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What Is Discipline?

As we discuss the DISCIPLINE STRATEGY®, we spend a lot of time talking about the word “strategy.” But here, let’s make sure we know just what “discipline” means.

The word “define” comes from the idea of setting up boundaries. The action of definition requires not just saying what something is, but also what it isn’t. An apple is a fruit, but it is not a citrus.

So let’s talk about what discipline isn’t.

Discipline Is Not:

Living a life of deprivation, stoicism, or minimalism. It’s not about abusing yourself, getting up at 4 AM to drink raw eggs (unless you really are trying to be Rocky Balboa), or throwing your TV set in the trash.

Discipline is not about denying yourself what you want, starving yourself, or hating the person you see in the mirror. If someone tells you that sort of thing is the road to success, I suggest ignoring them.

Discipline Is:

Figuring out what you want and doing what it takes to make it happen.

Discipline is about setting goals a human being can accomplish with a schedule that makes you healthy and productive.


The word “decision” comes from the Latin word decidere, which means “to cut off.” Defining discipline is about knowing what it’s not, and making a decision is about knowing what you don’t want to do.

Deciding to do A means not deciding to do B. Knowing that discipline is about C means you won’t be fooled into doing D.

Both of these actions are about taking control of your life.

And that’s really what discipline is about: controlling your life. Applied properly, it’s about control that leads to success, happiness, and well-being.

Stamina and Other Good Things

Discipline isn’t stamina, but stamina is a part of discipline, as are honesty, self-awareness, and good mental health. To be disciplined is to take everything you have and turn it toward what you want. Let’s break that down:

  • Stamina: This is where your discipline turns to the daily grind as a means to an end. This is where you don’t give up just because implementing your plans is so much harder than planning your dreams.
  • Honesty: This is when you don’t fool yourself that you’re doing better or worse progress toward your goal than you are. This is when you make a true evaluation of your feelings of success and satisfaction. This is when you accept others’ feedback for what it is, not what you want it to be.
  • Self-awareness: This seems similar to honesty, but it’s less about confession and more about monitoring yourself. You need to be able to tell when you’re being lazy as opposed to taking a well-deserved rest. You need to see when you’re closing in on burnout. You need to feel when something fills you with satisfaction as opposed to when you thought it would do that, but it fails. This is about knowing what you want, not what other people have told you you’re supposed to want.
  • Good mental health: As we discuss in several blogs, your mind, like your body, needs to be in top form. Discipline feeds good mental health.

Only with a true understanding of discipline can you apply it, and only then can you truly benefit from it.