Discipline vs. Habit

On the surface, I'm an extremely disciplined person. I wake up every morning at 4:00 AM. I workout 7 days a week, 365 days a year. I prepare all of my meals ahead of time.

The truth is, I'm not.

I'm not any more disciplined than any other person reading this blog.

My actions aren't driven by some inexplicable, other-worldly level of self-discipline. They're driven by habit.

For the longest time, I believed that all successful people shared the common trait of extremely powerful discipline. The ability to push themselves to do the right things 100% of the time, even when temptation was greatest. However, after reading a specific passage from The One Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan, I now understand that what they really share is extremely powerful habits.

Don't get me wrong, it does take a certain level of discipline to establish habits. I didn't just rollover one day and decide to wake up at 4:00 AM every morning. But that discipline is targeted and direct. It's used specifically to form the habit.

For a certain period of time, I dreaded the sound of my alarm. I hit the snooze repeatedly, until I could no longer fall asleep between the beeps. I sluggishly walked to the bathroom to brush my teeth and splash cold water on my face, hoping it would snap me out of my trance. I hated it, and it was hard. But I pushed through that phase.

Now, it's automatic. I jump out of bed at the sound of the first alarm without thinking twice. There's no doubt about it- my day starts at 4:00 AM. And guess what? It takes zero self-discipline.

It just is.

Is it a struggle for you to shower everyday? Do you have to muster up the courage to brush your teeth? I hope not, but once upon a time those things were hard. Most likely, around the time you were my daughters age (brushing teeth is a nightly war).

So instead of thinking of working out or eating healthy as a constant battle with yourself, think of it as a short burst of concentrated discipline. A sprint. A means to an end. The struggle doesn't last forever, only long enough to fully establish the habit. Once that happens, it's smooth sailing.

You'll hear different people say different things about how long it takes to form a habit. Some suggest 21 days, others much longer, and others even shorter. Modern science theorizes that the "sweet spot" is right around 66 days.

Graphic from  The One Thing.

Graphic from The One Thing.

It takes 66 days to form a habit.

Two months.

That may seem like a long time, but in the grand scheme of things it's really not. If you can be focused and disciplined for just two months, habit will take it from there.

So to my clients (and anyone who has ever considered working with me), ever wonder why there's no one month program option?


In my training, the shortest program duration is two months. I believe that if you can stick to my plan for that period of time, you have the ability to form a strong habit that will stay with you long after we work together. My goal is not to get you to drop a quick 10 pounds only to gain it all back a few weeks later. My goal is to teach you what it takes to be healthy and perform at a high level long-term.

I'm not saying that you can practice anything for just two months and then put it on cruise control, but after that time less discipline will be required to maintain that behavior.

I still struggle mightily with certain activities that I've been trying to establish for months. Meditation, writing, and even reading are really tough for me. They require more discipline for me than working out and prepping meals. But I know that if I make those things part of my daily routine for long enough, eventually they'll become automatic.

Stop thinking of success in any field as a constant internal battle. Instead, think of it as a short, all-out burst of discipline followed by a long-term routine.

At first, focus on just one thing- a keystone habit. I explained how powerful a keystone habit can be in a previous blog post. From there, you may notice that other habits will begin to form on their own.

66 days.

Two months.

That's all it takes.