The Value Of Discipline

This week’s column is more about the relationship with our own selves than it is with others. However, since this does affect our relationship with others, I hope it will inspire you.

I have been in transition lately, and it has led me to some self-discovery. My heart’s desire is to take my leadership skills to another level.

On this quest, I have been analyzing my limitations. Why did it seem that while I have had a certain measure of success, I’ve never quite accomplished what I knew in my heart was possible? I mused over laziness, lack of focus, lack of knowledge, lack of commitment and so on. Would more training, more hours, more money or more knowledge get me to where I wanted to go?

None of the ‘lacks’ or ‘mores’ really answered the question in my heart until the thought came to me: “Discipline must be the answer! I simply need to be disciplined.”  YIKES!

For most of my life discipline was a four-letter word. I avoided it because of many negative experiences connected to it. I always saw it as punitive rather than liberating. You may be thinking, “Liberating!  Are you kidding me?”  But I’ve come to realize that my view of discipline was simply wrong.

I started thinking about what that meant. It would mean accountability. It would mean cracking the whip, trying harder and harder, but still risking failure. I saw it as a list of do’s and don’ts. But I have discovered is it is more about ‘yes’ and ‘no’. ‘Yes’ to what brings life to me and ‘No’ to what does not.

In my experience, discipline always came from an external source based on others’ expectations. For example, a teacher or parent punishing me because I did not do something the way they expected me to. Everyone seemed to have an opinion about how I should learn. I struggled with remembering what I had studied, so I did poorly on tests, and then my report card would say, “If Mark applied himself he would do better.”  I thought I HAD applied myself. I just didn’t understand, so I gave up even trying to study. Unfortunately many times I just felt stupid, so I eventually gave up and quit school.

The problem is that quitting became a pattern for me. I would have a creative idea and begin to act on it. Then someone would try changing the way I did it, so I would quit and ultimately fail. Consequently, I ran from anything structured or organized that demanded me to do it someone else’s way! The very thought of discipline made me cringe.

What I have discovered is that I am a visionary and a pioneer so I usually do things differently and that’s okay. The key for me was not to be disciplined by someone else’s abilities, personality, and skill-set but by my own!  I need to be disciplined according to my goals and destiny.

Let me give you three easy steps which I found worked for me:

1. FIND YOUR RHYTHM – I was always told that ‘the early bird gets the worm’ so if I was disciplined at getting up early I would be more successful. I decided to get up early every morning and be more efficient. Only one problem: After the first day I could not open my eyes and my brain wouldn’t function. The new-found plan fell into the ever-growing failure basket in my thinking. I was so de-motivated that I gave up on ideas or projects. So I suggest you determine what works best for you, identify times when you are at your best, and go with that.

2. FIND YOUR STRENGTHS – Discover your strengths and use discipline on them. An example in my life is my ability to encourage others. So I looked at how many hours a week I was spending on my strengths. I discovered I was spending 80% of my time with tasks and appointments. No wonder I had no discipline. Most of my time was spent on things that had nothing to do with encouraging others. In short, I realized I needed the discipline of rearranged priorities. I was spending way too much time and energy in areas of my weaknesses rather than on strengths to make them stronger.  Self discipline is easier when you see results. Focus on what is strong, not what is wrong!

3. FIND YOUR PASSION – Discipline is a lot easier when you love doing something. I discovered I am passionate about inspiring people and realized that I could do that anywhere, anytime. It brings me joy because I know that being disciplined in my passion will be an inspiration for those around me. When you are passionate about something, the value of discipline is that you get to do it more often. Knowing what you’re passionate about actually produces discipline in your life.

My motivation for living a disciplined life has changed. I no longer see it as punitive but as freeing. The more I function in a lifestyle of discipline the more I am seeing freedom to reach my goal of excellence in leadership.

Start today. Look at your schedule, find your rhythm, discover your strengths, and then apply both to what you are passionate about and you will see discipline as an ally rather than a foe.