The 2nd Pillar – DISCIPLINE: The Power of Choice!

Have you ever had trouble making a choice because you didn’t want to give anything up? I feel your pain.

Have you ever made a decision and then had trouble sticking with it? We’ve all been there.

Do you want to be able to make a decision and stick with it?

Read on for the Response-Able article, The 2nd PILLAR: DISCIPLINE – The Power of Choice.

Why haven’t you had success achieving certain goals?

OK. So you wrote down your goals and even achieved some, but there’s that one goal that seems to keep eluding you. Why is that? One word: discipline.

What is discipline? calls it “controlled behavior.” I say it is the act of making conscious goal-directed choices, because it is the choices we make that largely determine the results we get. Of course, there are a variety of events outside of our control that can affect our results. But what you do with your time and your energy is your choice and will move you closer to (or keep you from) your life goals.

Most people, when they hear the word discipline, think of it as a negative (and there are plenty of synonyms and definitions that deal with discipline as punishment). Perhaps it is the memory of how one was disciplined as a child or as a student. It might be the short-term sacrifice involved with discipline that evokes a negative image. Or perhaps, it is because people think of discipline as something external, something that happens to them, not something that emanates from them.

And that is the real power of discipline: discipline is not about someone else exerting control over you; it is about you exerting control over yourself, specifically through the choices you make. It is your ability to make choices as a conscious, thoughtful, and powerful act of will that develops the habit of discipline.

“I make choices all the time,” you say, “and still haven’t achieved my goal.”

That is because you may need to understand and embrace another aspect of discipline.

If the first aspect of being disciplined is choice, the second—and just as vital aspect—is deferred gratification.

What is deferred gratification? It is simply that: deferring (postponing) gratification. It is choosing to act in a way that trades immediate gratification for future gratification. When you make a choice in the moment to act in a way that involves sacrificing an immediate reward for a greater future reward (say, the achievement of your goal), you are “being disciplined.”

Notice the word sacrifice was used. While discipline can involve sacrifice, it does not have to. We are talking about deferring things, not sacrificing them. You need not give up everything to achieve anything. However, you may need to give up some things if you are not satisfied with the results they are bringing you. And in those areas, you still maintain the ability to choose.

How does this apply to the balanced-life goal areas?

Discipline, that is choice and deferred gratification, come into play in real-life in the habits we’ve built over many weeks, months, and years. Breaking old habits can be difficult. But creating new habits is relatively easy. Once you write down your goals (see the Response-Able article The FIRST PILLAR: FOCUS!), you can examine how old habits get in the way of you achieving your goals (put another way, you can identify which “gratifying” activities you want to defer) and you can identify and choose what new habits will help move you closer to achieving your goal.

Being more conscious and directed about your habits (unconscious decisions) enables you to make better choices about how and where to spend your time.

Here are some examples of creating new habits through making disciplined choices versus the old habitual ways of acting:


Area “Disciplined” Choice“Auto-Pilot” Choice / Deferred Gratification
SpiritualGo to a weekend serviceGo out for breakfast
MentalLearn something newRead a best-selling fiction novel
EmotionalRead a self-development articleRead this week’s “pop culture” magazine
PhysicalTake a 30-minute walkWatch a 30-minute TV show
SocialEat dinner with a friendEat dinner alone
ProfessionalMeet someone new at a work eventHang out with colleagues at a work event

Can you see how each Disciplined Choice involves deferring gratification? They also involve being thoughtful and conscious rather than acting out of your old habits. After all, if you’re not achieving what you want using your old habits, maybe it’s time to develop some new habits. You can also use the auto-pilot choice as the immediate reward for making the disciplined choice.

What’s next?

Take out something to write on and create your own Disciplined Choice Table (or use the one offered below). Use the goals you set from The FIRST PILLAR – FOCUS. For each goal, create a disciplined choice that will help you build a new habit. You can still use the old habit (auto-pilot) as the reward for doing the new habit.

Goal Area“Disciplined” Choice “Auto-Pilot” Choice / Deferred Gratification


New Habit:


Old Habit:




New Habit:


Old Habit:




New Habit:


Old Habit:




New Habit:


Old Habit:




New Habit:


Old Habit:




New Habit:


Old Habit:


If you’d like help becoming more disciplined and achieving your goals, call 516.216.4233 or send an e-mail to

© Copyright 2006 Response-Able Consulting Inc. All rights reserved.

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