Self discipline is one of the things we need to be taught earlier rather than later in life. It’s one of the Simple Truths: The Simple Truth About Relationships. The Simple Truth About Personal Finance. The Simple Truth about Self Discipline.
Schools need to be revealing this to early Primary children so by the time they are older Primary students they are already leading the younger students through example. Self discipline turns managers into leaders who by example, not words, lead their staff towards profitable businesses. Partners in intimate relationships need to self educate themselves and quietly, lovingly take a stance. Your partner will sense your change and quietly rise to meet you.
Why don’t we hear more about it? Because it’s not glamorous. It’s un sexy. That’s its problem. It doesn’t come beautifully packaged and gift wrapped. If you had to shop for it you’d find it at the hardware store of life. On the bottom shelves where fertiliser is found. And just like fertiliser, you’d buy a small tub, open it and use it very sparingly, click the plastic lid into place and stick it down the back of the cupboard and promptly forget about it. What a shame. Life blossoms with a dusting of self discipline. The fruits of your labour will hang plump and heavy.
Most populist books written on self discipline seem to be written by ex Navy SEALS. That excludes 50% of the world’s population from picking those books up in the first place. Women need to have a louder voice in this discussion.
Please don’t be put off by the word self discipline. 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 freedom. Freedom from not being held captive by diets that will only disappoint you, freedom from guilt, freedom from regret. Counterintuitive as it sounds it is the easy way to live a life. Which is why those who have mastered it rarely go back.
My experience traveling the world meeting many successful people and quietly observing their habits led to my opinion that the one common quality among all these people was self discipline. I started to notice that I was getting up early to film successful people as they went re dawn running. I started noticing that I had an hour to film in a window they could squeeze into their schedule. I started noticing they didn’t watch much television. These observations by themselves are benign. Over twenty five years they became the patterns of successful people.
You can’t know what you don’t know. It’s just that most of us have never had it explained to us. If you don’t know what it is then how are you going to use it?
I think about self discipline a lot. I’m not an academic. I’m an academic’s friend. Often academics need help to take their insights into the real world. I like being that person. I did it for over fifteen years working for the science unit at ABC television’s flagship programs Quantum and Catalyst.
I love that scientists can be so focused that they can spend their adult life studying a marine worm. Not the whole worm - that would offer too much distraction - but the eyeball of a marine worm. Focused can sometimes mean blinkered. Sometimes researchers’ heads can start to disappear up their own behind. It’s gradual and they don’t feel it happening. That’s what we would do in the TV science unit. Just give a gentle tug and ‘pop’ … help them see the light of day again.
That’s what I’m doing with self discipline. I’m mixing the often inwards focused research from Positive / Behavioural Psychology research with the outward looking view of my experiences and encounters of self discipline.
My writing reports what I feel in my bones, what I have seen with my eyes and what I have heard and read from academic research. All of this has been churning around for years in my head and now is squeezed out in words through a nozzle of practical application.
My job is clear. I need to learn better ways to explain self discipline and make it, if not sexy, then desirable. In a world that is disillusioned with the hollow promises of instant gratification, the time is right for self discipline to shed the workwear and slip into something more comfortable and appealing, maybe even revealing.
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