Slightly contradicting a popular paradigm of self-discipline, I am offering a different idea of what it means to be disciplined, or more so, to practice discipline.
Mistakenly we often look at people as either disciplined or not, “He is a disciplined person!” However, it’s not something you were born with; it is not a genetic disposition like being tall or brown-haired. Nor does a person wake up one day a disciplined person. Self-discipline is something you practice rather than what you are.
If someone is perceived as a disciplined person, it’s likely because they’ve practiced being disciplined. Think of a professional athlete: they work many hours at their skill, developing the details which set the amateurs apart from the professionals. Developing this skill took many hours and conscious effort of self-discipline (among other things like deliberate practice) to get where they are. Every step towards developing those skills or reaching those goals took one decision at a time, a choice that could have required self-discipline.
Often self-discipline is confused with motivation. The person who waits for motivation may never take steps towards a goal. However, by practicing self-discipline, a person can make a mental decision to work towards their goals every day, multiple times a day. Self-discipline is best-practiced day-to-day, one decision at a time. Over time these become habits, and there is less conscious effort in being self-discipline. Self-discipline leads to building habits, and as Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”
It’s normal to think that some goals are too far from reach, but be mindful that greatness is achieved one decision at a time, and it starts by practicing self-discipline.
How can you practice discipline today?