You’ve been told time and again that you need a little self-discipline, maybe even that you need a lot. Yes, being able to concentrate more, being able to be more productive, to help your finances, all of that is good. But how exactly does one achieve it?

There are many ways to enhance self-discipline and what works for you may not be what works for anyone else. But these four basic starting points will at least help you get started on the right path.

1. Count Down. We’re programmed for survival, in what is called the “fight or flight” response. You’re facing a threat, and you need to either fight back or take off. In today’s world, though sometimes this sort of threat still exists, the more common threat is facing something new or stressful. 

When we hesitate, the body has a small time frame where it determines whether or not there is a threat. When you freeze, your body takes this as a threat and kicks in the response.

Count to five. That’s it. Count to five and then stretch or stand and walk around a little and then jump back into the problem. It’s a way of resetting the response in your brain and getting it ready to focus.

2. Baby steps. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Take the change in small doses, and don’t try to take on too many changes at once. It’s always best to start small and work your way up, especially at first. It’s hard enough to change habits, so don’t overwhelm yourself.

3. Write down three or four things that you want to accomplish today and make one of them connected to your overall goal. Too many goals will overwhelm you. The idea behind self-discipline is to be flexible and adapt, and that is easier with very few goals, rather than trying to accomplish loads.

 4. Be patient. Self-discipline means delayed gratification, not immediate. It also requires patience while you’re learning it. Keep in mind that you’re going to fail from time to time. We all do. It’s what we do with that failure that counts. Remember that having self-discipline involves delayed gratification and not an overnight success. It’s worth the effort. Practice patience and keep your eyes on your long-range goal.

These should start you off on your journey to learning and even mastering self-discipline. You’ll pick up other tips and tricks along the way and learn from others, but this is a good foundation. Keep focused and stay the course. Truly, you’ve got this!