5 Boss Women On How They Implement Self-Discipline In Their Lives

"The space that stands between you and your dreams is called self-discipline."

Workin' Girl

"The space that stands between you and your dreams is called self-discipline."

It's a saying too many of us can relate to. Our minds are teeming with all these crazy big dreams that are so easy to dream. Yet, when it comes to actually putting in the work to turn them into reality, it's something that we fail to do. Including—no, mostly, me.

I often hear my circle describe me as a woman of ambition that manages to reach the top of every mountain that she decides to climb. Although I'd love for this painting of me to be real, I must admit that these are in fact misinterpreted facts. I did accomplish pretty big things, that's true. But you know, for all the dreams of mine that I managed to fulfill throughout my life, I couldn't tell you how many other perfectly planned and visualized ideas and projects I have allowed to die between the pages of my journals.

Why? Easy. The lack of self-discipline.

At the beginning, the motivation to start is 100 percent there, but as far as staying consistent and having enough patience to wait for real results to show? It's easy to get discouraged and switch my focus on a short-term goal that'll provide me with instant gratification instead. I know that I'm not the only one to feel this way. But one thing I know, sisters, is that we want to stop doing that. We want to stop giving up on our crazy ideas and desires and start pursuing them relentlessly so we can finally live a life of abundance.

Recently, I had the opportunity to have inspiring conversations with successful women of color who, to me, perfectly embody the principle of self-discipline and ask them about their learning process, what self-discipline means to them, and how they're implementing it in their lives.

Ardre Orie

Courtesy of Ardre Orie

Founder of 13th & Joan | Ghostwriter

One thing I've learned throughout my journey through entrepreneurship is that if I don't rely on my calendar, it makes things scattered for me; my calendar is everything that my day can consist of. I believe I've come to the realization that my calendar was my most powerful ally after the third year of entrepreneurship.

I reached a point where I was just burnt out because I thought that I could replace my 9-5 within my first year of entrepreneurship—that was a very unrealistic goal.

But I was convinced that if I worked hard enough, I could make the same income in so little time. When that didn't happen, I blamed myself. I wasn't even close to it and I thought the reason why was because I didn't work hard enough. So, for the next two years, I worked around the clock and was putting in the hours.

Being in my third year of entrepreneurship now, I realize that it was unhealthy to have set myself such a goal for it made me feel unhappy. I had to face the fact that I was doing something wrong and this is when the process of me really analyzing how I'm spending my time started.

Now my rule is, during the time slots that I have parked out for specific activities, I do not allow myself to veer away from them. Even my family, friends and staff know that unless it's an emergency, they can't just pop up and call me in the middle of the day. I probably won't answer anyway because if I do, I'll want to pour into them and it means that the things I should be doing will be on pause.

To me, self-discipline really is the chemistry between your soul and your mind. In many instances, you may have an inkling of something that you want to do but self-discipline is when you have to dig down in your soul to actually make it happen. And once you operate in a space of self-discipline, you walk a little taller. You hold your head high, you have a different posture because you know what you're capable of.

To the question what does it require from me, I would say listening to my soul on a consistent basis. Listening to the things that make me happy.

Staying true to ourselves and remaining consistent in looking for the things that make us happy is important. Those are the gifts that will make room for us. I also do think that due diligence is mandatory. When you think of the things that you want to accomplish, it's necessary that you commit to them. You can't just be halfway putting in the work here and there—that is also where consistency comes in and plays a huge role.

Imani Wade

Courtesy of Imani Wade

Blogger | Author of Breaking up with the Bad Girl

I was raised by a single mom, parenting two daughters. She has three degrees and her own business. Seeing how hard my mom works has truly been impactful in my own life and I grew to understand and appreciate this trait of her personality.

My process to learning self-discipline involves three things: 1) Knowing what I want. I find it hard to be disciplined with anything if I didn't initially spend the time visualizing or understanding what my goal or desired outcome was in the first place. 2) Being my biggest fan. The hard reality of pursuing your goal is that you won't always have the support that you need. Luckily, I do have a strong core group of close friends who cheer me on. However, I don't always depend on them because I know how important it is to be my biggest fan. 3) Some serious self-awareness. Self-awareness is crucial. You have to know yourself and be willing to be real with yourself.

I am always quick to call myself out and then establish a new boundary with myself, for myself. If I had a lazy week, I have to be upfront about it. If my body and mind simply need a day to unplug, I honor that as well. Because I was once lazy, I also have to identify if it is rest or laziness approaching me. It gets easier differentiating the two over time, but ultimately you have to keep listening to your needs and be real with yourself.

Moment of transparency, it's still taking me time to adapt to this change of lifestyle but what keeps me motivated is to remember that nobody is going to do it for me. I often tell myself this when laziness tries to creep up around the corner. When writing my book Breaking up with the Bad Girl, I was able to hire an editor, but I had to muster up the self-discipline to write my book in the first place.

Even though some days I only get a quarter of the tasks on my list accomplished whereas I could've crossed off every one of them, I've learned to accept that when I'm patient and gracious with myself, it makes self-discipline more enjoyable.

