53 thoughts on “Struggle With Self-Discipline? Do This Simple Exercise Every Single Day

  • August 11, 2019 at 10:52 am

    Very well put. Thanks a lot dear Jonice Webb.
    One of my new routines f.e. became: tidying up the first 15min after coming home from work. Even after a 12 hour shift.

    • August 11, 2019 at 11:03 am

      That’s a great routine. And every time you do it you are training your brain. Well done!

  • August 11, 2019 at 11:06 am

    Thanks Dr. Jonnice.
    This is the most tailored advice that I ever received.

  • August 11, 2019 at 12:35 pm

    As usual, written with pointed insight and clarity. That can only come from the iterative loop of listening to your readers and patients and administering your expertise.

    My entire life was recovery from an angry frightened abusive narcissistic mother and emotionally AWOL alcoholic father. Today a combination of scientifically validated insights and the resulting therapies has made this process much faster so there is much hope (for us, not them.)

    If I was to give my younger self advice it would be to keep your outward actions measured and deliberate as you learn how to navigate your sometimes turbulent inner world through therapy. You can’t always control what you think and feel but you can control what you do.

    Eventually your outer and inner worlds will merge and you will naturally do what’s right for yourself like finally learning to swim without effort. You won’t think, you’ll just do.

    Sometimes what frightens us most is not uncovering our weaknesses but discovering how powerful we are.

    • August 11, 2019 at 5:03 pm

      All very true Tyler and well said. Your last sentence is true for many, especially the emotionally neglected. Thanks for your comment!

    • August 11, 2019 at 7:48 pm

      This is so powerful… it encompasses so much of what I feel. thank you

      • August 12, 2019 at 9:16 am

        That’s great! I hope you do the 3 Things Exercise. It will help.

  • August 11, 2019 at 2:02 pm

    Thank you Jonice Webb for all your wonderful advise and emails!! I will get to work on this self discipline right away! You have helped me so much I can’t Thank you enough!!! I’m so blessed to have found you!
    Sheila E.

    • August 11, 2019 at 5:03 pm

      That’s wonderful Sheila! I’m delighted you’re on your way.

  • August 11, 2019 at 2:50 pm

    Thanks Dr Jonice, the way you explain behaviours in such a non-judgemental way and offer empowering strategies to train our brains towards self-love rather than self-criticism is beautiful. You make the hard work achievable.

    • August 11, 2019 at 5:04 pm

      I sure hope so, Lee. Thanks for your message!

  • August 11, 2019 at 5:17 pm

    This really resonated with me. My parents were amazing people but raised my sister and me in an atmosphere of “benign neglect”. My biggest regret in life is that I repeated this with my son.

    • August 12, 2019 at 9:15 am

      Dear Fiona, it is never too late to change your relationship with your son. Please read Running On Empty No More: Transform Your Relationships. It will guide you through the process of making changes.

  • August 11, 2019 at 7:18 pm

    I was a very spoiled child, still am at almost 34. My mother was very cold and distant and my father was overly indulgent, but mostly to gain favor over my mother and because he was an alcoholic. I’ve never really held a job, I’ve struggled with addiction, depression, anxiety, all in a castle of stuff. I’ve been to many therapists and none of them have ever given me a solid idea like that. My stepmom tells me I need to get a job and get off some medications but that is overwhelming and not helpful. I’ve always just thought I was defective. I studied psychology in school (semester shy of finishing and quit), but your plan seems great. I’m going to try to find 3 easy things to do (like brush my hair or throw a can away after using it). Then I’ll try harder things. Thanks for this concrete advice.

    • August 12, 2019 at 9:16 am

      That sounds like a wonderful plan. I would substitute the word “spoiled” with “neglected.” In many cases, they are the same thing.

  • August 11, 2019 at 8:40 pm

    I’m struggling with perhaps the opposite. I’m too disciplined, structured and non-spontaneous. But, that hyper-discipline also results in occasional, additive self-destructive actions.

    I think my childhood was more about what I produced verses who I was as a person. I’m still struggling to find the joy in life.

    Dr. Webb thanks for the emails. They encourage me to stop, think and get some insight.

    • August 12, 2019 at 9:18 am

      I think the way out of this for you may be simply starting to tune in to your feelings and focus less on your actions. Follow the Identifying & Naming Exercise instructions and do it every day.

  • August 12, 2019 at 5:22 am

    I have a new routine of not going to bed until all the small but essential things I have been avoiding all day have been dealt with eg. reply emails, paying bills and budgeting … The next day starts well instead of two steps behind.

