I've been thinking a lot about what I believe to be the central challenge facing our society today. It's not an original concept by any means, but more and more I come to believe that it is the key to unlocking every success principle in existence.
Discipline may seem like an odd thing to emphasize- but I see the results of real discipline every day. I also see the results of the lack of discipline every day. Here's what I mean:
Think about anyone who you would consider to have "made it". You know the person- the woman who is the number one producer in your office and also has a family that loves her and is very close. Maybe you think of the guy who consistently outperforms everyone else and still has time to take numerous vacations AND train for a marathon. Perhaps you are envisioning the manager who genuinely loves developing the team and does a great job of it. Maybe you are considering your own track record right now. Whomever the example, picture clearly why they popped into your mind as an example of success. Now, if you watched that person very carefully, I guarantee you that you will see that nearly everything they do is purposeful, focused and disciplined. They are disciplined about setting goals and achieving them. They are disciplined about maintaining a great attitude, and they're likely very disciplined about how they use their time. You'll notice that when it's time to work, that individual WORKS- so that when it's time to play they can do so freely and without baggage.
On the other hand, consider the individual who perpetually seems to get the short end of the stick. You may know someone who is extremely intelligent, or is very positive and upbeat, or perhaps has a great sense of humor and everyone loves them. Everyone either knows somebody or is somebody who seems like they should be extremely successful in Life, but for some reason they just keep struggling and scraping by. If you watch that person very carefully, the underlying cause is almost always a lack of discipline- about Goals, about their Attitude, about how they use their Time, or about how they communicate- or maybe all of the above. Either way, I notice more and more that the most frequently occurring theme in the lives of truly successful men and women is the theme of discipline. As Albert Gray says in The Common Denominator of Success, they have "formed the habit of doing what unsuccessful people don't like to do". They are motivated by pleasing results rather than just pleasing activities. In other words, they are disciplined.
So then what I got thinking about was the question: "What is discipline?"
Well, I had heard once before that the word discipline has the same root as the word disciple. As in "a follower". Now I didn't want to get all super-religious or cultish on anyone, so I started thinking about what it actually means to be a disciple. I couldn't really put my finger on it until recently when the answer was physically handed to me in church. The sermon was called "Majoring in the Minors" and the notes at the bottom read as follows:
"…a disciple is one who stays focused on what really matters, and is careful about letting other less important issues or concerns get in the way."
Says it all, really. Again, I'm not trying to create some Cult of Personality here. I just encourage you as you begin this day, this week, this month, Your Life- stay focused on what really matters to you- at Work and in Life. Be careful about letting less important issues or concerns get in the way. I urge you…be a disciple of your own success.