Discipline: A Key to Success in Learning and Life

I have always been fascinated with people who are experts in their fields. What makes them so successful?

One thing that seems clear (to me, at least), is that people who succeed are disciplined. They may not be disciplined in every area of their lives, but they at least apply discipline to their field.

Ron at the Wisdom Journal wrote recently in The Myth of Self Discipline about discipline. He asserts that discipline is a tool rather than a character trait. I’m still thinking about the implications of thinking this way, but the idea appeals to me. Thinking about discipline this way makes it more achievable. Of course, it puts the burden back on me, but that’s ok. I would rather be responsible for something, because at least then I can control it.

Since I am working from home, self discipline is becoming increasingly important to me. I have trained myself to perform to deadlines. When an obligation looms, I can get things accomplished. But when faced with a vague “ought-to” and no time schedule, I procrastinate. After reading Ron’s article, I decided that some research on the benefits of self-discipline might be good for me.

Here’s what I found:

Washington Post Article: Self-Discipline may Beat Smarts as Key to Success

This article references a University of Pennsylvania study which suggests that self-discipline is a very important factor in students’ academic success. I have long thought this; the problem is figuring out how to motivate students and help them practice self-discipline. Self-discipline may be a skill, but it’s a difficult skill to teach.

Steve Pavlina’s Series on Self-Discipline

Steve shares what he believes to be the five pillars of discipline: Acceptance, Willpower, Hard Work, Industry, and Persistence. After an introductory post, he has a post for each of the five pillars. The posts are inspiring, but after reading the series, I felt like I had read about 6 different topics (self-discipline and the five pillars). He also argues that self-discipline can be developed through hard work.

Study Hacks post on research re: self discipline

I like this post because it links to research about self discipline (I love research!). Much of the post is devoted to exploring the idea that motivation has a lot to do with willpower and self discipline.


Self-discipline is definitely helpful for getting things done. And getting things done is usually necessary for success.

However, self-discipline is no fun without motivation behind it. I’m working on being more self disciplined, but I don’t want to become a productivity robot. So now I’m interested in studying motivation, particularly as it interacts with discipline.

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