Discipline Equals Freedom – Your Path to Greatness

posted on: June 24, 2020
author: Brian Lomax

Discipline equals freedom. Have you heard this phrase before? If you’ve read the book Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, then you are familiar with the concept and this post will be a refresher. Otherwise, you may be confused about the relationship between discipline and freedom.

On the face of it, discipline and freedom seem to represent opposing ideas. But here’s the secret to the connection – if you really want something in life (like more freedom), or you really want to become something (like a master of what you do), the path is paved by discipline.

Freedom (or whatever)

In Extreme Ownership, Willink and Babin stated that everyone wants more freedom. That could come in the form of financial freedom, freedom of choice, more time in life, etc.

However, they noted that freedom and discipline seem to be opposing constructs. Freedom, at a simplistic level, is the ability to do and think what you want, while discipline involves adherence to a code of behavior. So how are they related?

To begin, we do have the freedom to choose to be disciplined in thought and action. So there’s one connection. But why would we do that? Why would we choose to intentionally restrict our behavior? Because that’s how we get more of what we want in life.

Let’s put freedom aside for now. Instead, let’s talk about other things that you want in life – things like mastery, greatness, excellence, great personal character, a meaningful and fulfilling life. And let’s change the phrase of discipline equals freedom to discipline equals mastery. Discipline equals greatness, etc.

If you want these things in life, use your freedom of choice, and choose to be disciplined in your thoughts and actions. Discipline is the path to getting what you want in life.

Freedom of choice

Is what you got

Freedom from choice

Is what you want

-Devo (Lyrics from the song Freedom of Choice)

Applying discipline

As we’ve noted in numerous blog posts, the pursuit of mastery is the ultimate pursuit for any competitor. Through mastery, we win more often (not the other way around).

The most successful athletes in the world use discipline daily to pursue mastery. They manage their time (practices, competitions, rest), their choices (nutrition, activities), and they have specific routines and habits they use inside and outside of sport. Their lifestyle supports their sport careers.

Think about the best athletes in your sport. Do you consider them to be disciplined?

Of course, there will always be exceptions. But for each exception, think about how great that athlete could have been if he or she had been a little more disciplined.

Here are some ideas on how you can apply more discipline to your athletic career (or academic and professional careers):

  • Use a training journal to set daily goals and record daily reflections (deliberate practice)
  • Create a specific schedule for practices and recovery activities
  • Plan your competition schedule so that you can peak at the right times during the year
  • Manage your energy and time in a disciplined way
    • Use your calendar
    • Use blocks of time for specific activities
  • Make choices in life that will enhance your career (donut or salad?)
  • Develop routines in and out of sport
    • In between points, plays, pitches, shifts, etc.
    • Morning routine
    • Evening routine
    • Pre-competition routine
    • Journaling routine
    • Reading routine
    • Video analysis routine
  • Discipline your thoughts
    • Meditation and mindfulness
    • Focus on what you can control
    • Listen to people who matter and care less about what everyone else thinks


What do you want?

What is it you want out of life? No matter how old you are, this is an important question to consider. Your future is not written in stone; you can change it at any time.

So determine what you want, and then figure out how to apply discipline to that vision. Let discipline be the path to attainment and enlightenment in your life. Yes, discipline equals freedom, but it also equals your best life.


P.S. – Have you read my book The Mentally Tough Competitor yet? If not, now is the time! For more information, go here.

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About the Author

Brian Lomax founded PerformanceXtra™ in 2009 with a mission of helping athletes achieve their goals and their top performances more consistently through a progression of mental skills that enables them to focus on what is truly important.

Learn more about the author: https://performancextra.com/brian-lomax/

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