Ryan Holiday

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September 15, 2022 — 9:01 AM

What are the essential ingredients for long-term success? Some say it’s confidence, while others regard compassion as the most fundamental trait. As for No. 1 New York Times bestselling author Ryan Holiday? He considers self-discipline the secret sauce—in fact, he even titled his most recent book Discipline Is Destiny: The Power of Self-Control.

“If you are disciplined, it makes you more likely to be successful in the future,” he says on this episode of the mindbodygreen podcast. Although, it can be difficult to stay accountable and focused on the goal in front of you—according to Holiday, we could all use a little crash course in the art of self-discipline. Below, find Holiday’s three tips to become more disciplined and achieve success: 

1. Set boundaries for potential interruptions. 

It’s near impossible to avoid every single distraction during a busy workday, but Holiday recommends setting boundaries for what you can control. For example, “I don’t have iMessage on the computer that I write on,” he notes. “I don’t want my computer to be sending me texts or phone calls while I’m trying to write.” That’s an easy way to avoid potential distractions before they even arise—the same goes for “do not disturb” settings on your phone. 

On the subject of phones, Holiday also has a strict, “no phone first thing in the morning” rule. “I don’t sleep with my phone in the room with me, and I don’t open my phone for the first 30 minutes to one hour that I’m awake each day,” he adds. “I’m setting boundaries and systems that prevent the interruption from happening.” Some distractions are ultimately inevitable, but you do have the power to mitigate them, to an extent. 

2. Focus on an immediate task.

We’ve all been there: You have a specific end goal in mind, but when it comes to actually putting your head down and doing the work, you hit a wall. Oftentimes, the most difficult part of achieving your goals is just getting started, which is why Holiday recommends focusing on the immediate task at hand. 

“What’s the most immediate thing in front of me?” he poses. “If I don’t get too concerned or consumed with finished results with where [something] is leading, I tend to do better.” Essentially, just show up where you are and trust the process—the end results will follow. “I like to just wake up and go, ‘What do I have to do today? I’m just gonna focus on that.’ I’m not going to get too overwhelmed with anything bigger or smaller than that,” Holiday adds. 

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If you don’t think your workspace dictates your productivity, think again. According to Holiday, your environment can certainly affect your mood and work ethic. “[Happiness expert] Gretchen Rubin put it in a wonderful epigram. She said, ‘Outer order, inner calm,'” he recounts. (Rubin explains this concept further on her episode of the mindbodygreen podcast, if you’re curious.) 

“The environment that you work in, operate in, and live in is representative of your discipline, and it’s also going to be predictive of your output,” Holiday adds. “So the decision to keep things clean, straight, and in order is really important.” 

According to Holiday, the most successful figures of all time would not be where they are without a sense of self-discipline. So no matter what goal you’re trying to achieve, a little self-discipline will serve you well. As Holiday adds, “Discipline makes whatever you do great.”

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