What is discipline?
To me discipline is doing something even though you don’t feel like it. It’s about being accountable to yourself. Knowing that even though you may be an adult now and no one is watching you or telling you what to do, you still stick to your principles, moral compass and very importantly, your “contracts” with yourself.
It is building a form of self-esteem and self-confidence.
Confidence that if you set out to do something you know you will follow through and commit to it no matter what. You trust your own word.
Many times people don’t even have confidence in themselves. If you don’t even trust or have confidence in yourself how can you expect others to place their confidence and trust in you? It’s crazy to think otherwise.
It’s like whenever people say this year is going to be different. You know the whole New Year’s Resolution thing which you will see a lot now that we are approaching 2018.
“This year I am going to lose weight.”
“This year I am going to quit my job and start a business.”
“This year I plan to learn a new language.”
“This year I am going to watch my diet, eat clean and focus on my health.”
But deep down on a fundamental level you might not even believe yourself. You’ve said these things before but you’ve never followed through. In other words you’ve “contracted with yourself” in the past but you’ve effectively breached your “self-contracts.”
A lesson from nature herself
Look at the world around you. There is law and order. There is universal discipline.
The sun never fails to rise and set. Seasons never fail to come and go. Consider the water cycle, the food chain and the patterns of bird migrations.
Zooming out, the laws of physics are always obeyed. The earth orbits the sun at precisely at the right distance. Any nearer we die of heat incineration. Any further we freeze to death. It’s a beautiful system that works like clockwork.
There is order and discipline – from the solar system all the way to the inner workings of the human body, all the way to the technological marvels humans have wrought with their minds and hands.
It is as though nature herself abhors disorder (of course with the exception of phenomena at the quantum level but I digress. That is a whole other topic that has been confounding even the finest scientists for decades since Einstein). Sorry I tend to go on seemingly unrelated tangents but it’s all related in my mind. That’s just how my brain works…
Discipline – governing one’s self
To use another analogy, just like how the Rule of Law is the foundation of a free country, democracy and free markets, so too is discipline the foundation of you having confidence in yourself and in your own words.
In other words, it is imposing an “internal Rule of Law” in your own personal life.
And importantly you obey these laws even when you don’t feel like it because you know it to be right and true to your principles, goals and moral compass.
Discipline is so important it can make or break armies
In times of war the importance of discipline is even more strikingly apparent to see.
It was the referred to as the “soul of the army.” In the words of George Washington:
Discipline is the soul of an army. It makes small numbers formidable; procures success to the weak, and esteem to all.
So important that it could determine the tide of a battle or the rising and falling of an empire. In fact it is often said that the demise of the Roman Empire was due in large part to an erosion of discipline due to complacency as a result of their enormous success.
Which leads to my next point:
The trappings of success
Though we all strive for success here is a word of warning for when you start tasting some success.
This is one of the most dangerous times. Your momentary success has tricked you into thinking you are now invincible. You become complacent and worse still you stop doing the things that brought you to this position of success in the first place. Like the declining Roman Empire, you stop having discipline.
So be careful this is a trap. Be careful not to be ensnared.
The enemies of discipline – your feelings, laziness and procrastination
What’s preventing you from doing the things you know you ought to be doing?
Sometimes we know what we should do and we even want to do it yet we still find ourselves not acting on it.
It might be that you just don’t feel like doing it today.
Or you can’t be bothered and you feel too lazy (be it mentally or physically).
Or you simply tell yourself “I will do it tomorrow.”
These are all enemies of self-discipline. Your aim is to master these and get the better of them.
This is a topic close to my heart since for years I grappled with procrastination and physical laziness myself. I will definitely explore these further in future posts.
Discipline is the difference between what you want now and what you want most. It is building a form of self-confidence in yourself that you will honor your “self-contracts.”
Discipline is so important it can make or break armies but it is in danger of being lost during times of success where people cease to do what brought them there in the first place.
Remember, you are the governor of yourself. The hallmark of a freedom fighter/entrepreneur is self-discipline.
Be vigilant and constantly be ready to combat the “enemies of discipline.”
What do you think? Do you think I missed anything? What does self-discipline mean to you? I would love to hear your thoughts on this.