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Follow The Beat of Self Discipline

self discipline

Army Sniper School introduced me to the surprising power of self discipline to make measurable change in my life. The measure, in this instance, was accuracy. Eighteen months before my sniper training started I knew nothing about weapons. I once wondered does the bullet came out faster if you squeezed the trigger harder?  Seven weeks after starting sniper training I graduated with a new skill. I could - and I quote from the army manual -  ‘kill a man with one shot at ranges up to 600 metres’. I am happy to report I never had to.

Sniper students were schooled and ruthlessly tested in six subjects over seven weeks: shooting, stalking, camouflage/ concealment, navigation, observation and judging distances. You were tested weekly on each. Forty two tests. If you failed any test at anytime you were out. A handful of the original twenty course-starters graduated and they were not necessarily the best shots. Naturally gifted marksmen went home early while ho-hum ones like me stayed. Why?

Sure some didn’t check and recheck their compass bearings while they were crawling a few kilometres on their belly, cradling their rifle like a baby to prevent the finely tuned sights form being knocked out of alignment. They missed finding the target while consumed with becoming a target themselves. Some couldn’t resist the temptation to party heavy on a Sunday night and they simply missed the fitness test on Monday morning.

Whatever the story behind why they returned to their unit with head hung low, the reason is they didn’t enter into the pact with self discipline.

The pact is simple: play by the rules and you win. 

Successful people know this. Successful people also know that the rules being talked about here are not game specific. These are not the like the rules you refer to on the back of the Monopoly box when your friend argues the interpretation of ‘Collect $200 When You Pass GO’. The rules here are universal rules. These are wonderfully simple rules. They are painless and available to all.

Why then do so many struggle with this thing called self discipline? There’s your first clue; it’s not a thing. It’s not something you can buy a can of. Self discipline is a series of relationships.

Like the relationship between an enormous amount of strength you have, contained within the skin package  in which you stumble through life, and the forces of change that the world throws at you everyday, relentlessly. Understanding this relationship, knowing where to tweak and where to leave be, is part of mastering self discipline.

Self discipline is a relationship between you and time, between you and your ego. Self discipline is also simple compounding math. Small deposits of self discipline - daily - into a person’s behaviour account turns their outlook around, can completely change their view about the work they do and suddenly make goals that were out of reach realistically within their grasp. What *Dave Ramsay and *Scott Pape  do for people’s bank accounts, I want this book to do for people’s potential.

Self discipline is very much a way of life, a code you choose to live by. Self discipline wears everyday clothes. No need to dress in robes and live on a mountainside. You can drink, you can curse, you can binge watch Netflix, just not all the time. You choose when and where because you are the master in these relationships. Self discipline puts you in the driver’s seat. The corollary of this is you can no longer be a passenger in life. 

Self discipline is also teachable. I know because I have shared my knowledge of self discipline with others who said they ‘can’t’, and now they ‘do’. Like Steve Wickenton from Melbourne, Australia who was able to walk away from work he felt stuck in, to earning his living from his true vocation; entertaining children. Like Luca Vasile in Bucharest, Romania who was able kick start his career in video and film making.

It's often wrongly thought you’re either born with self discipline or you’re not. My experience says that’s wrong. I see most people struggling with self discipline are usually unaware of the component pieces of the puzzle or if they are aware, they have them in the wrong order. I certainly had learn self discipline.

It’s important we have this discussion right now because the instant gratification experiment has failed. The promised shortcuts , the 5-easy-steps-to-this and 30-days-to-that, haven’t worked. 

The lost art of self discipline works and the world is screaming out for an authentic alternative to the hollow ring of me me me. We’ve been at the fair gorging on lollipops and sweets and we’re feeling sick. We need a big ol’ plate of nourishing vegetables.

  • Self discipline is reliable - once tapped into, it’s the gift that keeps on giving.
  • Self discipline is transformative - the individual who leverages self discipline always wins.
  • Self discipline is counterintuitive - it’s not meant to be easy but it’s not hard. If you’re doing it hard you’re doing it wrong. It’s just constant. It is simple compounding math.

“Self discipline is the drum beat of success, the heart beat of personal growth and the counter beat of instant gratification. Follow the beat”

The problem is that self discipline just isn’t sexy. It’s unlikely Disney is going to say come spend a day at Self Discipline World where you and the whole family get to deny yourself. Self discipline has an image problem.

It’s like a farmer who has gathered all the cows in a huddle in a paddock after a big storm has destroyed all the fences and he says to the cows, ‘look until the fences are fixed we’re just going to have to rely on self discipline.’  It’s not going to happen is it? The farmer is speaking a language the cows don’t understand. 

This has been a big problem with self discipline. The language. It seems so grown up and authoritarian. It’s not. The word conjures up images of school principals and punishment and of soldiers marching in rigid unison. It’s the opposite. It’s palm trees, ukuleles and Pina coladas; being able to drop off and pick your kids up from school.

Self discipline is not restrictions. Self discipline is freedom.

It’s just we never hear of it this way.

My job is to get the penny to drop and the light bulb to go on in your head.

Change happens one person at a time. Which is handy. Understand self discipline works within one unique human at a time.  You can’t have a self disciplined organisation but you can have an organisation of self disciplined people. 

Whether you are fresh from school, in a second phase career or leading a team. The time is right for this.  Automation, robotisation. Workplace change is in the air.  You can smell it.  A self disciplined approach is a wonderful way to take disruption from painful to promising. Follow the beat.


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