Developing Self-Discipline

“The first and the best victory is to conquer self.”
– Plato

 Self-discipline is a simple concept, very easy to define and explain but… difficult to practice.

It is reasonable for me to surmise that you know what self-discipline means but what I am hesitant to presume is you possessing this ability. I am not even sure if I have it too. However, if at this point of your (and my) life, we have achieved some measure of success, in both our personal and professional undertakings then perhaps it is not too much to assume that we have practiced or have been practicing  self-discipline to a certain extent. But if our needle of success has not moved a bit, if we have not accomplished anything significant that we can be proud of, then something is wrong with the way we are living our lives and managing our affairs. Could the culprit  be the lack of self-discipline?

One of the most probable reasons that there are people who realized their dreams and ambitions, got what they wanted, and became what they want to become is them practicing self-discipline. How successful or unsuccessful you are corresponds to the degree of self-discipline that you as a person have. I think I don’t even need to cite studies to prove the assertion I just made because even the simplest of minds would tell you that there is a direct correlation between success and self-discipline. As Lou Holtz said, “Without self-discipline, success is impossible, period.”

What comes to mind when self-discipline is mentioned? For me, there are three things – sacrifice, hard work, and focus. To some, those words make self-discipline synonymous with punishment and boredom. They conjure up images of long hours of work and study, of self-deprivation, of delaying self-gratification, and of strict adherence to certain standards.

In short, self-discipline is not fun. It’s not fun to sacrifice, to deny yourself of the pleasures of life. It’s not fun to work hard. You would rather go out with friends and party during your free time than pursue lifelong learning and self-improvement activities. It’s not fun to focus. It’s difficult with all the forms of distractions this modern world has to offer.

But to those who want their names written in the list of people who achieved great things and attained fulfillment, self-discipline is the key. The potent mix of sacrifice, hard work, and focus is the elixir you need to drink to bolster your chances of succeeding.

In the pursuit of whatever it is that you want to achieve, certain knowledge and skills are required.  You cannot  acquire and develop them overnight.  There are no shortcuts, no magic pills. The process will be long and hard and the question is – Are you willing to sacrifice time and effort  to possess them?

You want to be like the athletes, artists, leaders, personalities you idolize. You want to be like that somebody you know who has accomplished great things. You want to become as successful and accomplished as they are. But are you willing and able to walk the paths they walked to get there? Do you have the perseverance to spend months, if not years,  of dedicated study and training  to learn what you need to learn? Those people you look up to made it to the top by virtue of their sacrifices.

There will be times that you would feel like giving up because seemingly you are not making any progress. But you have to learn to hold on. The process of holding on is an important component of self-discipline. An online dictionary  defines self-discipline this way – “The ability you have to control and motivate yourself, stay on track, and do what is right.”

When you want to achieve something, you should also be willing to put in the hard yards. Don’t expect that your dreams and ambitions will be delivered to you in a silver platter.  We are naturally wired to prefer either lying on the couch or sleeping. That’s according to neuroscientists. But if you really want to become a winner, you must overcome that natural laziness. It  is going to be a mighty struggle and only a self-disciplined person will be able to jump over this hurdle.  “Self-discipline (as defined by another online dictionary) is “the ability to control one’s feelings and overcome one’s weaknesses; the ability to pursue what one thinks is right despite temptations to abandon it.”

In the pursuit of your dreams and ambitions you need to be able to focus too. Don’t ever lose sight of your goals, of the things you want to accomplish.

Focusing entails avoiding all kinds of distractions that could derail you from achieving what you want.  Distractions could be the people, vices, and activities who (or which)  instead of helping might actually hinder you from accomplishing your goals. You have to choose between  them and your dreams.

To stay focused you also need to lay down a definite plan of action for everything that you set to accomplish. Focusing is not only avoiding all kinds of distractions but ensuring that you have a map  that will serve as your guide as you navigate your way towards success.

The main objective of focusing is to become single-minded, of becoming driven by the pursuit of your personal and professional endeavors. It is putting together all your resources towards the fulfillment of your purpose and setting aside whatever it is that may hinder you from achieving them.

To sacrifice, work hard and focus are things that are easier said than done. It’s like doing what we don’t like to do and going where we don’t like to go.

There are times that we are confronted by the dilemma of choosing between two things… between reading a book and watching Netflix shows…. between going to a karaoke bar or to a gym… between eating healthy or keeping the diet that made you gain weight.

The choices we make determine the quality of our self-discipline. It’s hard to control our desires and habits. We usually struggle to make the best choices. And we get to realize that we made the wrong decisions only when we are already suffering from the consequences of what we chose to do.

We should bear in mind that self-discipline is correlated not only to success but to our overall well-being as well. Let’s borrow Merriam-Webster’s definition of well-being – “The state of being happy, healthy, or prosperous.” Now ask yourself – “How happy, healthy, and prosperous am I?” Only you know the answer.

If in the aspects of happiness, health, and wealth, your needle is not also moving, how much of that can be attributed to lack of self-discipline? How much of that can be attributed to your unwillingness to sacrifice, to work hard, and to focus?

