#036: How to Develop More Discipline [Podcast]

Discipline is a particularly relevant topic this time of year, since most of us are struggling to maintain our New Year’s resolutions. In this podcast, I share five specific steps to developing more of it.


Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/fotosipsak

If you’re like me, your resolve has already been tested, and you might even be thinking about giving up. Well don’t throw in the towel just yet! I have some practical advice in this episode I think you will find very helpful.

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If you’re like me, you struggle with discipline. You have great intentions, but just as you get a little momentum, something derails you. My friend Andy Andrews asks this question, “Can you make yourself do something you don’t want to do in order to get a result you really want?”

Over the years, I have found that I can become disciplined in any area of my life by taking five specific steps. Whether it is trying to get in shape, maintain a blog, or develop a great marriage, the psychology is the same.

  1. Determine your goal.

    Your goals need to be S.M.A.R.T. This is an acronym that provides a checklist for making sure that what you have is indeed a goal and not merely an aspiration. It stands for:

    • Specific
    • Measurable
    • Actionable
    • Realistic
    • Time-bound
  2. List your reasons
  3. Identify likely obstacles.
  4. Develop new behaviors.
  5. Stay focused.

Listener Questions

  1. Rebecca Livemore asked, “How do you differentiate between a lack of discipline and a legitimate need for rest?”
  2. Brad Blackman asked, “Would you recommend adding only one discipline at a time or is it okay to try and add multiple disciplines?”
  3. Aslam Najeebdeen asked, “I find I often abandon my new habits after four or five days. What are some tips for keeping the new habit going?”
  4. Derek Duncan asked, “As a Christian, how do we allow for grace in the practice of discipline?”
  5.  Julie Welles asked “I’m struggling with my blog. How do you discipline yourself to write so prolifically?”
  6.  Tessa Hartiman asked, “How important is developing discipline for novice writers?”
  7.  Paul Lundberg asked, “I love scheduling and planning. I’m pretty good at planning. But I am not good at all when it comes to executing the day or week I’ve planned. How can I stay more focused on what I have planned to do?”
  8. Todd Liles asked, “How do you discipline yourself when you are absolutely dog-tired?”
  9. Victor Manzanilla asked, “What is a ‘keystone habit’ (a la The Power of Habit) for your spiritual life?”

Special Announcements

  1.  We still have a few tickets left for the Platform Conference, which will be held here in Nashville on February 11–13, 2013—just about a month away.
  2. My next podcast will be on the topic of “8 Leadership Lessons from Martin Luther King, Jr.” These are some principles I gleaned from watching again his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, which he gave back on August 28, 1963.

    If you have a question on anything related to leadership—especially casting vision—please leave me a voicemail message. This is a terrific way to cross-promote YOUR blog or website, because I will link to it, just like I did with the callers in this episode.

Episode Resources

In this episode I mentioned several resources, including:

Show Transcript

You can download a complete, word-for-word transcript of this episode here, courtesy of Ginger Schell, a professional transcriptionist, who handles all my transcription needs.

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Also, if you enjoyed the show, please rate it on iTunes and write a brief review. That would help tremendously in getting the word out! Thanks.

Question: Where do you need more discipline? What do you need to do next to cultivate it? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are snarky, offensive, or off-topic. If in doubt, read My Comments Policy.

  • http://blog.cyberquill.com/ Cyberquill

    My favorite definition: 
    Discipline is choosing what you want most over what you want now.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Love that. Excellent.

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

       Great quote!

    • Jim Martin

      This is a very, very good quote!  Glad you shared this.

    • http://www.jackiebledsoe.com/ jbledsoejr

      Mine too!

  • CLugeneWarner

    Seriously…I wanted to listen but you spent too much time hawking your latest and greatest.  So much for discipline.

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  • http://www.danerickson.net/ Dan Erickson

    I had self-discipline drilled into me as a child in a cult.  I do pretty well today.  I have a few areas I could work on: 1. More intentional devotional time; 2. Writing goals and plans; 3. Knowing when to take a break.

