The Role of Discipline and Determination in Your Success

The question has been asked since the dawn of time: what makes some people more successful than others? Intriguing two key ingredients appear common in almost any recipe for success: a) discipline, and b) determination.

Discipline is the ability to control attention, emotion, and actions in the presence of distractions.

Determination is the relentless pursuit of a major goal regardless of setbacks and failures.

Discipline and determination are strongly related, but not synonymous. Some people, for example, have high levels of self-control and masterfully handle temptations but they do not pursue a dominant goal with passion or perseverance. Others are doggedly determined but easily succumb to distractions that deflect attention and energy from their goal. While discipline and determination are related, they are independent attributes.

How do we become disciplined?

What is it that blocks us from achieving what we want? Discipline begins with understanding our weaknesses. Once you know your weaknesses you can address them by strengthening them, eliminating them, or finding effective ways to work around them. Here are a few elements I recommend:

  1. Define What Matters. Define your priorities and goals and then committing to undertake tasks related only to those priorities is the direct route to attaining your goals.
  2. Have Laser Focus. Committing to making no effort in areas outside your priorities is a form of discipline that speeds along the attainment of success.
  3. Establish daily routines. Minimize time and energy devoted to necessary, but routine and mundane tasks will leave you with more time and energy for work on your priorities.
  4. Take care of yourself. Discipline requires energy. Getting needed rest, exercising regularly and proper nutrition make discipline easier to wear. You will not only find it easier to stay focused, have more energy, but your tasks will seem less strenuous and more enjoyable.
  5. Celebrating Success. Find some way, big or small, to celebrate the success and achievements gained from your disciplined approach. You’ve earned it and deserve it.

While discipline provides the needed focus to achieve success, determination, in contrast, entails having and passionately working toward a major goal through thick and thin.

Failure is Success

What does determination look like?

  1. Being Fueled by Failure. Determined people are fueled by failures, not discouraged by them. When faced with failure, determined people commit to finding out what they did wrong, and then taking corrective action.  Those without determination simply quit thinking “I can’t do this.”
  2. Focusing only on what you can control. Determination pays deep dividends when you focus on factors under your control, particularly factors that when changed increase your chances of success. Focusing on factors beyond your control is a waste of time and energy. A day only has 24 hours, and always will have 24 hours no matter how much you wish for another hour or two.  You can’t change it, so focus on making the most of the 24 you have and can control.
  3. Taking Strategic Actions. Being determined means you only attend to the actions that lead to success. Success is gained with strategic actions, not excuses or good intentions.  Be determined to do the best you can do, not what others can do. Be determined to achieve success as you define it, not as others define it for you.
  4. Counting Your blessings. This comes from my Mom who more than once told me: “In the difficult times, count your blessings.” That piece of advice has helped me discover the light in the darkest of places, and in turn, made me more determined to succeed.  I hope it works for you too.

Discipline and determination working in tandem provide a potent, progressive path to success. They require no magical powers, inherent qualities, or educational degree.  They do take self-awareness, passion to accomplish something meaningful, and a desire to one day look back and feel pride in what you have achieved.  You can start today.


Dr. Paul SchemppOur guest blogger is Professor Dr. Paul Schempp, a professional speaker managed by The Persimmon Group Speakers Agency. Dr. Schempp directs a research laboratory at the University of Georgia where he has spent more than two decades studying the characteristics and development of expertise and human performance. Paul has dedicated his professional life to helping people reach their full potential through award-winning research, testing what it takes to achieve greatness.

He is the author of six books including the award-winning, 5 Steps to Expert: How to Go from Business Novice to Elite Performer

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