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A group of Karate students sitting in two straight lines, in an upright position, meditating - Vietnam. Discipline.

Discipline

Make a Decision and Act

Throughout my life I had always thought that I was disciplined. I’d had this idea, this notion, that I was able to put my mind to something and get it done. But, in between, I had found that I was stalling.

Procrastination was setting in. I would not do what I had planned to do, but put it off, doing things to fill the time instead.

It made me wonder why, since I am disciplined, I was doing this. Isn’t being disciplined the mindset where you just get things done? That whatever needs doing you just get up and get it done? So what was going on? Why was I not doing things?

And more importantly, was I disciplined? As ever, one question led to another and what I was discovering about myself was not something I wanted to learn. It did give me a baseline, somewhere to start from however.

I found that discipline falls under two categories – external and internal, meaning, that one is externally influenced, where as the other is internally influenced.

One is easier than the other to uphold. But both of them have one distinct characteristic – the ability to make a decision to act.

External Discipline

Firstly, external discipline. This is when the decision to act is taken, mostly, of you.

The best example, from my experience, is the military. An order is an order, Even when your boss said please and thank you, and that didn’t happen much as it’s not required or needed, you knew that it’s something that needs to be done. It’s not an option, unless it’s illegal and then the order is unlawful.

At these times, the decision to act is taken away from you. There is only the requirement to carry out the order, the actions that have been set out. You don’t have to think wether to do them or not – you just do them.

Anytime we are told to carry out an action that’s related to our work, job or career, we act on that decision, to the best of our ability, unless there is another option or a better way of getting the required result. Wether that’s taken into consideration or not, is down to leadership and leadership style – if the person above you a “boss” or a “leader”. Both styles have their place.

Another example, when I’m usually told that we don’t have a choice on, is to pay our bills. Gas, electricity and water – all these utilities we choose to pay, because we want those services to be continued.

Taxes are the same.

Of course you could choose not to act on orders, on what you’re told to do at work – in the military it’s not an advisable action, unless you have good grounds for not doing so. At work you could be fired (it could be something that you intended to do subconsciously).

With gas, electricity and water, the other option is not to pay them and get them cut off. It’s still a choice, but feels like a choice we don’t have. So we pay them. It is externally influenced.

On the other hand if you have a fresh water source, use solar energy for electricity and recycle, your bills will be reduced.

You could choose not to pay your taxes, but it’s not advisable.

All these are externally influenced – timelines, exam dates, report hand-in dates, deadlines. Out of our control that have to be met.

The choice is taken from us and we act on them, because we feel we have to.

Internal Discipline

This has been described as the ability to tell yourself to do something and then going ahead and getting it done. It’s what we call Self Discipline.

It’s getting up in the morning to go for a run, because you want to improve your health your fitness or the way you feel and look.

It’s reading for your examinations, writing that essay as soon as you have been given the assignment, getting something done with procrastination not having a chance to set in.

It’s the ability to do something you don’t want to do because it’s something that needs to get done.

It’s facing the fear and doing it anyway, because you want to get to the other side of fear, so you can be and do and have what you want.

What drives this type of passion? It’s Personal.

And when something is personal or is made personal, it can, and most of them time does, drive you to action. The reasons, the circumstances not to act have to be exceptional and, again, personal.

It’s something we feel needs to be done and it’s not always an easy choice. But, it’s a lot harder choosing not to act on something you should have done and then regretting not doing it later.

The reason most of us don’t have the life we wanted for ourselves is because we consistently, continually and repeatedly fail to act on something we should be doing. And that’s fear holding us back.

Getting Disciplined

Don’t misunderstand what I mean with external discipline. It can be an amazing driving force when procrastination sets-in as a result of fear – the number one reason why we don’t do something or anything.

For example, this post. I decided to put one post out every week on Tuesday. I have set my emailer to send it out at 1900 hrs or 7p. This is a deadline I have to meet. The decision to write it is partly driven by that external influence.

It’s a self imposed deadline too, one influenced by the need to be consistent, to provide the service I have given my word to do. It’s my integrity and that is a value I hold very dear, that I am not willing to compromise. That is a strong driving force for me. It’s personal.

Discipline is not exclusive to a selected few. It is a trait that can be learned and taken on. And the key to getting discipline is continued Action. This is the primary reason why so many fail to get anywhere, they fail to act. And with each time you don’t do something you fall further back from what you want, falling into a downward circle of repeated in-action. To get out of this spiral takes a crisis or a sudden awareness and realisation.

But it doesn’t need to get to that. By making a decision to act and finding a personal reason for doing so will get you moving and into action.

The thing with fear is that it always looks worse than it actually could be and most of the time it is not really there – it’s not real.

Whatever you want to achieve, look at it from the winning side. Is failure possible? Of course it is. But again, failure is not here it ends. Failure is just another way how not to do something and to do it better next time.

Discipline takes consistent practice. It starts from doing the smallest things that you wouldn’t normally do, like taking the glass to the sink. Starting reading that book even though theres no requirement to do so yet. It’s doing that thing you’d rather do last first – “Eat the elephant first”.

If success was easy then it would have no meaning. Discipline is a major part of it, because it’s a force to action, to overcome non-existent fears, to create the life you want.

Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.
Marcus Aurelius

Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.
1 Corinthians 9:25

Photograph by: Thao Le Hoang on Unsplash

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