, far from it. Those with an outstanding level of self-discipline are experts at utilizing the discipline they do possess.

How to achieve superhuman-like self-discipline

Have fewer choices

Too many choices during the day can be challenging to navigate and lead us down a path of temptation.

There are ways we can make fewer decisions without too much effort.

A practical method is choice architecture.

For example, if my goal is to drink more water, I keep multiple bottles on hand so that reaching out becomes easier than having nothing available at all.

Another way could be not keeping ice cream in the house will stop unnecessary sweet cravings.

Lastly, putting away my phone when it comes time to focus, as notifications and social media often direct my attention elsewhere. It’s even better to mute notifications in certain apps — decide which is the biggest time waster for yourself.

Will power is super finite. Make decision making easy for ourselves is essential.

Eat the frog first

I start my morning on the right foot.

Our willpower is the highest in the morning because that’s when our brain is the freshest (source).

I have greater mental clarity and focus during the early hours of the day, so I try to use the early hours wisely.

Other research shows that people’s cognitive abilities peak around 1.30 PM when it comes to complex, logical, and decision-making tasks.

I met some people who did their best work during the night. Knowing if you’re an early bird, night owl, or in between could help optimize your productivity throughout the day. This is something I learnt from Daniel Pink’s book.

So know yourself! And get started when your willpower is high with the most challenging task at hand.

If you’re unsure if you’re a morning or evening person, try the mornings first. Tackling tasks during the A.M. should result in success.


Achieving a goal is not just about putting in the work. It’s about believing in yourself and becoming what you set out to do.

With time and effort, we can become a writer, a teacher, a great manager, a chef, a musician — anything we want.

When you choose an activity to do, for example, playing the piano — at first, you’re not a pianist, but as you practice and practice, you might even have gigs; and eventually, you become a pianist.

Becoming our desired skill doesn’t require as much motivation once we settle into being whatever ‘it’ may be for ourselves.

Finding motivation

Reaching our goals isn’t about finding motivation because we already have the power to take action.

We don’t need a dream or outside approval. Who we are and where we’re going is in your hands — that’s true strength.

If we embrace it today and start making progress, then nothing will hold us back.

What we do and who we are are not separate concepts but inseparable ones. When striving to become our best selves, it’s not about wishing or dreaming. It’s about creating a life that reflects this knowledge.