How to discipline yourself to study


High school and college is far from everything, but it definitely feels as though it is whilst you’re going through it! You want to do as well as you can and keep all your doors wide open.

Fair enough.

But anyone who’s ever tried to do anything knows it’s never that simple!

Laziness, procrastination, exciting opportunities outside of school, existential questions about what it all means, massive government loans, the list goes on and on!

There’s 1 narrow obscure disciplined focused path towards the top grades and everything that comes with that.

Then there are about 6 lanes of downhill traffic all plowing to god knows where, and it’s on you to figure it all out and stay on the right track! Good luck!

The answer, really, is offensively simple. Be more disciplined. This article, if it succeeds, will point you in this direction. We will break down what self-discipline really is, how it works, and how you can use it to do yourself proud and get the absolute most out of your life going forward.

The information in this article is written with students in mind, but really applies anywhere where there is work to be done. Any endeavor, where there is winning and losing, requires self-discipline. 

A path with 2 directions analogy

As you move through the ups and downs of life, you tend to learn to cut out those things that don’t really matter to put more energy into productive and meaningful pursuits.

The great challenge for you is that you really aren’t that old yet.

To talk generally about most young people: you are full of energy and enthusiasm, but you are easily distracted and undisciplined. You have infinite potential to do anything you want to do, but you are unsure of how the hell your life is going to turn out. 

The truth, as I see it, is this:

With a little discipline, a little gets done.

With a lot of discipline, a lot gets done.

With total discipline, there’s nothing you cannot do

It also seems clear to me that people tend to be undisciplined in their teens, and slowly build their level of discipline through their twenties and thirties, and forties. 

Anyone who can discipline themselves early in their life, while their peers are doing other things, has a significant advantage over other young people.

Why Disciplining yourself is essential, student or otherwise

Self-discipline is the developed ability of a person to do what they know they should, and not do what they know they shouldn’t, irrespective of their emotions/feelings/urges in the moment.

There are 2 crucial distinctions that arise from the definition of self-discipline that you need to be aware of moving forward:

Nothing about discipline is genetic or set in stone. 

Gordon Ramsay is the man who springs to mind here. Gordon and Ronnie Ramsay both grew up on council estates in Stratford upon Avon, and both were raised by a struggling mother and an alcoholic violent cheating father. One of the brothers has been homeless, in and out of jail and rehab for most of his life wrestling with heroin addiction. The other has 7 Michelin stars to his name and a net worth of over 200 million dollars.

Same upbringing. Different choices. Different outcomes.

My grandmother grew up in an orphanage because her mum left her during the war to be with another man, and she literally never complained once about it. I only found out after she died, 80 years later. She was a positive, caring selfless person. Meanwhile, many criminals cite their hard childhoods for how their lives turned out.

Same upbringing. Different choices. Different outcomes. 

It would be nice in some ways if your personality and level of success were genetically predetermined, and your potential was attributed to you by some higher power. The truth, however, is more difficult: Your potential is determined partly by luck, partly by genetics, and mostly by the choices you make and the things you do.

“I don’t know what frightens me more, the power that crushes us, or our endless ability to endure it.”

Gregory David Roberts
picture of Muhammad Ali exhausted

Nothing about discipline is comfortable or “feels right”

Why don’t more people succeed in life? Think about it. We all want to. We’re not stupid. It’s not rocket science. There are no secret tricks. Why doesn’t everyone work hard and think about their choices and discipline themselves? 

Because it’s bloody rough is why.

Going to the gym when you’re exhausted is agonizing and unnatural.

Focusing on an essay instead of going for beers with the boys feels physically difficult.

Having people think of us as boring or weird for not doing what they’re doing makes us feel weird and sad.

Getting up earlier than you absolutely need to gets easier, but it never gets easy.

All of us feel it. No one is above it. We do not have control over all of our emotions, all of the time.

Feeling down or sad or tired or anxious is part of being alive. Sometimes it is telling you something significant, in which case listen up and make adjustments.

But oftentimes it’s not telling you anything helpful. Often times it’s just one more thing you can use to not take action.

We tend to view our feelings and emotions as us. If we feel sad, we are sad. If we feel uncomfortable, we are uncomfortable.

I don’t know how familiar you are with eastern philosophy, but one of the fundamental lessons of mindfulness and meditation is this:

You are not what you think and feel.

You are experiencing what you think and feel.

Next time you feel exhausted, consider this distinction. You have your feelings over here, and you have your choices over there. They feel linked, but they really don’t have to be. In fact, they don’t want to be. To feel negative emotions, and continue to take action and make constructive choices, is the essence of discipline and the very core of true self-development.

“Relentlessness and discontent are the first necessities of progress”

Thomas Edison

Why being a disciplined student is in your best interest

In this day and age, there are so many successful people who dropped out of school and talk down about education. The world has changed, and you can now go right around traditional education and still achieve massive success in our world. 