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

       Great point. Taking intentional breaks is part of the disciplined life, too.

    • http://mohamedaslam.com Aslam

      You might want to checkout Robin Sharma’s “Holy Hour” concept.

      • http://www.danerickson.net/ Dan Erickson

        Thanks, Asalm.  I’ll look into that.  I think we all need a “”Holy Hour.”

  • http://kimanziconstable.com/ kimanzi constable

    This was a great episode and I especially liked the questions, they were really good. I have BIG goals this year so I need to be intentional and disciplined to get them accomplished. I started something last year and I need to keep that flame alive, being discipline will help. 

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

       I thought the same, Kimanzi. The questions were excellent.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Especially since you have such great momentum, Kimanzi. I’m proud of you!

  • Ryder

    Michael, if you haven’t tried the app “Lift” when it comes to developing discipline, you need to! 

    • http://www.jondale.com/ Jon Dale

      Hey Ryder, I was going to leave a similar comment.  I’ve been using Lift App for a while and love it.  I’m even flossing now after 36 years :).

      • Jim Martin

        So glad you mentioned this.  I was not familiar with Lift.  Just downloaded it.  Looks very interesting.

      • http://twitter.com/lettner Michael Lettner

        My pastor, Craig Groeschel was just talking about in his sermon this past weekend’s sermon that flossing is his keystone habit. http://www.lifechurch.tv/watch/my-story/1

      • http://www.clayproductions.com/aaron/ Aaron Johnson

         Definitely checking that out.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Great. I will have a look.

    • http://mohamedaslam.com Aslam

      Thanks for the recommendation. I was searching something like this for a long time.

  • http://www.tessahardiman.com/ Tessa

    Wow, thanks for using my question Michael…can’t wait to listen and hear your response.

  • Peggy Barnes

    A great Podcast….thank you for your honesty!  

  • Csroda

    Michael, I love your stuff and enjoy learning from you.  On the one, I always thought the S in SMART was Specific? 

  • http://brettcohrs.com Brett

    The Power of Habit is in my person top 5 of books I read in 2012. I read it in tandem with The Talent Code. Both together have almost caused me to visualize my brain patterns shifted every time I practice a habit.

  • http://www.toddliles.com/ Todd Liles

    Thanks for powering through on this podcast.  I personally appreciate, and can tell it took energy.  Also, thank you for answering my question.  I do need to do some calendar triage.  I have decided to “say No” to social media after 6 pm to gain some of my rest time back!  I’ll let you know how it goes. So far, better after the first 2 days.

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      That’s a great idea, Todd. I’ve had to do the same. Any “work” I do after 6 pm is longhand, offline and away from the screen, and creative in nature.

      • http://www.toddliles.com/ Todd Liles

        Neat to share that in common.

        ——– Original message ——–

    • Jonathan Harrison


      you asked an important question – discipline & self-control can feel like exhaustable resources, and are most difficult to use when facing any (or all) of the H.A.L.T. conditions (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired). Best wishes on your social media commitment! 

      • http://www.toddliles.com/ Todd Liles


        Thanks for the input.   I live the HALT acronym.   I will “borrow” that from you. :-)
        ——– Original message ——–

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Todd. It did. I’m still struggling with bronchitis, so I had to record this in short pieces. Glad you liked it.

      • http://www.toddliles.com/ Todd Liles

        I did. And I appreciate your dedication to us! Thank you!

  • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

    Great podcast, Michael. Appreciated your comment about developing rhythm (surge followed by rest). I’m working at greater discipline in my daily schedule. I often let the immediate sabotage the important. It’s easy to be distracted by all the little things that need to be done. Before I know it, the day is gone and I haven’t worked on the projects that truly fulfill me. My new schedule sets aside the morning (9 am to noon) to work on those projects ONLY. Then, after lunch, I’ll tackle blogs, email, social media, quick tasks, etc. 

