Fit for business: Is discipline the driver of habit? 

It takes discipline to reach the top (photo: Pixabay)
May 23rd, 2020 4:58 pm| by Ed Ley
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Is discipline the driver of habit? I bought into the idea that it was for a very long time.  

In my capacity as a health and fitness professional back in 2004, I could see the objective truth of this. I was able to eat well and consistently exercise every day and they, the clients, were not. 

I was disciplined. I simply didn’t let it not happen – I let nothing get in my way.

Honesty is key
I then started spending a lot of time with lawyers, accountants, CEOs, doctors, and even a judge, as they were the typical clientele of the studio I worked at. 

Over time it began to dawn on me. If I had discipline as my reason for consistency, then they by default must have had a lack of disciplined consistency to blame for their inconsistent eating and exercising. This was not an argument, I began to realise, which would stand up well in court.

All that I needed to get to this point was honesty. Was I killing it in every area of my life? No. Did I know what to do? Yes. Did I lack discipline? No.

I was exactly the same as them – just in a different area. This isn’t to say that discipline isn’t a great tool to have in the kit. It’s not  – it’s brilliant in fact.  But the first step in exploring inconsistency isn’t applying discipline to what’s present. That’s already been tried, most likely many times, and it hasn’t worked.

Doubt before discipline
The first step is a diagnosis: gathering all of the evidence from your life and history to reveal the perfect recipe for your inconsistency.  Output is cause and effect after all, so inconsistency is simply the output of the current approach. 

What you’re left with is doubt that the current formula will ever create the desired result  – even with additional discipline.  Without doubt the approach never changes. If you think the hammer is the right tool for cleaning the windows, you’ll simply continue to apply it and apply it more when you don’t get the result you wanted. 

When doubt arrives you’re free to take a new approach – perhaps a more fun one, a simpler one, a less time-consuming one. Then, if it’s effective, you can apply the discipline to that.  

If you are lacking results in any area of your life, stop and consider if your approach will ever get you the desired result.  This realisation is the first step towards transformation. 

Ed Ley


CEOs and Olympic medal-winning athletes come to Ed (edley.net) for help to optimise their physical and mental performance. Using neuroscience and body work techniques, his methods improve their energy, health, fulfilment and well-being. And as the co-host of the Global Denmark podcast, he has his finger on issues pertinent to expats in Denmark.