How to develop self discipline: Lessons from young Indian athletes at Rio


In a country where official apathy towards sports-persons has sparked an outcry (at least on social media), the efforts of PV Sindhu, Sakshi Malik and Dipa Karmakar have been lauded by one and all.

Each of these gifted athletes have one thing in common – a dogged sense of self discipline.

Their passion has fueled their drive to become the best at what they do. And becoming the best at something requires a superlative resolve, determination and self discipline.

While for most of us, a work day includes getting up in the morning by about 7 – 8 AM, going to work, eating 3 – 5 meals, working, meeting a few friends, socializing a bit, getting back home and dozing off,  these young athletes have stuck to tough regimen for years together, denying themselves even of small pleasures such as having a favorite dish or surrounding themselves with gadgets and accouterments that teenagers take for granted.

Dipa Karmakar, for example, followed a schedule that involved two grueling 3 hour training sessions in the morning and evening. For years she’s been on a gymnast’s diet, comprising of egg, dalia, chana and a glass of milk for breakfast, some pieces of boiled chicken for lunch and more chicken and vegetable soup for dinner.

Our sweet toothed olympic silver medallist, shuttler P.V. Sindhu‘s practice session started at 4:30 AM in the morning. Putting in 15 hours of daily hard work, and following a strict no carbohydrates diet, with restrictions on eating anything sweet (something that Sindhu has admittedly had cravings for), she prepared herself to face the world’s best. 

Sakshi Malik , too, who had to follow a similar regime. Her tweet about having a good breakfast after long sums it up the best –



Sakshi Malik Tweet

While resolve and determination are innate to a large extent, discipline can be imbibed. Discipline is defined as the the ability to obey a set of rules. And there are fairly straightforward ways of being more self disciplined. Let us look at some of the ways to develop self discipline-


1. Set achievable goals

Self discipline is easier to imbibe if you’re working towards something. And while it is good to aspire to achieving great things in life, goal setting is realistic, short term and achievable. Set yourself small and achievable goals and keep working at it. You’ll soon develop a habit of getting things done!


2. Eat well

Scientific studies show a correlation between blood sugar and mental resolve. Hunger causes a drop in concentration levels and you’re more prone to giving in to cravings. Your emotional state is also at a low, making it very difficult to exercise self control. A balanced and healthy diet goes a long way in helping you become more self disciplined.


3. Sleep

Another important lever for self discipline is adequate sleep. While the amount of hours may vary from person to person, lack of adequate sleep has shown adverse effect on the brain. It also affects our diet, our moods and has adverse effects on concentration. Good sleep will not only help you help you become more self disciplined, but will also help you reduce stress and anxiety levels and even keep diseases at bay!


4. Reward and forgive yourself

In the journey to becoming more self disciplined, there are days you will succeed in doing so and then there are days where you will definitely fail. When you’ve have a string of successes, it is important to treat yourself and appreciate your success. Soon, these “appreciation days” become things that you look forward to and work towards. On the days you’re not able to be disciplined, it is important to understand why you weren’t able to do so and learn from it. Most importantly, forgive yourself and keep your spirits high.


5. Persistence

Most of us wait for the right moment to do something. Some of us might want to “feel like doing it” before getting to do something. If you’re thinking like this, stop right now and get to doing what you’re supposed to. Often, being self disciplined requires you to change something in your life and often times, it won’t feel right. Do it anyway and before you know it, these so called hard things will become a habit and you’ll be functioning in autopilot!


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This post is published in collaboration with

YourDOST is a technology platform for the emotional well being of people, especially the ones facing stress and anxiety. The online platform enables people to get guidance on ONE-to-ONE basis from 250+ experts consisting of psychologists, life coaches and career coaches for a productive lifestyle. Additionally, the experts are available 24*7 right on laptop/mobile and the chat sessions are free.


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27 thoughts on “How to develop self discipline: Lessons from young Indian athletes at Rio

  1. Wonderful Somali. After a long time read a best post from you. I have always believed in disciplined and persistent efforts would be a key towards success and u have shown how our favorite athletes have maintained a disciplined routine which should be inspiring to everyone ..

    Liked by 1 person

  2. True words, Somali. Discipline is of utmost importance in order to achieve in life and to reach the pinnacle. Dipa, Sakshi and Sindhu once again have proved that.

    I hope more athletes will be inspired by their success and we would have more reasons to rejoice after four years in Tokyo Olympics… 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sakshi looks so happy with her big breakfast! What a treat after the Olympics. Congratulations to India for bringing home a couple of medals. So heartening to see the the girls try so hard too and almost winning, but I am sure they all did their best and enjoyed the moment on the big stage 🙂

    I like your tips on developing self-discipline, Somali. So true there is no right time for anything. I need to keep reminding myself this; the more I put off something because I “don’t feel like doing it” the more I will not get it done. I will keep dreaming and not stand up and do something. The more we try, the more we can achieve and open up opportunities for ourselves 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Self-discipline is the hallmark of a successful person, the stepping stone…whatever the sphere of his or her excellence. Somali, in my view this virtue can only be inculcated by the parents and once the tone is set, it can be nurtured by teachers and role models. No discipline is as effective as self-discipline…when we become our own guards, what can be more rewarding? An imposed discipline breeds fear and we tend to break free whenever we get an opportunity but self-discipline is freedom personified, into which we step in willingly. it is therefore necessary to discipline children by encouraging all the ways you have suggested with perfect examples.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Valuable post about self-discipline. I also enjoyed #4 Forgive and Reward yourself. Often times,we forget that there will be times when we’ll fail at something; no matter how hard we try. Being human should be accepted and celebrated. Excellent post, Somali.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Rose. ‘Doing our best and accepting that we could still fail at times’ is a point well made. Incidentally, a similar thought is also echoed in our religious scripture ‘Bhagwad Geeta.’, which tells us that one can only control his/her efforts but not the result. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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