Discipline vs Regret

Discipline vs Regret

“Everyone must choose one of two pains: the pain of discipline and the pain of regret.” -Jim Rohn

I see this quote used a lot in fitness circles – specifically where a person wants to achieve specific weight or health goals but might find it harder to stay on track as time goes on. Training and pushing ourselves in most capacities is often painful.

The question is: am I willing to endure the temporary pain of discipline or instead the more lasting pain of regret?

Which do you choose: the temporary pain of discipline or the more lasting pain of regret? Click To Tweet

Like you, I’ve experienced both ends of the spectrum. I’ve had to make myself do tasks that weren’t necessarily enjoyable (or at least at the time) and fortunately received the desired results. But I’ve also felt the heartache of passing up on important opportunities and realizing too late that I had blown it.

The sensation of pain in either situation is similar, but not the same.

With pain from discipline, there’s at least a light at the end of the tunnel that what you’re enduring now will pass and when you come out of it, there will be something you’ve done that you can be proud of. With regret, you are left with the pain that your actions could’ve changed the outcome of the situation but there’s nothing you can do about it now.

A Change of Thought

So how can we get on the path of discipline rather than regret? Before we get into it, let’s do a quick energy check. How are you feeling about this topic?

Self-check Scale

If you landed somewhere towards the left side of the scale, this next part is specifically for you.

While talking about being more disciplined might not be the sexiest topic out there, it is absolutely essential to the health of your creative business. Even your creativity will benefit!

Discipline is what kicks in and keeps you going when things get rough or it’s hard to see past what you’re going through. Discipline is what keeps you focused and on track. Discipline is what keeps you consistent when you aren’t yet seeing the desired results.

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I, too, used to hear the word discipline and cringe just a little bit every time. This is partly because I knew that I didn’t have much of it (and to truly be a successful businessperson you have to have it) but it was partly because my mindset about discipline and routine was slightly jaded.

I didn’t want to feel boxed in. I didn’t want to be limited in what I could or couldn’t do. I didn’t want to have to abide by any rules that someone else set for me. Freedom is part of the reason I went into business!

But what I failed to realize then was how much time I was wasting by being constantly busy but never really getting anything accomplished. I was a master planner and could run circles around you with my to-do lists, but I lacked the discipline I needed to execute those beautiful plans. It’s been such a freeing experience to have systems in place that keep me focused and help me track my level of productivity.

The Art of Routine

Have you ever heard of automating things in your business to have more time to do the really important things? Discipline is very much like that. Getting your routine down enables you to flow automatically in your everyday life which clears up more mental space for creation.

What are areas that you can “automate?”

  • Weekly meal prep

Try making time every weekend to do your grocery shopping for the week and pre-cook all (or most) of your meals. That’s right, my friends, breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks prepped for the entire week and ready to be packed.

  • Picking out your clothes for the week (or the very least the night before)

I’m not the best at getting my clothes ready for the entire week (hey, food prep takes a while!), but I’m great at making sure my outfit for the next day is clean, ready-to-wear, and even in a place where I don’t have to hunt to find it.

  • Rotating chores list

If you’re living with other people (family, friends, roommates, etc) splitting chores is a great way to “automate” responsibilities and free up time. If you live alone, don’t fret! Assigning certain days to certain chores or “batch” cleaning (all the floors and walls get thoroughly cleaned once a month; laundry and bathroom day are Thursdays) also works well.

It’s funny how adding structure and routine to something is a freeing agent. I never realized this until I started participating in National Novel Writing Month.

You can read more about my experience with NaNoWriMo here – one of the takeaways I’ve developed over my years of participation is that consistency and discipline are the keys to success. Writing 50,000 words in 30 days seem impossible – but when you break this task down to 1,667 words per day, it’s a bit more manageable, yes? Throughout the years, because of my commitment to writing words towards my novel every single day in the month of November, I have drafted several workable novels when completing this task on my own might have taken a little longer.

Why is this?

Because creativity is a messy force of nature. Oftentimes, we are struck with the mighty hand of creativity and the only thing we are concerned about is expressing said creativity. Without something to reign it in, nothing else might ever get done! Or we might not work for weeks at a time because “creativity hasn’t hit us.” Either way, these are extreme opposites and there has to be a balance in order to get things done consistently.

Developing your own plan of attack

If you know anything about me, you know I’m a huge proponent for creating usable systems for your life and business. Systems take the thought work out of tasks done on a regular basis and gets you (and your team, your family, and those in your sphere of influence) in a schedule of consistency. Systems take the place of busyness or boredom or lack of motivation. With effective systems in place doing anything at any given time is a no-brainer.

So how can you create and implement your own structured plan of attack against regret/systems?

  1. Do your research

You can guess that there are just as many systems in the world for any given topic as there are people and you’d be wrong – there are probably more systems out there! This isn’t said to intimidate you in your research, but to encourage you that there isn’t necessarily one way to do something. You have options and you can adapt something that’s already created to fit your specific needs and desires.

Now, to play devil’s advocate, you don’t want to get lost down the rabbit hole of learning. Try to enter this research phase with an open mind, but be aware of your sources and see if there’s a way to gauge if their systems are working for them or not. For instance, does someone boast a growing social media following but hasn’t posted anything in 3 months? There may be a gap in their story if this is the case.

Give yourself a time limit on how much information you will gather so that you are not constantly in learning mode and will have a way to cut yourself off and implement your information.

  1. Assess your own needs

Now that you’ve got some sample systems, it’s time to rip them apart and pillage the most useful information to be applied to your custom systems. Start by thinking about your needs – why do you need a system in the first place? The down and dirty answer is when you conduct the same task more than once on a consistent basis. But dig a little deeper and figure out the need-basis behind creating your system. We’ll get a little more into this when we talk about your limitations.

You’ll also need to explore what you’d like the end result to be in your system. Would you like to free up more time with your family while still operating your business? Would you like to launch a product while you’re in school full-time? Would you like to write a book while working two jobs and raising a family?

  1. Assess your personal and outside limitations

Knowing what is limiting you and what your personal limitations are is imperative in creating systems that keep you disciplined. Outside limits could include time constraints imposed by your work or school or the other responsibilities you’ve committed yourself to. Personal limits could mean your knack for procrastination, your lack of motivation to follow through on your own plans, or how you’re not so good at creating a schedule.

Be honest with yourself, there’s no judgement here. Put your limits on blast so that you know exactly what you’re working with and how to deal with it.


I believe in your ability to beat the pain of regret and create a system that will keep you in a constant state of discipline. I’m sure this will help you be a more productive person and not stall out when the going gets tough.

Does this strike a nerve with you? I’d love to hear how you deal with pain of discipline or regret when faced with what to do.

Extend the conversation

I was a guest on my friend Sterling’s podcast “Indoob” where we talked about discipline versus regret. Have a listen to it here:

Indoob Podcast!

You can also reach out to me via email at hello@vervehc.com, on Twitter or Facebook, or by leaving a comment. Talk with you soon!

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