“Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.”
— Jim Rohn - Author, entrepreneur, motivational speaker
“A disciplined mind leads to happiness, and an undisciplined mind leads to suffering.”
— Dalai Lama XIV
“We don't rise to the level of our expectations; we fall to the level of our training.”
― Archilochos - Ancient Greek writer
My father is one of the most disciplined people I know. He’s up, showered, shaved and is eating breakfast by 7 am every day, and he’s in his 80s. I’ve seen him unshaven once in my entire life, and that was when he returned from a two-week fishing trip, on which he had forgotten to take his razor. He's also one of the most content people I know. No matter how good or bad things seem to be going for him, he still gets up and gets on with things. Unaffected by the ways of the world.
Discipline is something I’ve always felt I lacked. And something I’ve always sought to find. This is one of the big reasons I nearly joined the army (but didn’t due to health reasons). It’s also the reason I got into martial arts. I was looking for an education. I wanted to undertake something that, through practice, would give me the discipline I needed to live the life I wanted.
But, while martial arts teaches discipline, it also requires it. It takes a lot of determination to pay money to go into a room with 30 other people and spend two hours working not to get punched in the face.
Discipline is about being consistent, whether you're trying to do certain things, or not do certain things. It’s about having goals, priorities and principals, and sticking to them.
What I’ve come to realise is that the devil is in the details. It is the little things, that when done regularly, add up to bigger changes. Discipline is like a muscle, you have to train it to develop it. You won't lift a heavy weight if you don't first practice lifting smaller weights.
One gateway exercise I’ve read about for training discipline is to make your bed every day. (Something I’m still not consistent with.) The thinking being that whatever craziness is going on in your life, there is still the tiny, quiet, calm centre that is your made bed to come home to each night. Then you build from there.
The other thing to think about when trying to establish a new habit or routine that you have to stick with it, whatever happens. I remember some great words of wisdom I from my friend Tom Sebastiano almost ten years ago, when I was trying to quit smoking. He told me that even if relapsed and smoked again, I shouldn’t let that stop me from quitting. You’ve had a cigarette, so what? Get back to quitting. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and to stay the course requires focus.
It's the same now. I have, for the umpteenth time, quit smoking. I was always told by my older and wiser friends to stop smoking before 30. I attempted it at 29 and then after 6 months relapsed and failed to take Tom’s advice about getting back to quitting. I knew that if I were to quit for good, it would require several factors:
One, I’d also have to stop drinking. I know all too well that if I have a beer that will kick my nicotine cravings into overdrive. So no alcohol.
Two, I’d have to replace smoking (and drinking) with something. So now, I have several new ‘habits’ including running, yoga, reading, writing this blog, freelance work, and more.
All those undertakings need discipline to realise. But they also teach discipline.
When I post to this blog on time, I gain +1 Discipline.
Every time I got to the pub and order a Lime & Soda instead of a nice cool beer, +1 Discipline.
Every time I make my bed, +1.
Every run I complete, every book I finish, every cigarette I don’t smoke. +1 +1 +1
These incremental gains not only make it easier to stay focused and not fold, but they make me more resilient to any changes that may happen in the future. This is why the army focuses so much on training up new recruits to be disciplined individuals.
This is why my father is clean shaven every morning.