To Be More Disciplined, Stop These 4 Bad Habits

#4: Thinking too much about your goals

Nick Wignall
8 min readOct 9, 2022


Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

A lot of people think discipline is about what you do:

  • Stay focused
  • Tough it out
  • Boost your willpower
  • Be strong

I’d like to suggest an alternative:

The best way to be more disciplined is to do less, not more.

If you’re doing something hard, trying to apply even more effort is likely to fail because you’re already tired and spent. What if you took a totally different approach…

What if you looked for things that were interfering with your ability to be more disciplined and focused on removing those?

If you’ve struggled for a long time to be more disciplined without much success, working to identify and eliminate these four habits that interfere with discipline might be a much more helpul strategy.

1. Using self-criticism for motivation

A lot of us grow up believing that unless we’re hard on ourselves we won’t succeed. And if we don’t succeed, we won’t be worthwhile or valuable.

So early on in life, we develop mental habits of self-judgment and self-criticism…

  • We tell ourselves that it’s “silly” that we feel nervous about the upcoming presentation we have to give.
  • We comment to ourselves about how “lazy” we are anytime we find ourselves procrastinating.
  • We berate ourselves for getting distracted and losing focus any time we’re not being as productive as we think we should be.

And yet, we are still successful to some degree: We get good grades, go to a good school, get a good job, etc.

Now, here’s the critical part…

Because our habit of self-criticism is associated with our relative success, we assume it caused it.

But as anyone who’s taken statistics 101 has heard, correlation does not mean causation.

For example: I drank my coffee an hour later than usual this morning and the price of Bitcoin fell by 5%…



Nick Wignall

Psychologist and writer sharing practical advice for emotional health and well-being: