How I’ve Become More Disciplined and Formed Habits

Dan Eum
6 min readSep 2, 2022


If you want to accomplish anything of value in this life, it’s going to take this little word right here. He then pointed to the word on the title of the book we were studying which said “Discipline.”

I still remember this from the first day that our Men’s Bible study gathered together. It was during seminary and my church in Louisville had started a new Men’s Bible study. We were reading the book Disciplines of a Godly Man by Kent Hughes. The thought has stuck with me from that day. But I found myself still struggling to maintain discipline over an extended amount of time. I love to be inspired and passionate for different goals physically or spiritually. That’s why I love New Year’s Resolutions. It feels like a fresh start, new hope. But again and again, I found that the passion would last only a while and the discipline would fade. Workout routines abandoned. Bible plans haphazard.

But that has been changing in the past few years. I have noticed a lot of growth in my discipline and personal habits even in the course of this year. Below is my morning routine of habits that I started in late January of this year. The pink number shows how many days that I “showed up” to do even one habit. For January this number was 14%. I currently do not include weekends in my stats.

My January Morning Routine — 14%

There was a big jump to February of 60%. It hovered around 60 for the next few months.

February — 60%

May saw another big jump to 80%. I also started adding “Who Goals” as in who I want to become. James Clear talks about the importance of goals stemming from identity.

May — 82%

Then for the summer months I have been in the 90+ percentile.

August — 100%

How Did I See Improvements In My Discipline?

The book Atomic Habits by James Clear has been a game-changer for me. In it were two concepts that changed my mindset which led to vast improvements in my habits.

2 Concepts: 1) Habit-stacking. 2) Low-energy habits. Let me explain a little more for each.

  1. Habit Stacking

In the past, part of the problem was that I had no consistency in when and where I tried to do my habits. It was sporadic or “when I have time.” Then I learned about a little mental trick called “habit-stacking.” James Clear says one way to get a jumpstart into forming habits is to stack your new habit with an established one. For instance, during the school year a habit I had to do was to drive my kids to school every morning. By the time I got home at 7:30am, the kids were at school, the house was quiet, and that’s when I stacked on my new habit of a morning routine. Every time school was happening it became easy to do my own habits. The consistency of the school schedule helped me to become consistent in my own habits.

What about when school is out like summer vacation? I was worried that when school got out all my progress would be lost. But because I was fairly consistent in the school year (Jan-May) I found that enough of a habit was formed to sustain me even through the summer. With the new school year, my kids started riding the bus at 6:30am. My son Zane and I have been running a mile each morning at 5:30am right before he gets ready for school. If I tried a 5:30am run right off the bat I don’t think it would’ve lasted. But because I had already established a morning routine for the first half of the year, it was not as big of a jump to push the routine a little bit earlier.

2. Low-Energy Goals

This concept was huge for me also. In the past, I would set a discipline goal like a Bible in a year plan or running everyday but it would fizzle out. The problem was I would try to keep it perfectly but some days life was busier than others. On those harder days it became really difficult to maintain any discipline. So that is usually when I would fall behind. One day becomes two, two days become seven and soon all the enthusiasm from when I started is gone. This was the death spiral that killed my discipline year after year after year…

Clear taught me to have low energy goals instead. This means if you can read the 4 chapters of a Bible reading plan then great. But if there’s a tough day, give yourself permission to read just 1 chapter or to run for just 5 min. Why does this help? What could be accomplished by such a small goal? It works because you are keeping alive the most important part of all habits — “showing up.” Showing up to actually do the habit each day is more important than the actual length of time you spend on the habit each day. Thus if you struggle with showing up, chances are it’s because the goal you’re about to do is too daunting, too much energy. Instead, give yourself permission to make it much easier to accomplish. Rather than a 20min reading do a 1min reading. Don’t do a 40min workout, do a 5 min workout. By lowering the energy of the goal, it greatly decreases the barrier to entry.

One of my favorite examples is about a guy who wanted to lose weight. He always struggled with losing weight but he decided to put Clear’s concept of low energy goals into practice. Each day he would go to the gym (show up) but he would allow himself to leave after just 5min. A 5 min workout seemed so easy so he ended up doing it more often than not. After some time, it became habitual to show up to the gym and leave after 5 min. Once the actual showing up was established, gradually he started to stay longer and longer. Over time he ended up losing over 100 lbs this way!

Another great example is the story he shares about world-renown dancer Twyla Tharp and the importance of routine or “ritual.” Here it is in her own words.

“I begin each day of my life with a ritual,” she writes. “I wake up at 5:30 A.M., put on my workout clothes, my leg warmers, my sweatshirts, and my hat. I walk outside my Manhattan home, hail a taxi, and tell the driver to take me to the Pumping Iron gym at 91st street and First Avenue, where I work out for two hours.

“The ritual is not the stretching and weight training I put my body through each morning at the gym; the ritual is the cab. The moment I tell the driver where to go I have completed the ritual.

“The ritual is the cab.” Love that! I have a long way to go but this is the most disciplined I’ve ever been in my life. These are the ideas that have been helping me get there. I hope they’re helpful to you as well. God bless.



Dan Eum

One life, ‘twill soon be past…Only what’s done for Christ will last.