Why Is Discipline Important? (And What Happens Without It)

If you are here and reading about why self-discipline is important. I probably know something about you. Something you don’t know about yourself. That is, “You f-cked up a long time ago!”

By this, I mean that if you have mastered the fundamentals of discipline. You wouldn’t have fallen deep into the rabbit hole of online searches trying to figure out what is self-discipline and why is self-discipline important. You will clearly recognize the value of a well-regulated existence without the need to hear it from some random dude online.

If you stepped into this article exactly for the reasons I mentioned above – i.e., looking for why we need discipline. Don’t worry, you are not alone.

Each month, there are more than 7,350 searches on the topic of why is discipline important.

But why would someone search for the importance of self-discipline?

Isn’t it obvious?

It’s like searching for why it’s breathing or drinking water important.

Well, apparently, it’s not.

My guess is that the people who search for the significance of self-discipline seek magical insights. A pill – or a tool – of some sort that will make their lives better without the effort. Without the struggle. Without the daily sweat required to turn your lethargic existence into a vibrant tapestry of health.

To these folks, a short disclaimer:

Discipline always requires determination and self-control. Discipline demands a calm mind to navigate the labyrinth of distractions and temptations that litter the path to a balanced way of living.

Regardless of whether you are looking for a shortcut. A secret formula to transform your chaotic habits into orderly routines. Or, you are just curious about the topic of self-discipline. The truth remains steadfast:

Reading about personal discipline and actually being a disciplined person are two quite different subjects.

There is no pill, no potion, and definitely no quick-fix enchantment.

Self-discipline requires patience and consistency.

Now that we’ve addressed this, let’s move forward…

In this article, we’ll cover why is self-discipline important for success. From there, we’ll look at ways that will allow us to remove ourselves from the treacherous path of chaotic living.

Why Is Discipline Important In Our Life?

Discipline is the foundation allowing us to implement, and maintain, the habits we need in order to live a good life. Just as a clock’s intricate mechanism ensures precise timekeeping, discipline serves as the mechanism that propels a system forward with consistency and purpose.

To picture this better, consider a wanna-be writer.

If a person wishes to publish a book. Writing occasionally and hoping that a magic elf will appear and somehow make his dull sketches into a full-fleshed book is foolish.

Publishing a book requires discipline and a systematic approach.

If you want to publish a book while you are alive, you need to build your own writing practice that is executed daily.

That’s where it gets complicated.

Everyone will feel motivated at the beginning of the book-writing journey. But that motivation will quickly fade.

The blank page – once a canvas of infinite potential – after a week seems like an insurmountable hurdle.

However, with discipline by your side. You can force yourself to sit on the chair and put words on paper. With each writing session complete, you not only get closer to finishing the book. But your motivation also resurrects. Making you even more excited about the whole journey.

Here’s the thing: publishing a book is difficult – like anything that stretches over a long period of time. However, the hardest thing is not the writing part, it’s the showing up part.

Discipline is important because it helps you consistently show up and do what you’ve said you are going to do, even if you don’t feel like doing it. Even when motivation is low – or non-existent.1 Even when there is no one cheering you.

I’d like to think of it as a system that propels you to succeed no matter what stands in your way.

Or, plainly, we can use the following to portray why is discipline important in our lives:

“Some people dream of success, while other people get up every morning and make it happen.” Wayne Huizenga

What Is The Purpose of Discipline?

Let’s play a game. Tell me how you feel about the following:

Breaking free from the cycle of debt, corporate sameness, and working toward financial independence.

Impossible, yes?

Would you feel different if you knew that J.K. Rowling – the author of the infamous “Harry Potter” series – was a single mother on welfare when she began writing her first book?

I did.

The success story of J.K. Rowling deserves a book on its own. It’s solid proof that with determination and focus, you can escape the life you don’t want and tap into the life you do want.

Let’s try another…

Transforming your heavy body and becoming an iconic figure in the fitness world.

In this lifetime? Nah.

But what would you think if I told you that David Goggins – the author of the bestseller Can’t Hurt Me. Turned his overweight body into a lean and muscular physique through rigorous training and strict dieting.

Sure, these are extraordinary triumph narratives.

But what I’m trying to convey here is the idea of commitment. The concept of the daily pursuit of your goals.

Surely J.K. Rowling didn’t finish the entire book in one day or in a week. Reportedly, it took seven years for her to implement the idea of the glasses-wearing boy waving a wand on paper.2

Seven years of struggle. Seven years of commitment. Seven years of self-doubt.

The main purpose of discipline is the connection it makes. It’s the bridge between your current state and your desired state.

  • You can’t publish a book by the end of the week. But with daily writing sessions, you can in a year.
  • You can’t lose the extra weight for tomorrow. But with daily workouts, you can in a year.
  • You can’t fix your finances by tomorrow. But with daily planning, you can in a year.

So, the main purpose of discipline is to help you get from point A – your current place. To point B – your desired place. And most importantly, help you stay in this sought-after condition.

