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Champion power-lifter recommends this simple strategy to build discipline

Champion power-lifter Jim Wendler
Champion power-lifter Jim Wendler

When starting any new project, job, or career, the one thing most people have at the outset is motivation. But motivation can fade over time. What you really need for long-term success is discipline.

So says Jim Wendler, a former college football player who turned to power-lifting and coaching. He has squatted 1,000 pounds in competition. His 5/3/1 strength program has been taught to millions of athletes around the country, and his books have sold over 547,000 copies.

Wendler insists you can train yourself to have better discipline, and that can help in all areas of your life. You do it by starting small. "Every day you just write down three things you know you're probably going to do," Wendler tells CNBC, "and once you do it, you check it off."

"It gives you enormous satisfaction to check it off, even if it's brushing your teeth and making your bed," he says.

Strength coach and author Jim Wendler practicing his deadlifts
Source: Jim Wendler

Building discipline by saying you're going to do something and doing it works whether you're starting a new career or breaking out of your current job, trying to save money for a future purchase or looking to retire early. Setting small, achievable goals, and then achieving them, helps you build confidence in yourself and succeed in the long run.

Once you show yourself you can accomplish simple goals, you can start to add on more and more challenging ones, Wendler says: "It becomes a habit, where now it's just instilled in you that you got these goals. Over a couple months or even years, you can't live without it."

Since success often takes time, it requires patience. "I'm 42 now, and I've spent almost 30 years to get where I am today," says Wendler. "That's a hard thing for a lot of people to stomach. Obviously people want everything right now."

Instead of getting frustrated that you haven't yet gotten everything you want, or getting distracted by your long-term future goals, set and track your daily goals. Focus on what's right in front of you.

Plus, says Wendler, "if you keep your head down, the success comes faster."

Wendler's latest book "5/3/1 Forever" is being released March 24.