Discipline doesn’t get the kudos it deserves. It’s often overlooked as part of a success plan. Yet, without discipline, you cannot make the shift from ordinary to extraordinary.
On Saturday night, I saw discipline in action and studied it in awe. Mark and I attended the Cleveland Heights Pavilion Skating Club’s “Skate Into Spring” ice performance. What brought us there was our friend – artist and skater- Catherine Butler (shown in her goddess costume, above). While I thoroughly enjoyed all of the performances, I also came away with a greater appreciation for discipline. Here’s what I learned:
Discipline makes you stronger. When you practice what you love, it shows. Are you better as a solo performer, a pair or an ensemble? Some skaters preferred ice dancing to ice skating. Whatever it is, when you play to your strengths, you will excel.
Discipline builds confidence. I was impressed with the grace and maturity of a young pairs skating couple who looked to be about eight years old. Heads held high, smiling, posture erect, they demonstrated confidence. The young boy held his partner with such confidence that I could envision this couple ten years into the future, winning many competitions.
Mastery is discipline in action. One year of experience looks much different than 5 or 10 years of experience. New skaters were still finding their confidence and using simpler moves. Advanced skaters jumped higher, spun faster and held poses longer. They glided across the ice effortlessly. The habit of discipline paved the way toward mastery.
Clearly, discipline delivers results. What kind of discipline will get you to where you need to be?
What makes you unique or distinctive? Every person has his or her own personal style that cannot be duplicated by anyone else. How are you defining your style? Here are a few ideas:
Hone your interpersonal skills. Look at how you contact, thank, remember or follow up with people. What do you do that sets you apart from others?
Keep in touch…for no reason at all. One of our longtime friends, Richard, has amused and touched us over the years with his thoughtful and often unexpected handwritten notes, cards and telephone calls. It is so endearing because he consistently keeps in touch.
Acquire an interesting hobby. If you are a manager during the day, you could become someone quite different in the evening or on the weekends. Are you a ballroom dancer? Do you compete in marathons? Have your prized perennials won awards at the County Fair? Who are you besides the person who comes to work every day? That’s what makes you unique.
Thank someone in a creative way. Imagine my surprise when I received a hand-written thank you note with a small enclosure – an herbal tea bag. It came from a colleague I met online. We had both submitted productivity tips to an online publication. She sent an email asking for more details and examples. I quickly replied. A few days later, her thank you note arrived in my mailbox. That small gesture captured her style: Thoughtful. Sincere. Unique. Creative. And of course…memorable.
Remember: Everything you do positions you. How does your personal style position you?
Your day is filled with hundreds of thoughts. Sometimes those thoughts remain just thoughts with no action. “I want to get promoted.” “I want to read more.” “I need to get more involved in my community.” If you find yourself repeating those same phrases over and over without action, then listen more carefully to your language. If you say “I want to…” “I need to…” “I would like to…” what I call “no-intention mentions” then it is time to do something about those thoughts.
Change your language to “I am…” and make it happen! Those thoughts will develop into action. “I am going after that promotion.” “I am reading every day.” “I am involved in my community.” On a broader scale, if you say something like, “My plan to end world hunger is bringing sustainability to the most remote regions of the world,” then you are taking responsibility for your actions, whether your action provides financial or physical assistance.
When thoughts remain just thoughts with no action, you can think those thoughts for days, months, years, or a lifetime. Nothing ever happens. They remain thoughts and nothing more. A thought is the “what” – what you want to happen. Action is the “how” – how you make it happen. The choice is yours. You can choose to take action. Don’t just think about it. Do it!
Imagine that you could create your own graduate level course to complete on your own timetable and for little or no financial investment. You can. Today, anyone can take the equivalent of a graduate level course by reading and studying books or taking online courses through Apple’s iTunes U or other free website resources. Even select colleges and universities offer complimentary courses for curious minds. With this approach, of course, you won’t have the tests, papers, theses or dissertations to complete yet the education is all there.
Let’s say you have been promoted into a management position within your organization and you want to learn more about leadership. Decide how much time you will dedicate each week to reading and studying. For now, we’ll say ten hours. At the end of one year, you will have invested more than 500 hours and educated yourself in a deeply focused way on the topic of leadership. When those studies are complete, if you like, you can choose a new educational topic theme, say, human performance. Each year, you could receive a new “degree” in a new topic area from the Graduate School of the Mind. To learn, retain information and grow, you must put what you learn into practice.
When people begin asking you questions like, “How do you know so much about leadership?,” you will answer with confidence, “I am very interested in the topic of leadership and have studied it extensively.” So the next time your organization is looking for someone with top leadership skills, who do you think they just might turn to? Think of the exciting topics you could explore and master if you just remained focused.