Self-Discipline and Self-Control: The difference and why we need both.


I should not speak for everyone so I will speak for me. I need more discipline in my life. It seems as if I ned to continue working at just about everything – relationships, fitness, learning, diet, and the list goes on and on. The thing is I do not have the mental capacity to do everything at the same time. Maybe you do. I seem to need to focus on one thing and then once that is where I want it and it can be maintained then I can proceed to the next thing. This has really been a measuring rod for me to show my priorities. Where do I want my time and energy? Ok so enough of my sad story.

I always hear about self-discipline and self-control. Each has it’s place but it is the distinction between the two can help tremendously.

Where this came from.

I have been doing some reading lately. I was one of those crazy people who preordered Tim Ferris’ new book the Four Hour Body. (Here is my quick review – Love it! Buy it! Read it!) I also have been doing P90X and yes, it hurts! Until this past week I always saw my workout and my diet as two realms that I needed to fix. After reading ideas that were brand new to me in the book – I started seeing that they can become one item on my list. This was a break through for me. So that is what I did.

I started thinking of both diet and working out in congruence with fitness goals. I know simple but hang with me. Once I started thinking this way, a huge hurdle came up in my life – self-discipline. There were so many things I wanted to eat and so many other things I really did not want to eat. There were also a lot times I did not want to go work out because P90 is over an hour on most days (if you add the Ab Ripper). This is where I started thinking about my self-discipline.

The Important Stuff

I found my struggle breaking down into two main categories. Stopping myself and making myself. This is where I saw the difference in Self discipline and Self control. When you think of these as two separate traits it is easier to navigate this rat race (or at least I think it is).

The Difference

Self-Control not allowing yourself to do what you want to do but know you shouldn’t

Self-Disciplineforcing yourself to do what you do not want to do but know you should

This is really simple when you see it. And it applies to every area of life. Take a quick look at this simple table below for instance…

Area                                Self-Discipline                                                                Self-Control

Work                           Do it right every time                            Don’t steal someone else’s food from the frig

Marriage                 Love her every day all day                                          Keep your mouth shut

Fitness                           Get out of bed                                                           Do not eat a twinkie

The Point

So I think you see how it applies to life. You need both to succeed. Without self-discipline all the self-control in the world will not help you and the opposite is true as well.

Final note for the day (If you are married)

Give your wife a big kiss and tell her you like her shoes! It always works 😉


3 thoughts on “Self-Discipline and Self-Control: The difference and why we need both.

  1. Hey Tim. Thanks for your thoughts! They were very encouraging and challenging. This is something God’s working on me with as well!

  2. “Self-control” is listed as a fruit of the Holy Spirit in Gal. 5:22-23. I knew in my heart that self-discipline is also produced by Him as well, even though it is not specifically identified in that scripture. I was unsuccessfully struggling to birth a clear, concise, definitive statement comparing the two. I went online for help in articulating my suspicions and found your ever so simplistic yet very insightful distinctions of each one. Thank you so much for sharing.

    • Thanks for your generous thoughts. I wrote this a while ago and am sure there is more to it. Thanks fr pointing to Scripture as a standard. That is always welcomed. Have a Happy Thanksgiving.

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