  • August 12, 2019 at 9:03 am

    I read this article with great interest because I’ve been struggling all my life with a severe lack of self discipline, particularly a cluttered home. I was eager to read the three suggestions, but when I read “ do three things every day you don’t want to do” I felt intense rage, almost to the point that I felt nauseated. It kind of shocked me, and I can’t figure out why my reaction was so strong or where to go from here. Sandra

    • August 12, 2019 at 9:20 am

      Dear Sandra, I would bet that the rage is related to your childhood. How did your parents deal with discipline and teaching you good habits and self-control? I hope you’ll discuss this with a therapist and try to understand it. Then, when you’re ready, start doing the 3 Things.

      • August 12, 2019 at 8:59 pm

        Your feeling seemed reasonable to me, too! I’d love for Sandra to read my separate comment response!

  • August 12, 2019 at 9:31 am

    Jonice you are such a life saver! Every tool you offer that I put to good use has made my life better and I am so appreciative! I’m taking baby steps but have seen improvement in my self discipline/motivation. I still struggle with keeping myself motivated to fully complete my task not just starting it but I found that taking little breaks is easier since I’ve strengthened my ability to start again. Thank you.

    • August 12, 2019 at 11:05 am

      I’m so glad you’re taking baby steps. That is how real change happens! Keep up the good work.

  • August 12, 2019 at 5:04 pm

    Am I meant to do 3 things I’m should and not do 3 things I shouldn’t or a mixture of both? Such a great idea though.

    • August 12, 2019 at 9:34 pm

      Both! Forcing yourself to do or not do is the key.

  • August 12, 2019 at 8:57 pm

    Jonice, loved the article!

    I’m echoing much of what you said, but saying it a bit different as a slight interpretation helps me to best process and make use of your suggestions.

    Anytime you have to do a task you rather avoid, really listen to (feel and acknowledge) your inner child response. It’s kicking and screaming– essentially throwing a tantrum.

    Responding to those inner feelings similar to that of a soothing mother with “I know. I know. I know baby. Yes, I hear you, baby. It’s completely reasonable you don’t want to fold those clothes right now. It makes sense that you don’t want to wash the dishes. I know you just want that brownie. Yes, I know. It’s okay, my little baby!”

    Really focus on feeling (imagine) the soothing exchange as if you were being held and your back rubbed as you scream out. Feel your opposition to the task FINALLY being listened to for the first time ever by a parent who cares what you have to say! Stick with it. As “the mother” to the (inner) child, acknowledge the desire for pleasure: “Brownies DO taste good and it’s not that you can never have one again. You’ll have 100s more in the future.”

    Or say, (as a mother) “I hate washing dishes too! I’m on your team, little guy. The only reason I do it is because I hate bugs more. Do you hate bugs crawling on your dishes, too? Yuck!”

    Keep mothering yourself with the caring soothing understanding as long as it takes for each task. With enough practice, you’ll begin to notice the reasonable inner child eventually calms down. It’s at that point you can say “let’s just try one dish. We don’t even have to do the whole sink load.” You’ll feel the resistance again, albeit to a lesser degree. Go through the soothing talk again as long and much as necessary.

    Sounds strange, but, hey… It works.

    Also, connecting chores and healthy productive choices/tasks to the bigger life picture also helps. To explain:

    Often parents demand a child clean their room or put the candy down, “because they have to,” but do not necessarily explain the benefits and long-term context. And it they do explain, it’s probably lectured AT the child, not understood WITH the child.

    Taking the time to patiently connect the seemingly mundane every day little things to bigger picture rewards really helps. Now you’re not just cleaning your room, but instead you’re excited about the fact that one day you’ll have a mansion that all the other CEOs, just like you, love to come over for wine and cheese because you always clean so well! You have such an eye for cleanliness and detail. Really focus on FEELING the future pay off.

    Practicing this enough will make the mundane become automatic as you’re resisting a lot less.

    You’re internally maturing: Your inner child is growing up. This is essentially equal to ‘forcing yourself 3 times daily’ and the subsequent rewiring of your brain as you described, but takes the “resistance” aspect out of it.

    Can’t believe I’ve become one of those “feelings” and “inner child” people. Thanks for allowing me to contribute! Going to wash those dishes and put away that brownie pan away now. 🤣

    • August 12, 2019 at 9:34 pm

      Excellent points! These are suggestions that can help many gain control over their inner rebellious or hurt child.

    • August 13, 2019 at 12:28 pm

      Great ideas! Thanks Tobias

    • August 18, 2019 at 3:47 pm

      I too like this idea. It provides the LOVE and acceptance that has been lacking. Otherwise, it feels like being mean to myself. Self compassion is so important.

