Last week’s newsletter filled up my inbox. I had written about goals and what I call “discipline lists.” But of the dozens of emails I received, there were only two questions asked over and over again. Those questions were, “What is on your discipline lists,” and “What is the difference between a discipline and goal?
The concept is pretty straightforward, and the difference between a goal and a discipline is simple to understand (even though the intentions and results can be very different).
Goals Can Be Completed
I am editing my first book now. Publishing a book is a goal. Once I publish the book, I will have achieved that goal. Writing a blog post every day is a discipline. One of the disciplines on my list is to write every day, without exception (this discipline has dramatically changed my life in ways I would have never imagined before I started). There is no end, no event, no date at which I will cross “writing every day,” off my list.
Running a marathon is a goal. It has a date by that you will complete it, and upon completion, you will feel the wonderful sense of accomplishment that comes from scratching it off of your list. That’s an excellent goal, but a discipline is different. A discipline would be to exercise every day, to maintain your overall health, fitness, and well-being for the rest of your life. That discipline has no date by which you will complete it. Instead, you do the things each day that maintain your health over the course of your life.
Goals are important. It’s helpful to have the target that goals provide you, something to direct your action and provide deadlines. Goals can motivate you, and they can provide you with milestones and a way to keep score. At some point, goals are completed. When you complete them, you can—and you should—set new goals.
But, in many ways, disciplines are more powerful than goals. It is easier to be effective in many areas of your life by simply by taking disciplined action every day.
What’s on your discipline list?