    • http://www.clayproductions.com/aaron/ Aaron Johnson

       Michele, those are the 2 same things I’ve decided to tackle this month: 1) eliminating those little distractions that blur my focus, and 2) working those 90 minute surge/rest patterns into my work day. I like how you’ve divided your day up into 2 parts – it’s got me thinking.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Good for you, Michele. That sounds like a great rhythm.

  • http://twitter.com/rshealey Rick Healey

    I like that you included identifying likely obstacles. I’m behind on creating new year’s goals so as I work on them I’m definitely going to look ahead so I’m ready for the challenges. 

    One other thing that I find helpful is having intermediate steps that I can monitor for small wins. For me these are usually process oriented not goal oriented.  For instance if my goal was to lose 10 lbs I may track that I drink a glass of water before every meal. 

    • Jim Martin

      Rick, I found that helpful as well.  When Michael identified some of these obstacles, I thought of one in my own life that I have allowed to keep me from progressing in a particular area of my work.  Helpful.

  • http://letterstoachristiangirl.wordpress.com/ Derek Duncan

    Great, inspiring podcast, Michael! Thank you so much for selecting my question, I am honored!  You gave a great response, and you inspired me to immediately start making some real goals.

  • Jim Martin

    Michael, I really enjoyed this podcast.  Perfect time of the year in which to do this.  Your recent posts as well as this podcast has really helped me in beginning 2013.

  • http://artisticlifestudios.com/ larry capra aka zenabowli

    Michael… this my first time commenting on your blog.  I’ve read your book “Platform” and found it to be an affirmation of many of my own instincts, concerning blogging and the use of social media, when launching businesses.  As well as, your book containing a wealth of references, resources, and detailed instructions.

    I follow you and a handful of other successful bloggers, as strategic models.  My goal is to develop a definitive online resource, specifically designed for artists, who are attempting to become creatively and economically independent in a global market place.   Of course… myself included.  This effort is still moving through an evolutionary process. 

    I took two key principals from your posting on discipline.  First: focus on the goal that lies beyond doing something that we dread.  Sometimes, I see dread like a big wall that stands in the way of implementing other creative ideas.   But, through persistence, we can find a crack, that will eventually erode into an opening in the wall, leading to opportunity.  Second:  the success that comes from “shifting our identity.”  “I am”— compels  us to work hard, in order to fulfill the expectations of  that new identity.


    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for taking time to comment, Larry. These are great take-aways.

  • David Lindner

    I also like the idea Jon Acuff shares in his book, Quitters. The idea that you make a decision for the whole month or the whole year and then you just live it out. Stop wasting time trying to decide if you’re going to do something. 

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I totally agree with that decision.

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  • http://theaddictionblog.com/ Noah Coley

    As an Addictions Counselor, I spend much of my time helping my clients come up with SMART goals and objectives.  However, I struggle at times to come up with a “realistic” goal.  My new online ventures is particularly troublesome for me.  I’ve decided that if I had 1000 Unique Visitors reach my site in 2013 that might be realistic.  Does anybody have any insight as to if this either under or over shooting?  As a reference I have had 165 UV’s since Jan 1.  I don’t know if this is a release surge or should I expect to see high numbers.  I just want an optimistic goal to strive for.  Thanks

  • http://www.mattmcwilliams.com/ Matt McWilliams

    As always I love this Michael.

    Thank you.

    The irony of ironies is that I listened to the beginning while eating an apple fritter. Well, can’t win them all can you?

  • http://twitter.com/CrainTroy Troy Crain


  • http://twitter.com/CrainTroy Troy Crain

    Thanks Michael,

    The place where I struggle is laying in bed too long.  I know when I get up each morning it’s going to be a long day and I try to postpone it as long as possible.

    Thanks for all the valuable information.  I’ve been listening for a while as well as reading your blog.

  • http://www.clayproductions.com/aaron/ Aaron Johnson

    I really enjoyed Victor’s comment about the concept of a keystone habit, a habits that ripple out into other areas of life and disciplines. I’d love to hear from other commentors what other keystone habits they have in place.