      • August 19, 2019 at 4:11 pm

        That is so right. Self-compassion makes it easier to practice self-discipline!

  • August 13, 2019 at 2:16 pm

    Well I am glad to be introduced to this site and definitely look forward to reading more about it and find it very interesting that I can learn to see myself and life in general in a better, stronger, healthier, happier way of being as well as thinking.
    Working on myself or my inner self and excitedly on my inner child has me ecstatic and want to jump into it immediately and hopefully find some self love there.
    As a child growing up starting in the 60s I’ve lived with 2 alcoholic parents, and was treated unfairly, or maybe should say that I was the black sheep where as my younger sister was the perfect child and never did wrong in there eyes, regardless.. I was somewhat overweight but not any different in size of my peers but it was a problem apparently and I was taken to weight watchers weekly and at 11 yrs old that did something to my self worth.
    When I was way younger around 5ish I was force fed food even if it was disliked. If I regained from eating or finishing my meal I sat at the kitchen table every single time and sat there all alone, even while my parents had company over visiting, I was ignored until I my plate was empty, most times sitting sadly alone and unacknowledged while tears layers my face. Thank God 9:00 couldn’t come any earlier cuz I was never more excited to go to bed..
    There were many more sad stories of my childhood that I’ve kept personal up until my later adult life as who would believe ME anyway right?
    Getting off the subject of sadness I’m much more interested in healing, and I hope that I’ve landed on the perfect site that will lift up some sorrows times and put a more permanent and genuine smile back on my face.
    Thank you Jonice Webb

    • August 13, 2019 at 3:09 pm

      Thank you for sharing your story Ronda! You sound like you are ready and able to heal so that is exciting! And bodes well for your future.

  • August 13, 2019 at 2:38 pm

    thank you very much Dr webb it is very informing article.let me tell you a good news i have just finished your book running on empty which is turkish translation i loved it much you helped me much on understanding myself and my parent iam very impressed by saying “re-parent yourself by rewiring your own brain” however i think rewiring is a process by itself begining from struggling personally we should have to create an environment working for one purpose and help you through out your way to change even what you see and hear must contain things for your goal.

    • August 13, 2019 at 3:12 pm

      Interesting thoughts Dr. A. I do think when we struggle to change, we are rewiring our brains. Unfortunately, it is all to easy to give up, and the secret is to keep working at it, no matter what. Thank you for sharing!

      • August 14, 2019 at 12:54 pm

        Yeah, Dr. Webb thank you. Your book is really helping i think it has to be presented in more local languages.

      • August 14, 2019 at 1:02 pm

        Thank you! So far it’s in Chinese, Korean and Turkish. Hopefully there will be many more!

  • August 14, 2019 at 8:59 am

    I am enjoying all of your articles/blogs and the many ways that CEN can and does affect us throughout our entire lives. One of the things that I noticed right away was your use of the word self-regulate. I am not an expert in this area at all but have done some reading and well listening as our media allows us to do that these days, that we never really SELF regulate. In order to regulate as a small child we had to have someone there to help us, whatever it was we needed, a pacifier, just to be held, a diaper changed, someone to just sit with us while we played on the floor and any number of thing. I think that we still need this as we get older, even if the person is not right there beside us we are some where deep inside our brain using that or those memories to regulate, therefore not self-regulating.
    Just a thought, what are yours on this topic of self-regulation?

    • August 14, 2019 at 1:13 pm

      Good question! Actually, when your parents soothe you and help you regulate your feelings and your behavior in the right ways that are validating, yet with loving limits, we internalize those limits and voices, and they become our own. Then we can call upon them through our adult lives. When your parent does these things in the wrong ways or, in the case of CEN, fails to do them enough, you grow up without having them internalized enough. That’s when the problems begin.

  • August 14, 2019 at 1:42 pm

    Im going to agree to disagree because I suffered CEN as a child and they created structure, specially my mother. There was always an hour after school that tv have to be turn off and I had to go to do my homework. There were rules around how many chocolates I could eat in a day and if I had ice cream in the afternoon I couldn’t have another bowl in the same day. That helped with moderation. There was a bedtime hour, and wake up at the same hour every morning. Not going to school wasn’t a choice only if I was sick for real. At the end of every semester or school year, I had to make a through cleaning in the closet by throwing out what wasn’t needed. I made my bed and clean the surfaces of my room almost every single week.
    Today I struggle with beinge eating and delaying gratification. I need more of the stuff I want for me being able to do the stuff I need to do but don’t like. I think it’s because of Bipolar Disorder. My room is very cluttered and a lot of time dirty with dust. Takes me a while to clean it up, but doesn’t last. I made peace with it years ago, and accepted that I won’t be that girl that was very strict with cleaning and ordering her room. I already let go of that because also I don’t think those things are that important.
    The things that do bothers me in beinge eating, and procrastinating .

