Discipline is a nasty word to the majority of people in this world. It often conjures up feelings of disappointment and guilt as memories of shortcomings, laziness and lack of follow-through flood the mind. People who struggle with discipline talk about it as if it were a tangible item a person either has or doesn’t have, like money or clothes. Unfortunately, most people have an unproductive view of discipline – what it really is – which causes them to become unproductive in achieving, or even setting, goals. In short, discipline, or the lack thereof, is simply an excuse people make for not achieving their goals in life.
Think of someone others describe as a “disciplined person”. What is it about this person that causes others to think of him as being a disciplined individual? It all boils down to just two things. Although dictionaries often use a lot of big, complex words to try to describe the concept of discipline, it is best explained through a simple understanding of the ideas of personal choice & consistency working together.
Personal choice is the freedom each person possesses to do whatever he wants to do, and no one is without this most precious of rights. The mistake people often make is believing they do not possess this precious gift, often depicting themselves as victims by proxy of excuses, blaming others or circumstances for their shortcomings. This leads to a lack of feeling responsible for the outcomes in life, and it perpetuates a vicious cycle of disappointment and hopelessness.
Disciplined people understand that personal choice is the ability to be who they want to be, and they take responsibility for the outcome of those choices regardless of the outcome. The logic goes something like this: if I eat this piece of cake, then I will gain weight. If I work out, then I will be in better shape. The outcomes are a direct result of their choices, and they make choices accordingly.
However, anyone can make a good choice in a given situation. The difference between most people and those privileged souls in our society we call “disciplined” is the ability of the latter to make good choices consistently. It is this consistency that often discourages the masses from achieving, or even pursuing, their goals. They conclude that it will be impossible to complete the steps necessary to reach their goals, such as losing weight or being promoted, so they often give up on their goals and the idea they will ever be successful.
The key to being disciplined and achieving success is the ability to put these two qualities together, which requires just one thought: make good choices today. It doesn’t matter what you did yesterday, and it doesn’t matter what you plan to do tomorrow. Past failures and future dreams have no bearing on the choices you make today. Be committed to making choices today that will move you one step closer to your goal, and don’t focus on anything else. In fact, just be committed in each situation to making the best choice, and repeat this step. As Orel Hershiser, the Hall of Fame pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers, once said, “If you focus on execution and not results, you can’t help but succeed.”