Certainly we all want to be successful. Success is one of those elusive terms that means different things to different people.
For some, it is a happy family or a satisfying job, maybe a cottage at the lake, a positive working atmosphere, a strong financial base, plus many other ideas. But what does it take to achieve, to realize, this success?
We have all heard the various clues, which have been passed down from our teachers and parents: the Golden Rule, a solid work ethic, balanced living, a penny saved is a penny earned, don’t burn any bridges, persistence alone is omnipotent, treat everyday as though it were your last, the more education—the less frustration, an apple a day, and all that jazz.
If it all had to be condensed into one absolute quality, I think (this is a personal opinion!) it would be discipline. None of the above can exist without discipline, and when you review your own list of successful people, don’t they all possess a strong sense of discipline?
In our profession of teaching, discipline is a must—the discipline required to learn the subject matter, plan lessons, spend extra time and effort outside of class, and to give up some of the “fun times” available to others.
As educators, you have disciplined yourselves to go to college, to study, to take exams, and, now, to complete budget requests, year-long calendars, the discipline of disciplining, and just about everything else that comes into your day. The people who make it to the top seem to have this art of discipline down pat. Their self-discipline is constantly being refined. They have learned (through discipline) to make the most out of each and every moment, and they realize life is about “growing” and that all growing requires discipline.
One of the first things I do in workshops is ask what the participants wish to gain from their efforts. The common answers are:
“Develop a better sense of motivation.”
“Gain a more positive attitude.”
“Learn to communicate more effectively.”
“Try to live up to my potential.”
“Feel good about myself.”
“Discover ways I can help others.”
All of these can be accomplished with a strong sense of discipline. There are volumes written about each and every subject mentioned; do these people have the discipline to sit down and read them? Do they discipline their time, their energies, their focus, their choices?
One particularly frustrated student found me after a recent seminar and said, “I agree with everything you said, but I’m not disciplined enough to discipline myself!” Well, that is a puzzling predicament. We all have to come to grips with the fact that it is virtually up to us as teachers. Learning self-discipline is a habit just like any other behavioral habit. You don’t just “get it” one day; it is a process of guiding one’s efforts day in and day out. Even this takes a special kind of discipline.
When we all look back to our best teachers, leaders, and mentors, weren’t they all people who created a great environment of discipline? Didn’t they demand that you create a higher sense of discipline to accommodate their requests? Review your most successful times in life; weren’t they coupled with high sense of discipline?
Too often, the word discipline is associated with punishment, harshness, abuse, restriction, and the like. This certainly doesn’t have to be true. As teachers and leaders, we can approach the whole subject of discipline in a very positive and exciting way, revealing a realm of understanding that offers a host of benefits to the student and is a key to all of the reasons for success mentioned in the first paragraph.
Since it is a learned behavior, it can be taught, nurtured, embellished, focused, and even planted or replanted in any person. In fact, the basis for everything presented in the motivational and leadership workshops is generated from discipline. Once this concept is understood and put into practice, everything from that point on is quite easy.
The minute anyone slips, the immediate question is: what is going on with your self-discipline? This, inevitably, will bring the individual back on track. Or, if it doesn’t, the individual has to take the responsibility for being undisciplined, which means that person will be exempt from enjoying any of the for-the-disciplined rewards. Strangely enough, there doesn’t seem to be any age limit for understanding the value of discipline.
In fact, younger students seem to grasp the concept very quickly and immediately begin to collect on the payoffs from their positive efforts, while the older skeptics often are very undisciplined about their discipline and, as a result, have a slower success rate. (Once again, the point is proven in this case!)
Rationalization is the archenemy of discipline and it, too, is a learned habit. Some people are masters of rationalization, which makes them minors in discipline. Which are you? Which do you want your students to be?
P.S.––Avoid the temptation to “rationalize” the information in this article so you don’t have to face the task of greater discipline!
A contributing editor at TBP.