    • August 14, 2019 at 1:58 pm

      Dear Mitzie, if those two things bother you the most, that is a sign that it’s time to address them! Please do get some help with them. A CEN therapist can help you uncover and address the emotional issues that might be driving both.

      • August 14, 2019 at 9:07 pm

        Thanks for your comment. I will be back in therapy on October. Also I loved your two articles “7 Things Not to Say to A Daughter Who’s Healing from Childhood” and “6 Things You Should Never Say to Someone Who’s Suffering or Grieving”. I felt very validated and still read them.
        I had a book about reparenting but found it to harsh, restrictive, and strict. Didn’t work for me.

    • August 31, 2019 at 11:06 pm

      Yes. This is me, too. My parents enforced many, many rules and provided structure but did not meet my needs. In many ways they were neglectful, especially of my emotions and feelings. They both were narcissistic. Today, I have a hard time doing deep cleaning, organizing and planning tasks etc. I force myself everyday to do the basics and what needs to be done but I have a lot of clutter and things are not well organized. I wonder if it is a rebellion of some sort, but sub-conscious.

      • September 2, 2019 at 6:23 pm

        Yeah probably it is a rebellion. The emotional part not being met and now only wanting to do things that fill all that or trying to obtain that, at least joy and contentment.

        I know for me is that those activities aren’t the most important and can wait. Another thing for me is to think what its going to give me in the short term. Its difficult to think in long term goals. I spend too much money on things that will make me feel happy at least in the short run and much of what I want is for the long term.

  • August 19, 2019 at 7:56 am

    Nice bit of serendipity.
    Wondering why my hard work with my C-PTSD was stalling, and then I took an ADD test.
    This of course isn’t conclusive, but I do tend to fizzle around like a frog on speed and lose concentration when something or important information is boring.
    So thats a now the possible triplicity of co -morbid disorders, with Dyslexia arriving at Uni way back when the exam questions went way out of focus.
    Hang on, Ive been getting by, or away with it for years, I got a pension out of a job which required just that very me going flat out juggling and processing information forward in the electricity power industry .
    Now? Ah I need structure, but in small bite sized chunks so as to make it interesting and create value and success for the team instead of managing to unwittingly create angry little child chaos.
    Early days , and a few wobblies, but can actually feel and see the benefit of better organisation, aka I can find that bill and so on.

  • August 20, 2019 at 11:28 am

    I just read this while sitting here procrastinating. I love this idea, so I’m writing down 3 things for today:
    1. make that phone call
    2. make my bed
    3. be fully packed by tonight for a trip that I’m looking forward to
    and… write 3 things down for tomorrow (3 out of 4 will do for today)
    Thank you so much!

    • August 20, 2019 at 4:55 pm

      Excellent! But be careful about over-reaching. Don’t feel like you need to plan or do more than 3. Three is all it takes. Best wishes!

  • August 27, 2019 at 9:09 pm

    I’ll do things I don’t want to do, but don’t feel any reward or sense of accomplishment.
    I’ll feel emotionally numb or even depressed from regular excercise, for instance, though the opppsite should be the case,

  • September 4, 2019 at 12:01 pm

    There is a great channel on YouTube (Lucy Wyndham-Read) with 7-minute exercise videos. There are a ton of them for different areas of the body and for general conditioning, so shop around if you don’t see one you like immediately. She’s very upbeat and talks throughout each 1-minute exercise. It was just the thing for my doldrums this morning.
    I already made the bed and walked the dog.
    Yay, me!

  • September 16, 2019 at 12:00 pm

    the above questions were spot on for me. Every morning I roll out of bed, walk into another day of loose structure. I answer all the questions above YES. And I have felt defective all my life. I ask myself questions like; why can’t I do what I need to do, etc? Most of my life I have felt as if I were a tire with a slow leak. When a child is negelected, they have no defences to reject what is said to them. Instead, painful words become believed and embedded.

    I’m getting up now and doing my first “hate to do chore” of the day, thanks to you.

  • November 19, 2019 at 1:49 pm

    As long as man continues to destroy all life forms, which he considers inferior, he will never know what health is and will never find true peace. The men will continue to kill each other as long as they slaughter the animals. He who sows killing and sorrow cannot gather joy and love.


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