  • Jdut

    Timely info. I started using LoseIt this week (on my Kindle, so yes, it is on androids as well). Great app.

    In addition to SMART goals, I’d add the late, great Zig Ziglar’s criteria for goal setting. Ask yourself these questions:

    1) Is this goal MY goal? (as Dave Ramsey says, I don’t want to go to a dentist if that was his parent’s dream, not his).

    2) Is this goal right? (morally & legally)

    3) Is this goal consistent with my other goals?

    May you meet all your goals in 2013.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Excellent comment. I like Zig’s additional criteria.

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  • Jcho

    How do you develop discipline when there are kids in the picture? My wife and I are raising two kids, 4 and 1 year old. Needless to day, they need a lot of attention and schedules are always in flux as you experienced when your kids were that age. I have a full time job and my wife is staying at home. But at the end of the day, we are exhausted. For starters, I would like to get back into a exercise regimine. How did you survive this stage of life and continue to grow in terms of discipline? Thanks in advance for your advice.

    • Jonathan Harrison

      Jcho – I can relate to this! We only have a 2 year old, but my challenge was the same. This is Your Life Podcast, episode #28 about morning ritual has been a life saver for me!

      My wife and I are now going to bed before 10pm, and I am waking up at 5:30am with a full night’s rest, fitting in quiet time everyday, exercise 3 times a week, book reading, and breakfast all before the little one is up – and I work a 8a-5:30pm full time job.

      Hard at first,(I think my wife’s actual words when the alarm went off were “What is WRONG with you?”)  but I have more energy than ever before – I cannot recommend it enough.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Start with the exercise. Be creative. You might have to watch the kids while your spouse exercises. Then she could do the same for you. This will give you more energy. Trust me, it’s worth it.

  • http://www.biketoworkblog.com/ Bike To Work Blog

    My experience  with SMART goal setting over the last year or two makes me wonder if there isn’t another piece — faith. I can write a specific, measurable, actionable goal and develop a plan show that it is reasonable and laying out a timeline; but if, deep down, I lack the faith in myself that I can do it (faith as a principle of action), or I lack the faith that God can provide the strength I need to succeed (faith as a principle of power) no amount of writing, planning, or even desire will make me successful.

    By the way, when I did my 2012 goals, I understood SMART to be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant (to your priorities), Time-bound. Any thoughts on relevance?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I agree. Everything in life, including goal-setting, should be approached in faith.
      With regard to relevance, I am assuming that is the case; otherwise, you wouldn’t be setting the goal. But, I have heard several variations on the SMART acronym. I would use whatever works best for you.

  • Debra Carr

    Thank you for the wonderful podcast.  The timing is perfect for fine tuning the new vision I’ve created for my business and the books I’m writing.   

  • Jory
  • Jcho

    Hi Michael, How do my wife and I work on our discipline with kids in the mix? I have a 4 and 1 year old. I’d like to be more on time to appointments, get back into an exercise regimen, etc. But as you know, with kids, schedules are always in flux. Also, by the end of the day we are both exhausted. How did you deal with that when your kids were that age? Thanks in advance for your advice. -Jeremy

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  • Mickey Mixon

    Thanks Michael, by the way … what encoder do you use to place the audio onto your blog?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I use a WordPress plugin called Blubrry PowerPress.

  • http://www.bendempsey.net/ Ben Dempsey

    I need more discipline in staying on track and stop making excuses because of fear of failing. I loved the podcast. It has been my goal to write a book about my weight loss journey and to help others with the battle against obesity. I have to stop waiting and start doing. This morning I am laying out a game plan and I will succeed. The time is now. 

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Awesome, Ben. Good for you!

  • Isaac Whiting

    Michael, do the people you love or work with ever get annoyed by your discipline?  How do you help someone who struggles with this a lot.  Sometimes I think I might even have too much discipline.  This isn’t because I couldn’t use more myself, but because sometimes I think it makes people around me feel like they can’t live up to the same standard and so give up entirely. 

