4 Mindsets of Highly Disciplined People

#3: Less but better

Nick Wignall
7 min readSep 23


Photo by Barna Bartis

When people think about discipline, the term willpower usually comes to mind — pushing yourself to work hard or stay focused.

But if you actually observe highly disciplined people closely, you’ll notice something striking…

Disciplined people don’t rely on willpower.

Sure, they make use of it from time to time. But willpower isn’t their main tool for getting things done.

Instead, highly disciplined people cultivate mindsets that help them do consistently great work without needing to use willpower.

Here are 4 of my favorites…

1. Progress Through Subtraction

Maybe the biggest misconception I see among people who struggle to be disciplined is their “Do More” mindset…

They think being focused and productive comes from doing more things…

  • Using another app or to-do list system to stay focused
  • Using more positive self-talk and affirmations to motivate themselves to work
  • Reading more self-help books and watching more YouTube videos about how to be productive

Now, there’s nothing necessarily wrong with any of these things… I enjoy a good self-help book as much as anyone!

The problem is the underlying belief behind them that says: “If I want to be more disciplined I need to do more.”

But here’s the problem…

The Do More Mindset leads to wasting even more time, energy, and resources on everything besides the real thing you need to do.

Instead, truly disciplined people take the opposite approach and cultivate a Progress through Subtraction mindset.

They know that usually the best way to stay focused and actually get meaningful work done — especially creative work — is to remove distractions and obstacles and let their natural motivation pull them toward progress.

For example:

  • Instead of researching yet another app to help you be productive with your writing habit, try uninstalling all but the most essential…



Nick Wignall

Psychologist and writer sharing practical advice for emotional health and well-being: https://thefriendlymind.com