If you are struggling as it is to discipline yourself with your studies, these ideas can’t make your life any easier. So to fuel your drive and keep you hungry for it, here are 3 reasons why you, as a student, should put everything you’ve got into doing the absolute most and push for those top grades.

An education only makes things easier

Ever heard of someone who had too many qualifications to succeed? Me neither. Yes, you can succeed without them, sure, but it’s never a bad thing to be well-read. Besides, learning is often its own reward. In fact, learning how to learn is actually a massively useful skill in and of itself.

Unless you are absolutely 100% sure that you want to be X and the only proven path to X is to get off the beaten track and, say, go to study patisserie, stay in school. Learn, get qualified, learn to work hard and execute and deliver. When you find your path, you will be in good stead.

How you do anything, is how you do everything

This rule can be applied really to anything. Do you know anyone who is really unreliable in school and gets nothing done? If you had to guess, what do you think their personal habits are like? Their hygiene habits? Their physical health habits? Their general reliability and conscientiousness in their lives?

To be is to do. To work hard every day is to be a hard worker. To cut corners in anything is to be someone who cuts corners. It is a simple, brutal world. Study hard (/train hard/save hard/love hard) not only for what you learn about the subjects and what qualifications you gain but for what qualities you develop within yourself. 

Every path to the top is hard. The grass is always greener.

When faced with difficult mind-numbing challenges like exams and dissertations and essays, your mind starts to wander.

You start to imagine all of the things that you could do to succeed, that aren’t the thing you’re supposed to do.

You think of business ideas, places to travel, other ways to become qualified, all the great things you could do for the world and yourself if you weren’t doing your poxy essay.

More often than not, this is weakness in strengths’ clothing.

If you cant make yourself sit down, and do your work, do you really think you are going to found and operate a winning business, or travel the world, or build a profitable website and hit the mills?

Everything seems easy until you do it. School seems easy until you do it. There is no way around the discomfort you are feeling. You have to go through it.

What separates success from failure with students

Exams are pretty cool in some ways: There is a framework. There is a clear progression. There is a mark scheme. You are marked on your merits. What you deliver is judged. You are given feedback and clear ways to improve. What trips students up, generally speaking, are distractions.

I’m actually as proud of many of the things we haven’t done as the things we have done.

Steve Jobs

There’s so much going on in life. Especially when you’re young. There are parties, Tv, Gaming, drugs, drink, sports, art, music, maybe you’ve started working, maybe I’ve completely missed what it is you’ve got going on.

The key is that although it all matters right now, almost none of that stuff will really matter in 10 years. In 10 years, with a million in the bank, you could still do most of that stuff in that list. It will still be fun, and you will still be young.

What you can’t do is school again. All that actually matters, right now, really, is the work you put into your career and developing yourself. That’s all there is. The rest fades.

Do you want to be a great student? Want to be massively disciplined and outperform your peers? Cut out every single thing that isn’t massively important. 

Don’t commit to some society. Don’t go out twice a week. Do it twice a month. Don’t Go to the gym every day. Do it every other day if it’s important to you. Don’t binge-watch tv shows. Work, then rest. Don’t read loads of books, don’t watch loads of TikTok, and don’t go skiing with the boys for 2 weeks. Sacrifice now, for your future. 

“It is not the daily increase but the daily decrease. Hack away at the unessential”

Bruce Lee

Putting it all into practice: How to impose discipline on yourself as a student

The size of the action you take, when it comes to discipline, is not what counts. Consistency is the be-all and end-all. Being consistent is being disciplined. With that in mind, commit to a tiny step in a positive direction. 

It will seem trivial, but convince yourself it is absolutely essential. Then persist with this until it is your new normal.

An example: Let’s say you are nervous about your maths exam. Let’s say you do around 4 hours per week of maths. (If it’s way less or way more or it’s actually dance exams, no judgment. Stay with me).

From today, you will, absolutely, wake up go to sleep/ leave the library/ eat lunch 10 minutes before/after you normally would. This time is blocked off to do specific maths-related work, in the areas that are most important.

This will only work if you are serious, and it will only work if it’s every day. Tiny measurable genuine improvements. With time, the 10 will feel trivial. Then up it to 15. Then 20. Then an hour. It becomes a thoroughly exciting and fulfilling game to play, and it works for any discipline.

I hope this article has opened your eyes and driven you to be more disciplined. I hope that you demand more out of yourself from today, as I know this to be the only path to ultimate fulfillment.

Useful resources

The best books I have personally read on the topics of self-development and discipline are these 5. You can also check out the blog, which is filled with content designed to help people like you and me achieve our goals. Some recent articles include:

Mental strength vs physical strength- an in depth comparison!

Relentless by Tim Grover (book review and summary)

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