How to Develop A Disciplined Mind: Three Steps to Toughness

This is the third in the initial triad of posts. The first was on Clarity – knowing what you want, the second on the Courage to believe your dream is possible, and this post will address how to develop the Discipline to do what it takes to make that vision a reality.

The reason I use the term “discipline” here is because it derives from the word disciple, which means open to growth. And one who is disciplined in mind knows that no matter how well they may be doing at anything, there’s always another more efficient way to be discovered. And that’s encouraging, because we will never be finished with the game of growth. And as humans, we are designed for growth.

In this context, I also use the word “discipline” synonymously with Psychological Strength, or the emotional fortitude to deal masterfully with the unpredictable nature of life.

It takes a disciplined mind to be able to return to the creative state – the state of mind that is necessary to create the life of your dreams. And we must return to it again and again, as we experience the challenges that life brings. In fact, the disciplined mind is not only less vulnerable to such challenges, the disciplined mind is enthusiastic about them. To the disciplined mind, life would be boring without the downs that give meaning to the ups.

And where does such discipline come from? It comes from mindful conditioning, or psychological exercise. Just as you would go to the gym in order to condition your body, you must condition your mind in order to achieve psychological strength – a disciplined mind.

These psychological exercises have been absent from our educational systems, and thus the vast majority of us have never been introduced to them. Consequently, most of us have been poorly conditioned, or even negatively conditioned, and live in a victim state, without even knowing it. We have been taught to believe that we live in a “happening to me” world, as opposed to being taught that each one of us is capable of creating the life of our dreams, regardless of circumstance.

This might explain why 84% of Americans report hating their jobs. We don’t believe that what we want is within reach. If we’d been properly taught, or conditioned, then we would have the mental strength to not only believe in the accessibility of our desires, but also we would have the strength to view challenges as entertainment as opposed to road blocks, or as evidence of imminent failure.

The great news: if you’re reading this, you still have the ability to strengthen your mind.

As is the case in physical conditioning, there are many, many exercises for psychological conditioning. If, however, as a coach, I was only able to teach ONE exercise, it would be this: Emotion Control.

One of our greatest attributes as humans is our creativity. Each of us is infinitely creative. And that creativity can be activated or deactivated, depending upon our emotional state. An undisciplined mind is not capable of managing emotions from moment to moment. Instead, the undisciplined mind is entirely vulnerable to circumstance. The undisciplined mind reacts to challenges with fear (or any of its derivatives, like anger), which deactivates creativity. When creativity is deactivated, we are significantly less capable of manifesting desired outcomes, or getting what we want. And we have to work 10 times harder. On the contrary, a disciplined mind is capable of creating the emotional states that activate creative genius (enthusiasm, confidence, competence, compassion, and energized curiosity, for example), and therefore is significantly more capable of creating success and doing so with much less effort.

So here is the most fundamental Mental Toughness Tool that when practiced will give you the power to activate your creative genius:



The first step in this practice is to CATCH yourself whenever you are complaining. About ANYTHING! Complaining is by definition an undisciplined behavior that is the product of an undisciplined thought process which is the product of an undisciplined mind. Complaining is useless. And it instantly deactivates creativity. So the first step is to heighten your awareness to the frequency with which you complain about life throughout your day. Be diligent, and you’re likely to be amazed by how often that is. Catch yourself complaining about traffic, about co-wokers, about your partner, about the weather, about an errant golf shot, about poor customer service (I’m not saying, by the way, that you’re complaint is illegitimate! I’m just saying it deactivates creative genius and problem solving ability!), about the economy, about the government, about yourself even. Each catch is the equivalent of one repetition, and as the reps add up, so does your strength.


The second step is to take enthusiastic ownership of your emotional state. You are NEVER feeling upset about anything because of the thing itself, you are only ever feeling upset because of the way you are choosing to think about it. And you have the ability to change your thinking at any time. To practice taking ownership of your emotional state, simply say to yourself the following sentence:

“I am not feeling this way because of what’s going on here; I’m feeling this way because of how I’m choosing to think about it.”


And finally, the third step in the practice is to change the content of your thinking. Literally change your mind. Change the way you are thinking about the event. Take the example of traffic. If you catch yourself saying or thinking, “This traffic is killing me!”, and then own it, the last step is to replace that thought with something like, “It ain’t bad; it just is.” Moments later you might find yourself thinking, “no, this really is bad. In fact, this totally sucks! I’m going to be late again!” Own it again and replace it again with something else like, “It’s just a bunch of people trying to get where they need to be, I’m one of them, and from now on I’m leaving earlier to give myself more time.” And that’s one more rep. You’re stronger and more disciplined.

