When you hear the word “discipline,” do you have a visceral reaction? Do you shudder, or clench your jaw? You’re not alone. Many people have a negative connotation of discipline, considering it both difficult and uncomfortable. When you were disciplined as a child, it might have meant losing something you cared about, being put in time out, or even spanked.
No wonder the word has such power to inspire distaste.
But context can change everything. Consider discipline, instead, as a study or practice. After all, literature is a discipline, as are medicine, debate, and mathematics. When used in these terms, suddenly the focus shifts to mastering or becoming well-versed in a subject. Discipline becomes rewarding, rather than punitive.
Wanting Things Now, Now, Now
We live in a culture of immediate gratification where many things are easily attained within minutes. Brands dedicate themselves to reducing friction and making it as simple and fast as possible for consumers to get what they want. We tend to love the idea of easy solutions and quick hacks. If you could take a pill and grow stronger within minutes, would you really prefer to wake up early every morning and work out?
Except, no such pill exists. When things come quick and easy, they don’t last. Nothing significant appears out of nothing and impactful, long-term solutions require an investment of time and energy. When you don’t put in that time and energy, you end up paying twice later on down the line.
“We must all suffer from one of two pains: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. The difference is discipline weighs ounces while regret weighs tons.” —Jim Rohn, entrepreneur
It Comes Down to Systems
By embracing discipline, you create order, systems, and a framework for success. You’re crafting a culture in which you and your team members can be efficient, productive, and happy. Doing so is a form of service.
Time management is frequently at the heart of successful systems. I’m often reminded of a quote by Tom Hanks’s character in Castaway. He says, “We live and we die by time, and we must not commit the sin of turning our back on time.” You might have noticed that the most successful leaders tend to be the most time-efficient people in the room. It’s rare to find someone who’s a chaotic genius and highly successful, unless they’re paying ten other people to be organized for them (a luxury most of us don’t have).
Discipline is also about figuring out ways to maximize opportunities. For example, maybe you choose to read a book on the bus, rather than scrolling through social media. Perhaps you listen to an audiobook while doing the laundry. You keep your eyes open for places where you can actively improve and grow.
Sweat the Small Stuff
Small things add up over time. When you don’t pay attention to them, they become like ants that eat the legs off an elephant. Skipping all the tiny building blocks, including opportunities for connection, improvement, and growth, can divert you from your goals.
“Live your life while you have it. Life is a splendid gift… But to live your life, you must discipline it.” — Florence Nightingale, founder of modern nursing
Maybe the first time you sleep through a workout it doesn’t seem like such a big deal. But, if you continue opting out, you’ll begin to see the results of your choices. A book is written one sentence at a time and your growth as a leader occurs one small step at a time. Likewise, the culture of your organization is built through small, continuous actions. None of these things take care of themselves. Instead, they require consistency, dedication, commitment, and, yes, discipline.
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Author, Speaker, and Change Agent.
Chris leads a dynamic team of passionate change agents who are dedicated to partnering with organizational executives to create cultures that inspire, engage and ignite the best in people. Our work is dedicated to harnessing the power of culture to equip leaders, build amazing teams and align operation practices to delighting the customer and drive breakthrough results.