A disciplined person can move out to conquer many other good character traits with the tools to succeed. It takes all of the skills that being disciplined offers to become a well rounded, virtuous person. Setting this as your goal can not only help you, but can also help you train your child for a lifetime of meeting goals with the abilities they need.
Disciplined means holding oneself to inner and outer standards with control and moderation. The requirements of these standards are pursued with well organized, rigorous intent.
To make this a reality for you or for you children, there are some principles that will need to be followed every day. These are all a part of the definition of disciplined, but many don’t know what they are. Start implementing each of them as soon as possible and you will be surprised how many of your goals you reach and how much you are able to accomplish.
Table of Contents
#1 Just Decide
The first thing to do is to make the solid decision and act. A decision is not just a mental exercise, but an action that occurs inside and out. It takes a point of change with a connected action.
Too many people talk about what they are going to do as if it will be in the future at some point. That future has to begin now. Putting off a decision to some future time is only words.
Aristotle defined what we do as action following being. You can say one thing and who you are could be completely opposite as it shines through the things you do.
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With so many temptations to divert from any worthy goal, it takes constant forward motion, and that motion begins now. This same thing goes for your children. If you are teaching them to be a disciplined person, it is not tomorrow, but today.
As with anything, your kids will watch what you do and follow that example even if you are telling them something opposite. Your best teaching tool is your life and how you lead it.
Do what you are wanting them to do and be who you want them to be. This doesn’t start tomorrow. This starts now. They’re watching.
#2 Honesty Breeds Discipline
Honesty with yourself is a prerequisite to leading a disciplined life. If you are going to stop bad habits and begin to be the person you want to be, you first have to admit to yourself, that you aren’t there yet.
Honesty hurts because it is an outward expression of truth. Truth divides. It is what we need, but many times don’t want. It can change us, which entails part of us dying and an new more real part emerging.
This causes mental stress and sometimes suffering. If you are wanting what is real, it will be worth it without a doubt. First will have to come the honest look at yourself in the mirror that none of us like to do.
This next part is important. If you plan on leading your children down the path of the disciplined life, you have to walk ahead and show them the way. Telling them to study, when you haven’t picked up a book in years is just going to make them distrust you.
Lead. Don’t point haphazardly down a path while you check your phone and eat another slice of pizza. They are watching what you do and only half listen to what you say.
You know this is true. Be honest. Better yourself and what will they want to do? Be better. If they are older and you haven’t done this in a long time, they are not going to trust that you will. You have to show them.
Honesty with yourself and them when they are not living up to their potential is essential for the disciplined life. No excuses, no passes. You have to be your own drill sergeant and not rely on others. You care more than anyone else could.
#3 Strategic Plans, Not Vague Outlines
If you have always said it, if you have always tried it and yet you are still not that disciplined foundation that you and your family can rely on, you never actually planned on making that change in the first place.
You many have wanted it, but you never really planned on it. You haven’t realized yet that you need it. This goes beyond pleasures and desires. A disciplined life reaches goals and can attain the character that brings true happiness.
Actionable steps need to be decided upon and begun today. These are actions and not the outcomes. There are long term outcomes that come from these actions, but you can’t control the outcomes. You can control the next few minutes, hours, and days.
This is even more important when helping your kids do the things you know they need to do regularly versus what they want to do. They want to fulfill desires and you have to be there to point at the long term emptiness of those desires.
In a study published in the journal Psychological Science, researchers from the university of Pennsylvania found that the discipline displayed by students in high school grades played a major role in achieving their academic potential.
Their intellectual potential was severely stunted not by IQ as some would suggest, but by their lack of a disciplined lifestyle. Discipline plays such a role in your child’s future that you owe it to yourself and them to make deliberate plans and act them out every day.
There are so many competing things for our time every day. It takes a concerted effort to do the things it will take without fail. That is discipline. You don’t need it when it is fun or when you are inspired. Discipline will save your butt when you are tired, don’t feel like it, or think it is impossible.
You can change your life with a plan and a step in the direction. One step and then another. Your kids will see and believe if you just take enough steps. Then you can help them get rid of the competing voices in their life.
#4 Small Victories Build Momentum
Everyone has heard the seemingly joking question, “How do you eat an elephant?” The thing is, it is meant to be light-hearted in order to get you not to shut out the underlying truth.
We tend to look at problems in life, obstacles, or life changing goals as a whole. They are mountains looming above us, casting shadows that hide the path to the top.
That silly sounding question is touching on something we know is true.
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
If you look at the entire goal, problem, or whatever it is, you can easily tell yourself it is hopeless. You might even transfer that feeling to yourself personally and begin to think you are just not adequate. This is all false perception.