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Yes, I think so. I can think of one friend who is very competitive with me. (I don’t know why. I think it comes from his past.) I do my best not to talk about my disciplines but rather focus on the fruit of those disciplines.

  • Jesse

    Thanks for the great episode, Michael. I too am a runner but have slacked off during the holidays. You have given me motivation to get back into a disciplined running routine starting tomorrow morning. Hope you feel better soon.

  • http://mohamedaslam.com Aslam

    Thanks for answering my question, Michael. :-)

    God bless you!

  • http://christopherbattles.net/ Christopher Battles

    I liked that acronym and how you answered grace to discipline. 
    Thank you Michael.

  • http://marismith.com Mari Smith

    @mhyatt:disqus  – I believe we’ve been connected in the virtual world for some time. But it wasn’t until I had lunch with my friend, Mike Stelzner, last Friday and he raved about your podcast – particularly episode #003: The Relationship Between Vision and Productivity – that I dug deeper into your body of work. I have to say, I’m completely blown away. (Kicking myself for not subscribing sooner, LOL!) I’ve listened to both episode #003 as well as #036 several times through now, and I just love your focus on tying the vision and goals to the WHY. Makes total sense! I’m recommending to all my coaching club members that they subscribe to your blog and podcast now, too. 
    Thank you for all you do. I’m excited to continue learning from you.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I can’t believe I didn’t know about you, either Mari. Where have I been? I have now followed you on Twitter and subscribed to your blog. I am looking forward to learning from you. I hope our paths cross soon!

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  • Paul Lundberg

    Thanks for answering my question, Michael. You really helped me rethink the way I use my calendar and my daily task list. Things are working much better now!

  • Steven Mena

    Thank you so much for your podcast.  It was very helpful to me and I had my 11 year old son listen as well so that we could interact about it.  Great stuff.

    One Question: You mentioned that we can only handle 5-7 goals well.  As I work through the Creating a Personal Life plan there are 8 categories that you list.  Each of these are going to have specific commitments to work through.  Obviously this will add up to several goals or commitments under each category and will surpass the 5-7.  I am just unsure what exactly is meant by the 5-7.  It seems that I will have many more.  Some smaller, some larger.  Can you help me understand this a bit better?

    Many blessings to you!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Steven. Great question. 5–7 is just a rule of thumb. Also, goals are very different from commitments in the life plan. I hope to write on this distinction in the weeks to come.

      • Steven Mena

         Thanks for your reply.  I thought I might be missing something.  Look forward to hearing more on the distinctions.

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  • Robert Andrews

    What I like most about this article is that there is an systematic way of achieving the goals and creating discipline. I like that your system is concrete and easy to implement. Thanks for the article.

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  • rob

    Michael, the question that Paul Lundberg asked is one I’ve struggled with. Lately, I’ve set my iphone timer to go off every 15 minutes. Since I do tend to get distracted, each 15 minute alarm allows me to give myself permission for losing focus–where I gain much of my creativity–without gaining the guilt of losing focus. And each 15 minutes I return to the task list I want to accomplish for the day, with rejuvenated focus in the restarting to restart to start of it all. While this makes my co workers a bit frustrated, we’ve turned it into a game. Each person gets to pick the alarm I use when I’m around them. They even ask, “are you on task?” as the alarm goes off. 

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      This sounds like a great tool. Thanks.

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  • http://fartilfem.com/ Marcelino Gauguin

    This was the most amazing of your podcasts. I will be hearing it again a couple of times. Thanks for the great inspiration, Michael! 

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  • http://www.getexbackways.com/ get your ex back

     Hello very good article thanks for this i added my bookmarks. Good days.

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  • http://www.mindinventory.com/iphone_development.php iPhone Development

    Develop discipline podcast seven tips.
    1) Don’t wait to ‘feel like it’
    2) Finish what you start
    3) Dump the excuses
    4) Sorry, it’s non-negotiable
    5) The pull of the external deadline
    6) Ignore the naysayers
    7) Don’t get hijacked by trivia