Reasons Why Discipline is Important

An interesting point to consider in relation to self-discipline is this:

Imagine how your life will look like if you remove discipline.

Ready?

When self-control is stripped from your arsenal of tools. Interesting things start to happen. Here’s what I imagine:

In the morning, when your alarm clock produces a sound. You will burrow deeper into the covers, blissfully unaware of time’s unrelenting march. When finally up, the toothbrush will receive an apathetic shrug, while for breakfast, your food options will revolve around things like ice cream with chocolate cake and burritos stuffed with Cheetos.

In the office, working will take a significantly different direction. Instead of thinking about doing your best work, you will avoid work altogether – leisurely stroll through memes and cat videos.

In the supermarket, the regular check-in you used to do in the healthy area is now a mere decoration. You are now into prolonged stays in the snacks section, where you will be building a pyramid of chips in your shopping cart. Since your ability to delay gratification is no longer there. The healthiest meal in your cart will be a pack of low-sugar snack bars because they were on sale.

When finally at home, your couch becomes the nest for the rest of the day. Since everything you eat now comes with a bag on its own, you don’t need dishes or glasses. You can enjoy an endless session of binge-watching while fearlessly cruising the social media lane looking for what new to consume.

In this scenario of self-discipline’s absence, our life becomes a living, breathing embodiment of whimsy and impulse. Responsibilities become mere suggestions, routines start to sound like an evil force that wants to restrict you from living, and health… well, that’s just a theoretical concept for scientists.


The reason self-discipline is important it’s because without it, you will forever stay in the slowly decaying comfort zone.3

When you do have discipline. While you can occasionally skip a workout or reach for that bag full of thinly sliced potatoes dipped into a sea of fat-rich oil. Your daily duties are typically addressed without complication.

You get up and tackle the tasks on your plate, regardless of your emotional state or energy level.

Sure, you can feel a sense of weariness in the morning before starting your workout. But you don’t surrender to the initial nudges prompting you to go back to bed. You do the workout despite the tiredness.

Discipline drives you to fully immerse yourself in the task requiring your attention.

After all that being said, here are a couple of reasons why we need discipline:

5 Reasons Why Discipline Is Important in Our Life

1. Discipline Gives You Direction

Discipline gives you a sense of direction. It channels your efforts.

When you are disciplined, you know what needs to be done and this keeps you active. Keeps you focused on the important tasks – while successfully avoiding the unimportant ones.

In short, discipline serves as a guiding force that helps you navigate in the tumultuous day-to-day life.

2. Respect for time

When you honor your commitments, an interesting side effect occurs. You start to recognize the value of each passing moment.

You no longer wish to doze off in front of the screen doing nothing productive. You start to carefully, and more effectively, plan how you spend your time – and with whom.

3. Consistent Progress

Discipline sets the scene for consistent progress.

As I wrote in my article, Doing Something Once Vs. Doing It Every Day:

It doesn’t matter what you have done. But what you keep doing consistently that counts.

You can be the greatest sales representative in your company for the first quarter and get a huge bonus added to your salary. Yet, this won’t mean that you can start skipping meetings after you now have a bit more cash than usual. You still need to perform to have a job.

The same logic applies to everything.

  • You can’t expect to have a good body if you go to the gym once. You need to keep showing up.
  • You can’t expect to have a decent relationship with your spouse if you behave nicely one time. You need to keep nurturing the relationship.
  • You can’t expect to have people visiting your small blog if you wrote a single article. You need to keep writing.

Discipline ensures consistent progress and more importantly, it helps you get closer to your desired identity.

4. Emotional Regulation

Discipline extends beyond just summoning enough strength to do the tasks you often don’t feel like doing. Self-discipline plays a vital role in how you regulate your emotions. How you react to the natural impulses typically pushing us towards sinful activities.

When you master discipline, you learn to handle the sudden nudges that prompt you to do something stupid.

For example, you are less likely to shout when someone agitates you and more likely to take a step back and respond in a respectful and calm way.

5. Long-Term Thinking

Discipline fosters long-term thinking.

The compounding effect of your daily actions helps you see how your efforts are paying off. This allows another good thing to manifest. More precisely, you see the connection between your daily actions and your long-term goals.

Publishing a book no longer seems impossible. Now you know that you can do it if you simply stick to a writing routine.

Removing the extra pounds layering on top of your bones no longer seems out of reach. Now you know that you can get fitter if you simply stick to a workout routine.

I believe you got the point.

The important thing here is that with discipline, you start to see that though a particular task might not seem that important. That you can skip a workout session. You don’t. You don’t because you realize that a single workout session won’t make you stronger. But a single workout session repeated over the course of a year will.

Starting Point for Disciplined Living

Commonly, we think that if we want to embrace the way of discipline. We should replace our current chaotic life full of random, spontaneous deviations. Replace our unorganized way of living with a meticulously choreographed dance of monotony.

The truth is that you don’t have to steam towards having a clockwork-like automated life where each second of your day is precisely calculated.