Sa Duyan Ng Gunita

Duyan ng gunita’y umugoy… marahan
Nakaraa’y nagbukas ng tarangkahan
Bago pumasok kita’y aanyayahan
Sa pamamasyal doon ako’y samahan

Hayaang kamay mo’y muli kong hawakan
Na muli ng halik  labi mo’y dampian
Sa duyan ng gunita ako’y hayaang
Mahimbing umidlip sa iyong kandungan

Pag-ugoy ng duyan huwag mong pipigilin
Hayaang gunita nakaraa’y lakbayin
Doon na lamang kita pwedeng dalawin
Doon pwede kitang hagkan at yakapin

Dahan-dahan sanang umihip ang hangin
Umawit ito at duyan ay uguyin
Nakaraa’y masuyo kong lalakbayin
Hanggang rurok ng ligaya’y aking marating

Halika na’t sa duyan ako’y samahan
Ang gunita’y magsilbi nating tagpuan
Naudlot na pagsuyo dito’y dugtungan
Sumpaa’y dito bigyan ng katuparan

Si Bathala sana sumamo ko’y dinggin
Nawa’y ‘di ihinto… pagihip ng hangin
Patuloy sana nitong duya’y uguyin
Sa gunita puso nati’y Kanyang bigkisin

Defining Success

“True success is not what we gather but what we become.”
– Apurvakumar Pandya

How do you view success? How do you measure it? These two are the usual questions whenever the topic is discussed.But I think the more important question that should be asked is – Do you consider yourself successful?

Before you answer those questions, let’s revisit the definition of the word. Let’s check  how online dictionaries define success.

Cambridge’s definition of the word is something broad  – “The achieving of the results wanted or hoped for.” Colin’s goes – “The achievement of something that you have been trying to do.” Oxford is more specific with its definition – “The attainment of fame, wealth or social status.” Merriam-Webster’s is almost the same as Oxford’s – “The attainment of wealth, favor or eminence.”.

Our favorite research assistant  – “Dr. Google” – says that success is  “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose” and “the attainment of popularity and profit.”

Let’s also check the synonyms: prosperity, affluence , wealth, riches, opulence, and triumph.

I hope that the foregoing definitions and synonyms are sufficient to help you come out with meaningful and definitive answers to the questions I asked at the beginning of this article. And by the way, do the ideas conveyed by those definitions and synonyms jibe with what you think success is?

The definitions and synonyms above actually show  the way people in our society quantify  success. They tell us about the measuring sticks being used by most people, including you probably, to determine whether or not a person is successful. Everything boils down to one or a combination of the following: wealth, fame and power.

So, when asked who are the most successful people in the world, people never fail to mention the names of the world’s richest men – Jess Bezos, Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and the others who are listed in Forbes’ top 10 world’s billionnaires . The next ones in our lists are the showbiz, sports, media, and political personalities. We also remember the names of quite a few people – some of them could be our own friends –  who excel in their respective fields of endeavors when we discuss about successful people.

Now, let me ask some questions.

Are those people we consider  successful happy also? Have the money, fame, power, and accomplishment they possess brought them happiness? They are the only ones, or their relatives (or their close friends and confidants), who could answer those questions. People outside of their inner circle could only make speculations and assumptions.

Many believe that rich people live under the constant pressure of  wanting to amass more wealth – famous people to ensure that their stars keep shining – politicians to perpetuate themselves to power – so much so  that they forget to live a life. Thus, they are perceived to be unhappy.

At least, they have the money.

“But can their money buy them happiness?” This question has been asked so many times that it could be considered meaningless already. But in the light of the present discussion it should be asked, not for the purpose of having it answered, but as a point to ponder on.

We presume that with all the luxuries the money of  the wealthy, famous and powerful could afford, it’s almost impossible that they are not happy. Unless it is true that of the needs which Maslow’s identified in the hierarchy of needs, only the basic ones (physiological and safety) could be covered by money. The psychological needs (esteem needs, belongingness and love needs) and self-fulfillment needs are definitely not available in the shelves of even the most expensive stores.

Here is the next question I would like to  ask – “Are they healthy?”

They are already rich, famous, and powerful. They are truly blessed if they are also in good shape. Of course they are – financially. What about physically, emotionally, and mentally? In their quest for riches, fame and power, did they not sacrifice their health, values, and relationships? While they sit on their thrones clutching their coffer, do they feel peace flowing within them? Again, they are the only ones, and the people around them, who could give a definite answer. They are the only ones who know whether or not they are suffering from any debilitating disease, mental anguish, and emotional stress?

I brought out the questions on happiness and health in the discussion of success because I believe that there is a need to strike balance between the ephemeral and the ethereal when defining the concept. The prevailing  view of success is materialistic. We attach tangible proofs to it – money, big house, new car, degree, job title, a certain body type, etc. I am not saying that such act (of attaching those tangible proofs to success) is wrong. I just consider it as not encompassing.

Why?

What about simple people who did not attend school, don’t have cars, and live in simple houses in far-flung farming and fishing villages happily living a simple life and diligently performing their role in society? Can’t they not be considered successful in their own right?

When you don’t have a mansion – a car – fancy clothes – expensive jewelry – a university degree – huge amount in the bank, when you’re not famous and not powerful, when you’re  just an ordinary decent individual honestly earning a living and contended with what you have and what you’re capable of achieving and you’re happy and  healthy, would people not consider you successful?

If a person’s goal is to be happy and healthy and he/she achieves it, isn’t that success?

Correlating happiness and health to success is a kind of paradigm shift that will make capitalists unhappy. It is the materialistic view of success that keeps most of their present business ventures alive.

Well, we define success in different ways. Success is subjective and I think that nobody could claim that their way of looking at it is the right one.

The most valuable lesson I learned about success is this – define it for yourself. Don’t allow other people to define success for you. Don’t subscribe to the standards they set. You know your capabilities and limitations more than anyone else, factor them when setting your success parameters. But be not satisfied with your current skill set. You have to improve and as you see yourself becoming better set the bars of your success higher. And most importantly,  don’t forget that as you march towards the achievement of your simplest goals and the realization of your grandest ambitions, you should not sacrifice your happiness and health.

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