I have a son with special needs. He is fairly high on the autism spectrum and is also unfortunate enough to have a learning disability. The mountains that he must be staring down every day, I can’t imagine.
When he was very young we realized he had a problem with eating. Not only did he not want food, he would cry as he swallowed certain normal foods. After seeing a few doctor’s and a few years later, we found out it was his sensitivity to tactile input that made certain feelings in his throat overwhelming.
To put a large plate of food, and especially certain types of foods in front of him was akin to mental torture. He would dread food like some children dread shots.
We worked and worked to find the foods that he could handle and went from full portions to small manageable ones. We refused to prescribe a life on a feeding tube for him. He now understands what his limits are and pushes through every day. Every day. That’s discipline.
We don’t struggle like he does. Yet, constantly he stares down what he must do. Those small daily goals are what we all must set out before ourselves and conquer. Every day.
#5 A Disciplined Person Is Always Moving Forward
Have you ever wished you could have the physique of some athlete or the ability of some artist? What about the craftsmanship of a woodworker or the wordsmith abilities of a great author?
How do you think they started? They stunk is how they started. Garunteed, they had a parent or teacher when they were young give them a pat on the head and a ‘grrrreeeaaatt’ after seeing their pitiful first attempts.
The first paintings by Leonardo or Michael Angelo were bad like everyone else’s. The big difference in them and everyone else is… they never stopped. Not only did they never stop, they never stopped setting higher and higher goals for themselves.
Their discipline kept them heading toward a goal when others turned from the path to chase one of thousands of butterflies along the way. The greats and even the pretty greats at what they do, stay on the path no matter what.
The goal of a disciplined person is the journey itself. The goals reached and the outcomes that come from those are a separate matter. That is not the point of the disciplined life. There is a sense of pride in being a disciplined person all on its own.
This can be a perfect way to start to show your children how to be more disciplined. They will see you always doing something, no matter how big or small that brings you one step closer to your next goal.
Then when you reach that goal, and this type of constant action will ensure you do, you immediately set the next goal and keep moving. This one thing is the cure for slothfulness and laziness.
If you have teenagers that don’t seem to want to do anything or small, strong willed children that only want their next desire met, keep them moving. If they don’t choose their next goal or activity, you choose it for them.
#6 Disciplined People Learn From Failure
In all of my 30+ years of martial arts training, competing, and teaching, I have realized one important thing. All of the successes and wins that I have had were times I executed or reproduced something I already knew.
The times that I learned something, even if it was something not to do, I learned that through failure. Failure is the tutor of champions.
It may be that when the time to step up and do what is needed arrives you won’t see them fail. That’s because they have thousands of failures already under their belt that you didn’t see. They stood back up and kept going.
This is something we are not taught in schools and certainly not taught by our media and entertainment. The successes of the famous are always celebrated and their failures ridiculed.
People that have never striven and failed in order to win pronounce judgement on those that fail. Those failures are seen as an end to a journey in disgrace.
Yet if you look later in those people’s lives you will often see that those failures propelled them to greater heights.
Reggie Jackson was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1993. He had 2820 games in the Major Leagues, 2584 hits and 563 home runs. He was an Allstar 14 times and the list goes on. What else did Reggie Jackson achieve?
Reggie Jackson owns the record for the all time most strikeouts in Major League Baseball history with 2597.
He struck out more than any player ever, but he also won more and hit more than most any player as well. He got back up after every fall and kept moving, kept striving. He could have at any time decided to go a different direction and he wouldn’t have that record of strikeouts.
But if he had, he would not have his name and legacy in the Hall of Fame.
#7 If You Are Not Pushing Forward You Are Sliding Backwards
If you have ever run sand dunes either on beaches or in the desert, you will know this is true. I trained in so many environments and with so many methods. This is no exception.
If you are running up a dune and lose your stride, make a misstep, or didn’t begin with enough momentum, you are going to be hard pressed to make it to the top. There has been many embarrassing slow motion slides down the sides of many sand dunes.
What matters here is momentum. When you keep the movement going by constant and consistent effort, the sand dunes in your way won’t pose much of a problem.
On the other hand, if you are inconsistent in your effort, or under-performing in your execution, you could be in for a much deserved and embarrassing slow slide down the side.
Movement could come in the form of deciding and taking action every day even in the face of defeats. You will learn from them, redirect and start again.
This could also be overcoming fear and taking that all important first step just to get started. That fear of the unknown can be debilitating. Movement toward your goal begins with the first thing, the first action, the first foot in front of the other.