Even though in many of these cases you could establish a very convincing argument for why this is a legitimate complaint opportunity, it doesn’t matter. It’s still a useless complaint, and it’s weak because it changes nothing. So utilize each situation as an opportunity for disciplining your mind.

And even though many of these events may seem ultimately inconsequential, each is a very valuable opportunity to further develop your discipline so that one day, when you find yourself in a not so inconsequential situation, you’ll have the psychological strength to activate your creative genius in a critical moment – one that could forever change your life in a magnificent way.

This practice by itself will ultimately result in two things for you:

1. The ability to control your emotional states, and your creativity, so that you are profoundly more likely to create your dream life,


2. Much more peace in the process.

If you’re enjoying these posts, please post a comment of your own or a question, subscribe to the blog and/or forward it on to your friends/colleagues.

Until next time…


  1. John Parke says:

    Great stuff Chris, you wouldn’t believe how the stuff you taught me is applying in MBA School. I know you were thinking of writing a second book…what’s the status on that? Hope all is well!!

    • Thanks, JP III! And, I definitely DO believe it. The tools have no limits to their application. And I’m glad you raised that point. You learned these tools in apllication to your golf game, and you’re now applying them to your academic performance. And later, you’ll apply them to your professional experience. And all the while you’re applying them to your daily life experience. So you raise the point that the practice of strengthening your mind benefits you in everything you do in this life. Good call.

      Books 2 and 3 are underway, and taking a temporary back seat to new projects to better utilize book #1. But temporary is the operative word there.

  2. janet itsell says:

    Hey Chris! I like to think of this as a continuous fun and challenging game of “trust building and risk taking”…I will challenge my self to take a risk and trust myself that which ever way things turn I can creatively experience it and that just raise the bar for my next adventure in life…how ever big or small!! I LOVE what you share and I cant even believe it’s FREE!!! Thank you Chris for this….j

  3. Cindy Lee-Pridgen says:

    Hey Chris!
    Great stuff! I’m glad to know that I’m able to refresh my memory on what we had gone through years before! Thanks for sharing your ideologies!

  4. Karla says:

    Hi Chris,
    I have enjoyed listening and reading your three steps to toughness, keep up the good work, I will be sending this to several friends. Take care my friend.

  5. Namaste Chris … Thank you for sharing your brilliance in this ONEderful Article !

    Love All~Ways …

    We Are The Ones We’ve Been Waiting For … 🙂

  6. Prudence says:

    Thank You

    not sure if you are aware of “A Course in Miracles” (ACIM), but, your insights are pretty much in sync with ACIM ~ keys to letting go of fear, and embracing JOY PEACE LOVE


  7. Murali says:

    Chris this helps me a lot!
    Thank you.

  8. Zeinab says:

    Just stumbled upon this article and I must say; I have learned a thing or two on disciplining one’s mind. Thank you!

    • Chris Dorris says:

      That’s music to my ears, Zeinab. That is the intended outcome, for sure, so I am very happy to hear that. And I thank you for taking the time to post this comment! You may be interested in signing up for my morning messages entitled, The Daily Dose: Mental Toughness Tips in 30 Seconds or Less. You can do that on my homepage

      Thanks again for your note! Create Miracles!

  9. Patricia Duffey says:

    I found your message by looking up the term mental discipline. As a self proclaimed born loser , seeking the reason some succeed, via self-help gurus of the 60s and 70s, I worked my way to Napoleon Hill. At age 77 I am the proud owner of many dog-eared copies of Think and Grow Rich as well as trunks full of journals, filled with my notes on life and Hill’s message. This morning I realized the answer was that my mind was like a rebellious child. I have worked diligently over these years to teach myself what rolls off your tongue like sparkling water. Just wanted you to know that your words, your work, tickles my soul and heart.

    • Chris Dorris says:

      Patricia, that is one of the most beautiful messages I have EVER received. THANK YOU! You are so kind. And I am moved by your words, and i am touched that my work is meaningful and valuable for you. Blessings!

      • Felix Jonas Adom says:

        I really enjoyed every aspect of the write-up. Very pregnant with lots of things to learn and apply, which, to a far extent will help develop your personality. Thanks a million for sharing.

  10. Ang B. says:

    Extremely helpful and great advice!

  11. Worrell Robinson says:

    Developing our greatest gift is something I see you’re indeed passionate about, like the mystics of the past, who taught the disciplined and undisciplined minds of antiquity keep up the amazing & awesome work kind regards Mr Worrell Robinson

  12. Alemayehu Tefera says:

    Great “Even though in many of these cases you could establish a very convincing argument for why this is a legitimate complaint opportunity, it doesn’t matter. It’s still a useless complaint, and it’s weak because it changes nothing. So utilize each situation as an opportunity for disciplining your mind.” Truly the basic problem of many of us relies (as of me), on the quotes. Well addressed the matter. Thank you!

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