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Discipline: The foundation of all success

If there is a single ingredient for ensuring success, that ingredient can be summed up in one word: discipline.

According to the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, to discipline is to 'train in habits of obedience; to bring under control; [to] drill'.

Discipline, by its very nature, runs contrary to the human nature; which gravitates towards indiscipline and sloppiness. If let to run its course, free will always seeks out the easy option; where obstacles are either sidestepped or completely ignored.

To be disciplined, we must 'drill' into our psyche habits that will cause us to obey thoughts and take actions that will lead us towards our desired objectives. To 'drill' the right habits into our psyche (the part of our mind that is responsible for our behaviours and actions), we must bring under control all thoughts and actions that prevent us from moving in the right direction.

But this is easier said than done. Discipline has more to do with 'action' than 'talk'. No amount of positive affirmations or motivational and subliminal tapes and seminars will make you disciplined. Yes, they will motivate you and point you in the right direction, but motivation alone will not 'move' you. You will have to 'do' what needs to be done to achieve the results you desire.

Anyone can set desired goals and have the motivation to achieve those goals. However, only discipline can 'take' you to your goal. This may mean working consistently and assiduously for long hours; doing tasks that you would rather not do, but which are essential in the attainment of your goals; foregoing or putting on hold current comforts and pleasures, etc.

None of us is born with inherent discipline. Discipline is acquired through training. We must train ourselves to take the right action at the right time and in the right way. The keyword here is 'training', which implies that discipline is learned. But what makes this 'training' unconventional and more challenging than other conventional forms of training is because it must be drilled at the thought level.

It is in the realm of thoughts that behaviours are born, and which in turn lead us to act in one way and not the other. If we can have the right thoughts, then we will behave in the right way and take the right actions. It is the latter aspect of this process that will determine whether we are disciplined or undisciplined; whether we succeed or fail.

Nearly all successful people, especially the self-made super wealthy, can attest to the importance of discipline in the attainment of goals. They did not get where they are today on a roller coaster: they had to 'force' themselves to take the right actions on a daily basis. They stepped out of the 'comfortable' and 'convenient' and 'trained' their mind to take the right actions. To do this, they chose to 'disobey' the part of their mind that told them to 'take it easy and let it be' and 'obeyed' the part of their mind that insisted that they 'take the right action'. They did not just make decisions; they acted on those decisions.

Acquiring discipline
To just tell you to be disciplined is not enough; that would be easier for me to say. However, if I can break down this concept into smaller concepts, perhaps it would be easier for you to learn it. I have identified ten concepts or attributes of discipline which, if acquired, will make taking the right actions at the right time and in the right way as easy as breathing oxygen.

Passion: This is what drives you; what makes you wake up everyday with expectation and hope. Passion propels you forward by enthusing you with a vibrant sense of awareness and conviction. If you can establish what brings out these feelings of vibrant expectation and self worth in you, then you will have found your passion in life. It's easier to be disciplined towards a cause that you are passionate about. If you can find what drives you, discipline will follow almost effortlessly.

Vision: Passion alone will however not 'take' you there. If you don't know where you are going, you may as well save your energy and passion and stay where you are. Disciplined people have a vision of where they want to be at a particular point in time. They never lose sight of where they are going. Having a clear vision helps you maximise your energy and passion. It enables you to take massive, determined action and bring it to bear on specific goals.

Goals. I have said elsewhere (, goals are like rails; without them our efforts at progress will be derailed. Discipline is the vehicle that moves you from the point of setting goals to attaining those goals. But goals have to be set first for them to be realized. If there is a justification for discipline, then it is goals. The fruits of discipline are evident in the number of goals attained.

Consistency. To be disciplined one day and sloppy the next is a terrible waste of time and energy. We must stay the cause of discipline until our desires or goals are attained. To do the right thing one day and then fail to accomplish the following day's tasks sets you back three steps. To succeed, you must consistently do what must be done until your objective is realized.

Faithful. To succeed or not to succeed depends on the actions you take; not the words you speak; or the words you hear. Your success is dependent on you. You must be faithful first and foremost to yourself by ensuring that what must be done is done. Sweeping tasks under the carpet do not make them disappear; and your success is pinned on the fulfilment of these tasks. Discipline requires that you be faithful and trustworthy enough to perform daily tasks comprehensively. Do not pretend that you will succeed when you know very well you have neglected to follow through with the plan. Be faithful; stick to the plan!

Timeliness. Let's face it! A day has only 24 hours; and your body demands that a good part of that time be spent in rest. It is therefore important to ensure that tasks are performed at the right time, everyday. If you allow tasks to accumulate by dint of not doing them at the right time, you are setting yourself up for failure. You must be disciplined enough to drop whatever it is you are doing and accomplish what must be done, when it needs to be done. Disciplined people do not postpone tasks; for they know that to do so will delay their success; and, according to William Shakespeare, 'in delay, there is no plenty'.

Eliminate 'noise'. 'Noise' here refers to irrelevant tasks, people, places and actions that do not feed into your goal. These are distractions that so often get in the way of your success. Noise is the number one enemy of discipline. If you let yourself to be distracted, you will find it very difficult to maintain discipline on a day to day basis. To maintain discipline, you must learn to filter away this 'noise' by only entertaining thoughts, people, tasks, actions and places that feed into your success.

Assertiveness. You eliminate 'noise' by being assertive; that is, by refusing to allow anyone or anything intimidate you to the extent that you fail to do the right thing at the right time. Learn to say 'no' to anyone or anything that that has the potential to take your eyes off the goal. Also, learn to say no to your own desires if they are not concomitant with your goals.

Tenacity. This is the ability to hang in there even when storms come crashing in on you. Discipline requires that you learn to hold on even when calamity strikes. It is when you are nearest to your goals that adversity intensifies; and it is at this time when most people give up. Discipline ensures that you do not give up just because the battle has intensified. Instead, it helps you to be tenacious enough to weather the storm.

Alert. If something can go wrong, it will go wrong. You falter a little and your goals will come tumbling down like dominoes! Discipline will demand that you stay alert at all times. Guard your goals with vigour. This is not the time to slumber; you will have enough of that when you attain your goals.

Discipline is 'knowing' what to do and 'doing' it. It is not the 'knowing' that gets you there; it is the 'doing'! Discipline requires an immense sense of control and self-restraint. The good news is that it can be acquired and inculcated through learning. It may take hard work and patience, but in the end, its rewards are not only fulfilling, but also very enriching. Ask the self-made millionaires!

About the Author: Innocent M Gathungu is a motivational and inspirational writer and speaker. For more information and other articles like this one, visit his websites at and at

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