Self-discipline has improved the quality of my life in many ways. One of those ways is my belief in myself. When my discipline allows me to accomplish a goal, it is proof that it can be done again for another goal. It has always enhanced the love I have for myself. I understand who I am to the core, and what I bring to the table. Moreover, as a believer, it's important to me to be self-disciplined for not only am I honoring myself, but I'm also honoring God; "Faith without works is dead" (James 2:14-26).

Leticia Marie Gardner

Courtesy of Leticia Marie Gardner (left) & lovely daughter (right)

Founder of Total Body 21

As a woman, wife, mother of two incredible girls, and fitness brand owner, I have a lot of things going on and there isn't a part of it all that doesn't require self-discipline. Especially when we only have 24 hours in a day. Whether it is loving my husband, looking after my daughters who are on two completely different schedules and demand two very different types of attention, working out, or managing my online boutique… it all requires focus and persistence from me.

I wouldn't be who I am today if I didn't have the willpower to be that woman.

The need to become more serious about my health and body didn't hit me before I gave birth to my youngest. I was in my early 30s and realized that everything really changes with age and gone were the days I could just eat anything. From there, it became mandatory for me to feed my body with healthy food and exercise consistently.

Now of course, I go through those days where I'm dragging; I just don't feel like it. I go through my seasons where I either just want to eat good or I don't care. I'm no different than any other girl, I go through it just like everyone else.

But although I may not be motivated all the time, the thing that keeps me going is my addiction to the results. I'm not addicted to the process, I'd rather stay home, eat fast food, and desserts every day. But the result is what I'm in love with. I love the way my body looks and feels when I treat it right.

To me, self-discipline comes from self-worth, self-love, and self-motivation. You may see women with nice bodies and deeply want yours to look similar. But if you're not willing to put in the necessary amount of work until you can actually see some results, then all you'll do is double-tap their pictures on Instagram.

It's really about mental strength, it all happens in your mind. Your body will not do what the mind doesn't tell it to do. You can be sitting comfortably on your couch and crave a snack, but if you do not command your body to get up and go get it, you're not going to eat it. You must have the willpower, you must set the goal—a realistic goal—and chase it. You must love yourself enough to treat your body like the vessel that it is which is special. We only get one body, so you must have the willpower to do what is necessary to take care of it.

Danielle D. Hughes

Courtesy of Danielle D. Hughes

Entrepreneur | Author of Always Make Your Bed

My process to learn self-discipline was an interesting one. I graduated high-school with a very low GPA (1.9 to be exact), I never had a routine, never had a bedtime or strict rules growing up in my household. When I got older, I knew that I wanted to change that. Once I became sick of my own BS, I started creating daily habits for myself. I started making my bed each day (hence the title of my book) and I started to see my productivity increase substantially just by being consistent in that small task each day.

If anything, the lack of discipline of anyone around me only made me want to be further away from them. Once I made up my mind that I was going to change my lifestyle because I was destined for more, I began to lose a lot of people along the way. Unfortunately, as you become more in tune with your divine purpose, people who are no longer equally yoked will naturally fall off. I've learned to make peace with that and no longer try to hold on to something/someone that is no longer serving my highest good.

One of my favorite fall quotes says: "The trees are about to show us how lovely it is to let the dead things go." I try to live by that.

One thing that I'm working on this year is being more present with my loved ones. Surprisingly, that has required so much self-discipline because I'm used to always doing 10,000 things at once. Life has taught me that everything else is temporary but family is forever. Knowing that, it pushes me to be more intentional and disciplined during my quality time with the ones I love the most.

Javacia Harris Bowser

Courtesy of Javacia Harris Bowser

Former English Teacher | Writerpreneur

As a Black woman in America from a low-income family, I knew early in life that to achieve anything I'd have to work harder than everybody else and be more disciplined than everybody else. For me, self-discipline is about creating a plan and sticking to it which means that discipline requires a lot of planning.

Every Sunday I spend 30 minutes to an hour planning out my week. I make a list of all the things I want, need, and must do. Then (using my planner), I assign each item to a day of the week. Then, I look at Monday's to-do list and schedule when I will do each task. Monday night, I create Tuesday's schedule and so on... This hour-by-hour scheduling isn't for everyone, but it works well for me because I was a teacher for 10 years and thus lived my life in class periods.

Right now, every single part of my life requires self-discipline. I am currently battling breast cancer. The side effects of cancer treatments and the emotional and mental toll of a cancer diagnosis all make it very hard to feel motivated to do anything.

But thanks to my self-discipline—and God—and despite cancer plus the pandemic, 2020 has been one of my most successful years career-wise.

That said, even before the cancer diagnosis, self-discipline was essential for my career. I am what I like to call a full-time "writerpreneur". I'm a freelance writer and the founder of See Jane Write which is a website, membership community, and coaching service for women who write and blog. When you're your own boss, self-discipline is a prerequisite. Without it, I wouldn't meet deadlines for freelance writing assignments, let alone do what needs to be done to serve the community and grow my business.

To me, the main pillars of self-discipline are planning, purpose, and persistence.

You have to create a plan for what needs to be done to accomplish your goals. You have to know your purpose, know why you want to accomplish those goals in the first place, and stay focused on that. Most importantly, you have to be persistent. Persistence doesn't mean perfection. It's OK if you're killing it every day. Remember, rest is essential. Also, some days you're going to miss the mark. And that's OK.

Persistence is getting back in the game after a bad day.

Featured image courtesy of Ardre Orie

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

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