The MYTH Surrounding Self-Discipline

Steve Chandler The myth, which almost everyone believes, is that we "have" self-discipline. It's something in us, like a genetic gift, that we either have or we do not have.

The truth is that we don't "have" self-discipline we use self-discipline.

In order to realize the magic self-discipline can bring you, it is important to know that you don't "have" it, you use it. Without knowing that, you're lost.

What is the magic of this practice called self-discipline? It produces things! It makes things appear out of nothing! Like money and love and success. Like a sales goal. Set the goal, and then use self-discipline to make certain you take enough actions to achieve the goal. Simple. And if you don't use self-discipline? No magic, no result, because you get distracted from the goal the minute you set it.

Here's another way to realize it: Self-discipline is like a language. Any child can learn a language. (All children do learn a language, actually.) Any 90-year old can also learn a language. If you are nine or ninety and let's say you're lost in the rain in Juarez, it works when you use some Spanish to find your way to warmth and safety.

In this case, Spanish is like self-discipline, in that you are using it for something. You were not born with it. But you can use it. In fact, you can use as much or as little as you wish.

And the more you use, the more you can make happen.

If you were an American transferred to Juarez to live for a year and wanted to make your living there........the more Spanish you used the better for you.

If you had never used Spanish before, you could still use it. (Self-discipline is the same.) You can open your little English/Spanish dictionary and start using it. You can ask for directions, help, etc. Right out of that little dictionary. You didn't need to have been born with anything special.

The same is true with self-discipline, in the same exact way. Yet most people don't believe that. Most people think they either have it or they don't. Most people think it's a character trait or a permanent aspect of their personality.

That's a profound mistake. That's a mistake that can ruin a life. But the good news is that it is never too late to correct that mistake. It's never too late to learn the real truth.

And listen to how people get this so wrong:

"He would be my top sales person if he had any self-discipline at all," a company leader recently told me. "But he has none."

Not true. He has as much self-discipline as anyone does, he just hasn't chosen to use it yet. Just as we all have as many Spanish words to draw upon as anyone else.

It is true that the more often I choose to go to my little dictionary and use the words, the easier it gets to use Spanish. If I go enough times to the book, and practice enough words and phrases, it gets so easy to speak Spanish that it looks like it's part of my nature, like it's something I "have" inside me. Just like golf looks like it comes naturally to Tiger Woods.

Self-discipline is the same.

If a sales person truly understood that self-discipline is something you use, not something you have, then that sales person could use it to accomplish virtually any goal they ever set for themselves. They could use it whenever they wanted, or leave it behind when they wanted. An enlightened and compassionate leader gets more out of his people because he KNOWS that the sales person has what it takes to be successful. And he proceeds from there. He doesn't buy the excuses, the apologies, the sad fatalism that most non-performers skillfully sell to their managers. He just doesn't buy it.

Category: Work-Life, Balance
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