This week’s Pearl of Leadership Wisdom is on…
“If I want to be great I have to win the victory over myself…self-discipline.” – Harry S Truman
Self-Discipline – the ability to control yourself.
Self-discipline is what turns goals into achievement through the magic of action – the right ones at the right times. Not just the actions you like; like a rat in the lab, doing tasks for treats. All of them.
We are not robots…
Sorry that’s actually wrong. Perhaps a more accurate statement would be we have the potential to be more than robots. We are robots, for the majority of the time. But that’s OK – we need most of what we do to be on autopilot. Otherwise, there’s simply too much to think about. As robots, we move towards pleasure and away from pain; satisfying our desires, most of which are healthy and keep us alive and reproducing.
However, it’s a higher level function to reflect; to use our external eye, our self-awareness. Where we can see ourselves from somewhere other than the place where we live, just behind our eyes. To use this ability to gain insight and change what we do. To be better.
Self-discipline is not…
…doing what you like and calling it work (although it may be)
…pleasing yourself because it’s pleasing to do so (rat/experiment/treats)
…to be confused with arbitrary and externally imposed self-denial
…doing the first things first
…doing all the important things, not just the ones you like
…being your own leader
…ultimately your victory over the robot within you
So here’s a test…
What’s the most important thing you should to do that…
a) is an ongoing activity, not a one-off?
b) will take your job/life/relationships (whatever) to a higher level? And,
c) you are not comfortable doing?
I’m not talking trivial stuff here. Something that will really take you forward. Take some time to think.
God or Dog…
If you have no answer to this question you may be either a) a self-actualising mega-being or b) a robot that is following your programming by avoiding the pain of self-reflection.
If you have an answer to the test question, and if you are doing this thing, then you are self-disciplined.
If you’re not doing this thing, then I’d say, at this point, you are not exhibiting self-discipline. (That is not to say you are not capable of it, or have not exhibited it in the past).
For those of you currently experiencing self-discipline, you are probably aware that in time, the third criteria, the one about not being comfortable doing it, will become less of an issue. This is good. In time, you will develop the habit of doing this activity and you will find that you have transported this critical activity from outside your sphere of control (don’t like it and don’t do it) to inside your sphere of control (like it, or perhaps manage your dislike, and do it).
Then you have to move on…ask yourself the test question again, and act accordingly.
Repeat to fade.
This is on-going self-discipline. It is a series of battles in a war against being a robot: a war to be human.
What to do.
Take your answer to the test question, this important activity that you don’t like. Do it. Don’t find the time to do it. Schedule the time to do it. And then do it. And again, and again.
Search and destroy…
Discomfort is not to be avoided; it is to be identified, challenged and annihilated.
And the more of these battles you win, the more human you are.
It is simple, but not easy…
But like most things; with repeated action, they don’t get harder; they get easier.