Structure, and not primarily discipline, is most often the key to success.
Discipline can be helpful, but it is not essential for success. Structure, however, is essential for success: beneath all successful endeavors you will find inherent structure.
Moreover, success eventually occurs by genuinely committing to and consistently re-committing to an effective general structure, especially a structure that you have personally crafted, chosen, or accepted and adapted to while maintaining intentionality.
Discipline basically means making yourself do something you don’t want to do (in service of a goal). The main problem with discipline is that it’s unreliable. It cannot be counted on for motivation and effectiveness across time and circumstance.
You really shouldn’t need (much) discipline if you have an effective structure… particularly a structure that you designed or carefully selected with the intention of setting up the known, necessary tasks to be easily engaged and personally effective, habitual, and felicitous.
Discipline, or self-forcefulness, only becomes necessary when you’re not committed enough to an effective structure, OR when you’re over-committed to an ineffective structure, OR when you’re reluctantly committed to a structure that’s required of you by someone else or society (and actively resisting what you can’t change).
If you’re having to invoke discipline with any intensity or regularity, it’s usually a sign that you need to:
– Recommit to structure (consciously, continually)
– Adapt the structure itself where possible (e.g. adjust your schedule, redistribute your time and/or efforts)
– Abandon the existing structure / Commit to a new, more suitable structure (carefully & strategically)
(And usually in this order)
The self-designed or chosen structure, and the sincere and repeated commitment to it, will initiate and sustain your engagement within it and will negate the need for discipline. Moreover, it is this consistent engagement in necessary tasks that the committed structure enables which produces real results — results that lead to true success.
If the structure has not failed, then recommit. If the structure has failed, you will know it, and at that point you must efficiently but carefully decide on a new structure. Then you must fully embrace the new structure, and as you do this you will not need to intensely or regularly apply discipline.
Decide on a structure. Commit to it. Keep re-committing. Adapt it if necessary, but maintain the core structure until it has clearly failed.
Rule of thumb: when you think discipline is what you’re needing, it’s usually structure.