By Manny Cabrera III, Chief Instructor

Self-discipline is the ability to do what you’re supposed to without being told by an outside source.  Usually, with children, self-discipline is learned through constant reinforcement on the part of parents, family members, and teachers.  Many parents bring their children to SIDEKICKS specifically because they want them to learn through our tried and true method to learn great self-control and self-discipline.

Developing self-discipline is the key that unlocks the door to success, without it someone will never achieve his/her wildest dreams without a determined consistence that can only be created through discipline. Disciplined people create disciplined thoughts, which in turn leads to disciplined action.  I am sure that if you would examine sequences in your life that you felt great progress was being made towards your goals, you’ll notice that you had developed a heightened level of discipline in your life.

So, beyond the definition that we use in class, what is discipline?  Essentially, discipline means that whatever it is we want to achieve, we utilize a great deal of self-control and focus to stay committed to that goal and are constantly moving towards that goal with consistent action.

You and I have already developed a great deal of self-discipline in our everyday lives.  If you’re like me, you wake every morning, go through your daily routine, and do your best to brave the streets of Tampa all to make it to work on time—everyday.  If you’re a junior, then you’ve also developed some discipline, you brush your teeth, you do your homework, if you have a pet you help take care of him or her.

Discipline is often times developed overtime when it is imposed from an outside force.  If you arrive at work at 11 when you were supposed to be there at 8:30, there are consequences for those actions.  If you don’t write the checks for the bills on the right day of the month, then late fees accumulate, or even worse, the utilities that you enjoy so much are shut off.  Because of the consequences that result from not being disciplined in our habits.

The more difficult type of discipline to develop comes from trying to achieve things where the only (relatively) immediate consequence is that you don’t achieve your goals.  This is why so many people try to lose weight and then fail after three good weeks (days?).  Sure there are consequences of being overweight, however they take time to take hold.

I was recently speaking with a group of students and we reflected on the fact that a lot of times, the things we want to be disciplined in—eating smaller portions, feeding the dog, remembering to do homework, remembering to bring a paper to school or contract with you to work—are not terribly difficult tasks in themselves.  The difficulty arises first in the fact that sometimes it’s just easier to accept things the way they are than it would be to change.  What then develops is what we call “learned helplessness.”  We begin to feel as though those things that aren’t  terribly difficult become in our minds impossible tasks.  What would, for the most part, be a fairly easy task becomes, as one of our articles in the month describes, a “Mt. Everest.”

The martial arts helps students develop self-discipline, the kind we need to excel, not just get by.  It does this by instilling in the student an attitude of excellence (that Good is the enemy of great) and a habit of consistent action.  Every time we perform a technique we are attempting to complete the moves with a high level of precision and power every time.  We learn through focus and concentration and self-control that a student has the ability to do amazing things.  When that student realizes what it takes to do those amazing things, he or she realizes that it was discipline that made the difference.  Then, those things that seemed impossible become possible.

An ancient Chinese proverb says that “the journey of a thousand miles, begins with a single step.”  The path to developing the discipline to achieve success is the same way; it requires that you make a decision to become disciplined and then take action immediately to back up your decision.  Whatever it is you want take a step, doesn’t matter if it’s a full stride or a small step, towards your goal.  Then, take another.  Then another.  And continue down that road until you’re where you want to be.

I wrote this series of articles for the blog centered around the bestseller Good to Great by Jim Collins, because it focuses so much on discipline I want to touch upon a concept that will help illustrate how discipline leads us to success.  In the book he asks the reader, and I’m going to ask you, to imagine a big flywheel like they use on prop engine planes.  Continue to imagine for a moment that the only way to get this huge flywheel to turn is through manpower.  The first time we get up there and try and turn that huge flywheel around one complete revolution, it requires all of our strength.  The second time it’s a bear, and so is the third, and the fourth.

After we get it around about twenty times or a hundred the flywheel starts to feel like it’s beginning to build momentum.  It starts to become a little easier to get that flywheel turned.  It may have taken an hour to get it around the first time, but now it’s only taking us five minutes to get it around time.  We keep working hard and pretty soon we’ve got it going one time around every minute.  The work we’ve been doing is compounding and soon we’re humming along fast.  We’re no longer trying to get the flywheel to turn, we’re now working to maintain the momentum we’ve developed.  The hard work of the beginning is paying dividends now that allow us to work with a little less sweat.  As long as we keep up our discipline of making sure we add the right energy at the right times, the flywheel will turn.  If we maintain good discipline for a while and then, fall back into old patterns—the flywheel will come to a screeching halt as we enter what’s called the “doom loop.”

Everything we do is like the flywheel, it can be a lot of work at first, but as we utilize discipline it becomes easier to turn and the energy of the previous step makes it easier for us to take the next one, and the one after that.

Self-Discipline.  Without it, we don’t have anything.

About the author: Manny Cabrera III is an expert in self-protection, fitness, personal development, and is a life-long martial artist.  He serves as chief instructor at Sidekicks Family Martial Arts Centers and has written for multiple publications.  Mr. Cabrera resides in Brandon, FL with his wife Jessica, their twin sons, and an energetic Austrailian Cattle Dog.  Follow Mr. Cabrera on Twitter.

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