Whatever the point you are at in becoming a disciplined person, this tenacity of spirit has to come out of you. It is in all of us. It comes more naturally to some than others, but it is something we all possess.
To be the disciplined person that reaches their goals and stays true to values they possess this inner fortitude has to be found. When you find it, you will inspire others. This could be your children, friends, or just those watching your efforts.
#8 Some Friends Are Enemies In Disguise
There are always going to be people that are against you when you are attempting to hold yourself to higher standards. There could be even more opposition when trying to hold your kids to them as well.
This resistance will not usually come from those you don’t know, but from the very ones that should have your best interests in mind. Your friends or family may feel critiqued by your efforts and resent you for even trying.
There are three main reasons this can happen.
- They may not agree that being very disciplined is necessary because they are not willing to attempt it.
- They may believe that it is an appropriate goal, but they don’t believe they are able to achieve it.
- These first two lead into them not wanting you to succeed because of how it might reflect on them, if only in their own mind.
They may be open and hostile about it, but usually this is rare since that would reflect badly on them whether you do or don’t succeed. Many will be unsupportive in more subtle ways.
It could be that they secretly celebrate your defeats and reassure themselves that they were correct in never trying. This could even manifest in snide or negative comments to you or others.
While you can and should show compassion for their inability to be honest with themselves, you should not let their negativity stop you from your daily assault on your goals. Being disciplined requires pushing through those that hope to slow you down or stop you altogether.
This can happen with your children as well. If they are trying to be more disciplined and giving up things others desire, it will make them stand out. The resistance could come from family or friends.
You will have to be their rock and to do that, you have to be a disciplined person. It is not enough to be there for yourself and them sometimes. Even on your worst day, you have to be there for them just like any other day. It is what you signed up for when you had them.
#9 Disciplined People Run Marathons Not Sprints
This is the reason for the stressing of setting small goals. To be a disciplined person, it is an effort that needs to be sustained over a long period. You can’t go full tilt from the beginning and expect to reach a long term goal.
The constant struggle is easier or harder at different parts of the journey, but the journey is the thing.
If you are wanting to become a black belt as your goal, in order to do that you have to become a very disciplined person. There is a saying many Karate and TaeKwonDo schools have on their walls.
A black belt is just a white belt that didn’t quit.– Unkown
It is about striving for something worthwhile over a long period because you know that it is true. Truth is worth it no matter the cost. Something real is worth more than all the fake in the world.
I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”– Bruce Lee
Though there is great truth in the expertise in technique here in Bruce Lee’s statement, there is something important many miss. This is taking for granted that it will be done 10,000 times. That is a given.
There is a great book about this by Malcom Gladwell. He looked at several sports and professions and studied the world’s most successful people in their fields or sports. What he found was very quantifiable.
He discovered in his #1 bestselling book Outliers that those that are at the top levels of business and sports have a couple specific things in common. They were the right people at the right place and time for one. The other is, that being the right person meant they were willing to put in 10,000 practice, failures, or attempts to become the best.
There is something very specific that Bruce Lee probably understood through doing rather than rationally deducing. Nevertheless, it is the long path that requires it, and the truly disciplined person that will follow that path to the end.
#10 The Only Comparison Is With Yourself
The first thing that usually stops anyone from becoming what their potential will allow them to be is the temptation to compare their journey with someone else’s.
You may be on the road to being the best in your small piece of the pie, but looking at the size and position of someone else’s slice stops you in your tracks. Self doubt creeps in and discipline falls by the side of the road.
You are only competing with past you and not even future you. If you are doing it right, future you will kick present you’s butt. And present you will do the same to past you.
Someone else doesn’t enter the mix here. They are in competition with their past and future selves, not you. Anyone who has reached the pinnacle of their respective fields can tell you, your greatest competition, obstacle, or enemy is yourself.
If you can beat yourself, you will succeed. This happens in small victories over a long period and can’t be shortcutted. If you do and it seems like a success, it will crash eventually.
To be a disciplined person, you have to be your own biggest fan and harshest critic. You have to hold yourself to a high standard and give yourself a break when you fall.
The Disciplined Takeaway…
If you want to be one of the disciplined that reaches their goals consistently and throughout a lifetime of setting them, you have to be in it for the long haul. You have to drink the ‘Koolaide’.
You have to control who is around you and continually push ahead. When you fall, and you will fall, you stand up and dust yourself off as you move forward.
You must be honest with yourself and about your own children. Who are you really and what are you going to become? Who are your kids? How do other people see you and your family?
Then you set small goals, reach them, celebrate them, and move on. No one can decide this for you, and you have to decide this for your kids. You are worth it and so are they.