If you try to never steer away from your prescribed path, you will go insane.

Trust me.

I’ve tried this.

At a given moment in my life, I decided that every task should be completed by a strict schedule. That my day should be planned in a very precise order.

However, when unplanned things happen – as they always do. These deviations from the originally planned path led to anger and emotional instability.

I somehow convinced myself that the world could work based on my path.

Well, I’ve learned the – probably – obvious lesson that it can’t.

You can’t successfully calculate and schedule each minute of your life.

But what you can do. It’s to have a broad view of what you want to achieve for the given day.

If these two don’t make sense to you, let me present the differences.

When you have a strict daily plan, it can include something along the lines…

Get up at exactly 05:00 a.m. Work out from 05:05 to 05:20. At 05:25, practice gratitude journaling. Then, between 05:30 and 05:50, read at least 10 pages of a book. At 06:00, start writing. Write at least 1000 words.

On paper, it looks perfect. Even an AI-powered scheduling tool will envy your planning ability.

However, what will happen if you miss your alarm, and you wake up at 05:10 a.m.? What will happen if you want to journal a bit more? What will happen if a particular section of a book is so interesting, that you want to take a couple of minutes to think about the context? Or even, what will happen if you write only 500 words – but such that you don’t need to edit, as opposed to 1,000 crappy words?

These are all “problems” related to our desire to have a perfect daily routine. Related to the false belief that we can even have a perfect daily routine.

Well, such a thing does not exist.

What you can have – that will keep you both satisfied and emotionally balanced. Is a prescribed daily routine that gives you direction. And, even more importantly, gives you flexibility.

For instance, instead of hoping for a never-ending loop of déjà vu where everything repeats itself by the clock.

You can turn the above into the following:

  • Get up in the morning.
  • Journal.
  • Read.
  • Write.

When the exact time is removed, you no longer have to worry about following the strict agenda.

You are more focused on doing the activities.

If you get stuck on a particular paragraph, which can stall your whole writing process, for example. You don’t feel defeated. Rather, you feel OK because you still wrote something.

Given the above, I propose the following action plan that can help you embrace a more organized way of living – which is still flexible enough to not make your life feel like you are living in the military.

It involves four steps:

  1. Decide: Decide what type of tasks need to be done and what type of tasks need to go away. This section acts like a planner. It puts certain activities on your schedule. Still, note that you don’t necessarily have to do them at certain hours.
  2. Do: Once you know what you have to do. As Nike said a long time ago: Just do it! Of course, it’s not that simple – it never really is. But what is simple is doing at least part of the activity – if you can’t do the whole thing. For instance, usually, I write for at least an hour and a half in the morning. But occasionally, I just have to leave the house a lot earlier. In such cases, writing a couple of sentences still counts in my books.
  3. Repeat: Repetition is key. Don’t aim for perfection. Aim for repetition.
  4. Improve: Seek ways to improve your processes. Even small adjustments can lead to huge future gains. (See: The Myth of The 1% Better Every Day Theory.)

Some Closing Thoughts

Why is discipline Important?

Discipline positions you for future success.

Often you feel tempted to showcase a successful living instead of actually creating a successful living.

I mean, you can max out your credit card to get a nice car, a set of good clothes, etc., so you can share with the world how cool and extravagant you are. But how long do you think that the virtual likes will keep you excited?

Well, it surely won’t be for that long.

Conversely, with self-discipline. You will allocate the money and the time you will spend trying to create the perfect Instagram feed to do something more productive.

You start to be excited about impressing yourself instead of impressing others.

And how do you impress yourself?

  • By consistently showing up and doing the tasks you have to do even when you don’t feel like doing them.
  • By consistently saving money to eventually get the car you want with plenty of money left on the side.
  • By consistently learning new skills that help you excel at the work you do.

One great benefit – the main reason marking discipline as super important – is that it shifts the source of gratification. The reward of pleasure, or a sense of meaning, is no longer reserved for some hypothetical moment of future fulfillment when you reach your goal and the task is fully complete.

Instead, you receive daily doses of pleasure when you do what you said you were going to do.

You have the reward right now, because you are acting in the way you said you are going to act.

To me, this is the main benefit of self-discipline.

You feel a sense of pride that you are no longer influenced by trivial matters. You are steering your life in the direction you want.

“Discipline is to daily do the most important things even if you don’t feel motivated to do them.” Ivaylo Durmonski


Add to your self-discipline toolset by reading the following:

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Join Going Further: A 13-day email series on how to keep progressing in a world tirelessly pushing toward regression. Great for people who feel stuck in the endless loop of not doing.


Footnotes:

  1. My article Motivation vs. Discipline: Which Helps You Go Further? explores the connection between these two further.
  2. J.K.Rowling: The Inspirational Success Story of British author, Failure Before Success. Available at: https://failurebeforesuccess.com/j-k-rowling/
  3. I’m saying slowly decaying because great things never came from comfort zones.
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