Discipline evokes a different reaction from each of us. For some, it means clearly defined action, commitment and focus. For others, it simply means restrictions and compromise. I see discipline as a direct pathway to the greatest freedom. Discipline allows you to do the things you want to do while also achieving your end game, no matter what the circumstances. When you master discipline, you have the tools to overcome any obstacle or hurdle life throws in your direction. By putting a few parameters in place for your finances or your health, you can achieve the impossible.
Discipline is part DNA and part learned behavior. You are not doomed if you were not born with a naturally disciplined brain. You can still learn and train to be disciplined by establishing parameters and guidelines for certain behaviors. When I was a young teenager, I didn’t realize discipline and focus was a key differentiator in accomplishing your goals. Through observation, I realized some people struggled to follow through and do the things they said they wanted to do. I thought they just changed their minds. I assumed all healthy humans possessed the same level of mental discipline required to control their physical actions and thoughts simply by choosing what they wanted.
There are thousands of trained individuals in military Special Forces, business executives, athletes and others that exercise extreme discipline in order to achieve specific objectives. In my early twenties I opened a gym. Back then there wasn’t a gym on every corner like there are today in large cities. And in my small town there were none. Because of that I opened one to help people achieve their health goals and have a place to work-out.
As I started working with members to achieve specific health goals, I realized not everyone followed through on their plans. Remember these were the goals they said they wanted for themselves! That is when I discovered that the development of mental discipline is a choice. Desiring something is not enough by itself, or everyone would be physically fit and wealthy, have well-behaved children and have the career of their dreams. The “why you want to achieve your goals” must be so compelling it makes achieving your goals through discipline worth the effort.
We don’t always get to hear the back story of the intense mental discipline required to achieve the things listed above (Special Forces, athletes, successful executives). When it comes to achieving your goals, most of what you read in the monthly magazines or online is focused on quick fixes that have much greater appeal to the general population. Everyone is searching for a “secret” to achieve optimal success in the least amount of time possible. The simple truth is most people seeking quick fixes are usually trying to avoid applying discipline to their life. They simply want immediate results with as little discipline or commitment required. They want the “secret”. Of course, there is no secret!
Deciding you are going to draw a “line in the sand” gives you specific guidelines for making the best decisions for you and your life strategy. By definition, discipline just means “the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior”. So essentially it means setting parameters, guidelines or rules to guide your actions or behaviors. Establishing discipline in your life or enhancing existing discipline allows you to make better choices in your life.
For example, my husband and I have always loved to travel and experience other cultures. Even when we had little expendable income, we still managed to travel every year, because we were disciplined with our finances and were willing to make tradeoffs. We did not jeopardize or detract from our long-term financial strategy in order to travel just because we enjoyed it. We practiced discipline on spending habits that did not serve our goals in order to achieve both. Without discipline, we would not have been able to achieve both objectives.
Here is an enormous truth of life: established rules govern everything related to our behaviors and actions. For example, anyone legally driving a car in the United States must pass a driver’s license test. Then they are expected to follow the rules of the road. We see and hear the consequences daily when people don’t follow the rules of the road. The negative results are accidents, deaths, tickets, jail, etc. We have rules and preset expectations at school, work, home, etc. Rules are not always viewed as “fun”, but for most of us, rules help guide our behaviors and actions and set the parameters in which we function in life.
Developing discipline allows you to keep your focus on the end game objectives of your life strategy (health, wealth, social impact, career, education, etc) while simultaneously enjoying your life. The first five years of a life strategy plan are the hardest, because you usually feel the sting of compromise long before you hit some major milestones. Discipline allows you to prioritize and focus. Maybe it just means giving up one thing you “like to do” every week in order to achieve one thing you “love to do” every year. Would I give up eating out twice per week in order to fund my annual travel? You bet I would! But those types of decisions don’t just happen. You must make the decision to make it happen!
Investing our time, talents and treasure in our life strategy gives us the laser focus we need to stay on track. But it can be very hard. Having the benefit of disciplined “rules of the road” allows us to set some “fun” goals along with the life goals. Knowing you are booked on a cruise in six months that you paid for by missing a couple meals out each week helps you see that your ultimate goals can be attained by applying discipline.
It works the same for your health goals. By developing discipline to guide food choices and necessary physical activity, you see continuous improvement in your health. At some point, the discipline pays off. Once you have a daily plan that you follow because you have learned it works, you can enjoy the extra treat you normally don’t eat. This is how discipline can serve both your WANTS and your NEEDS. When you get to this point, you don’t have to worry about occasional splurges, because you have consciously committed to established rules and you have the freedom go outside the boundaries on occasion with confidence you will come right back.
Here is a test: Set a goal or objective that only matters to you. Something you really want to achieve for yourself. Now ask yourself what change is required in order to reach the goal in a realistic timeframe. What disciplined trade off can you make over the next 1-3 months to get you to that end goal? You can achieve discipline if you stay focused on the prize!
Discipline is the best form of freedom: The freedom to make life choices!