Why Self-Discipline Will Make You Unstoppable

by Alejandra "Alex" Ruani — Get free science updates here.

Why Self-Discipline Will Make You Unstoppable

Have you ever thought about how much self-discipline Olympic athletes need to have in order to succeed?

In sports and in life, the ability to accomplish things can attract remarkable opportunities to you. But it all starts with self-discipline.

Self-discipline puts you on the driving seat. It’s what keeps you focused on your purpose. Like a camera lens zooming into a single object. The details and distractions around it dissipate as you zoom in.

From athletic performance to life achievements, accomplishing something important is not easy. But it can be simple. In fact, it can be narrowed down to four attributes:


When you become aware of what things you spend your time on and begin tracking your tasks, you’ll have a better notion of your “time leaks” and value each waking hour a lot more. Awareness is what allows you to take control back over your own use (and other people’s use) of your time, in order to have an improved chance of achieving your dreams and tapping into your full potential. It’s critical to get clear on how your time is saved or lost… used or wasted. As the first step to accomplishing something big, you need to sharpen your awareness of your time, your time leaks, and your opportunities to control it better.

Mara Yamauchi, Team GB Marathon Runner, tells us: “The marathon is such a long event; you can’t cover that kind of distance in a good time without a high volume of training at speed every day for many years. One of my hardest sessions will be running up to 37km at a fast pace, during which I’ll slowly crank up my speed. I’ll get to 20km quite tired and still know I’ve got the hard work to come. It is a much mental battle as anything else. Yet the bottom line is I enjoy running and achieving my potential. That’s what drives me on.”

Mara’s stats:

Run more than 21,000 miles

Slept for 91 days in daytime recovery naps

Spent more than £6000 on running shoes in 6 years


Any achievement follows a deliberate decision. There are very rare exceptions of accidental achievement, like buying a lottery ticket and being the odd winner. But this isn’t the norm. True achievement is incubated from a decision to make something better. As a result of your desire to make a difference, you can decide now how things are going to change.

Andrew Triggs Hodge, Team GB Rower, tells us: “There’s just this desire for self-improvement, to be better each time you go out on the water. What makes the difference is the attitude: dedicated to not just ticking boxes but actually making a difference. It’s pushing harder, it’s understanding how the boat runs to get every inch out of it. If you’re not, you can be sure someone else is.”

Andrew’s stats:

Rows 9000km every year

Heart rate above 160bmp for 70 hours each month

Lifts 13,120kg every session

Sweats 20 litres per week


Being brave supports all the other virtues that we see in successful people. Focus, strength, determination – all flow from courage. And if you don’t have courage in times of stress, your focus, your strength, your determination and other virtues can quickly fly out the window. It takes courage to pursue an opportunity that most people think is crazy.

Sarah Stevenson, Team GB Taekwondo Athlete, tells us: “A sport like ours takes a lot of guts. No matter how good you are, to get in a ring and be up against somebody and know that you have to fight to win takes guts, determination and strength. You need that “never give up” attitude, because it’s what happens before the competition that’s going to get you the gold. You have to give everything in training because, on the day, there’s nothing more that you can do. The feeling that you get when you win is what it’s really about.”

Sarah’s stats:

Lifts 160kg on leg press with just one leg

Kicks 300+ per session, 10 hours per week

Calories 1300 per day to make weight


Grit is what keeps you going. Taking action means starting, implementing, flowing through, and completing something. Once you’ve made the decision to achieve a goal, you need to start working on it. Depending on the situation, starting can be easy. Someone who decides to nurture her body in better ways may find it exciting to stop buying C.R.A.P. foods and fill her fridge with fresh foods this week. But it’s the follow-through which becomes hard. That’s where grit and being “tough-minded” helps you overcome obstacles and distractions. So you can follow through, no matter what.

Kat Driscoll, Team GB Trampolinist, tells us: “The difference between doing well at the Games and not doing well is sheer determination. You find that people at the top are those that still go into the gym when they are tired or ill and have the determination to battle through, no matter what. I love what I do, so anything’s worth it. The enjoyment you get at the end of a competition makes it worthwhile. And if you get to stand on the podium and hear your national anthem playing, nothing gets better than that.”

Kat’s stats:

Trains 88 hours per month

Bounces more than 800 in each 3-hour session

Days off maximum of 10 per year


Successful achievement, in your life or in athletic performance, is possible.  It starts with awareness, decision, courage, and grit. Go for it.

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