The difference between disciplined and committed

Posted by Dermot Crowley on 23rd January 2017

When it comes to changing behaviours, developing new habits or adopting a new system, many people feel that they need to be incredibly disciplined. In fact, many of my training participants make this observation during training. “Gee” they will say. “You must need to be so disciplined to get your Inbox to zero regularly, or keep your task list up to date, or plan your week”.

I don’t agree. I reckon they are just using discipline as an excuse for not doing the work. Harsh but true! I don’t believe that you need to be disciplined to adopt a new productivity system. You need to be committed though. And that is a very different thing.


By using the word discipline, we are externalising the accountability, and we can hide behind the belief that the new habits required so much discipline that it was impossible for any normal human being to adopt them. If we fail, we forgive ourselves and move back to our old habits, happy in the knowledge that we tried but were not to blame for our failure.

If we reframe this by saying that you must be committed to make a behavioural change, we begin to internalise the accountability. It is not so easy to proclaim that we did not make the change because we were not committed enough. And if we are committed to reasonable actions, and we do not follow through, there is denying where the responsibility falls. At our own feet.

So, if you are aiming to adopt a new habit or behaviour in 2017, don’t hide behind discipline. If it is worthwhile, commit to it and practice it for at least a month. Give it a red hot go. If you fall off the wagon, recommit and start again.

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