H.P. Liddon said, “What we do on some great occasions will probably depend upon what we already are, and what we are will be the result of previous years of self-discipline.” I believe that with all of my heart.
Discipline is doing what you really do not want to do, so that you can do what you really want to do. What makes it hard is that in our own human nature, we do not want to do certain things, and so we have a tendency to be undisciplined in what we do not care to do.
There are three areas in which we can develop discipline: thinking, emotions, and actions.
George Bernard Shaw said, “Few people think more than two or three times a year. I have made an international reputation for myself by thinking once or twice a week.”
One of my books is based on the idea that people who understand how to get to the top and stay there are people who think their way to the top.
One of the major differences in this discipline of thinking is that people who think their way to the top have the ability to do what I call sustained thinking. They have the ability to think on an issue for a long period of time, until the decision that should be made on that issue becomes clear.
People who do not think their way to the top are unwilling to master the discipline of sustained thinking. They will think about something for a while, and then they will get off it and go on to something else.
They have never learned how to discipline their thoughts by writing them down. I always keep a pad with me of things that I am thinking. I write thoughts down so that I can stay concentrated and disciplined in that area.
We have choices when it comes to our emotions:
- We can master them, or
- They can master us.
I sometimes play golf at East Lake Country Club, a great golf course here in Atlanta. It is known for being the links where Bobby Jones played. Bobby Jones was a lawyer and a legendary amateur golfer who won a major tournament at twenty-one. By age twenty-eight, he had already won thirteen major events and retired.
Bobby had an uncle who said that, by the time he was fourteen, Bobby was probably already the best golfer in the world. He certainly was popular. However, Bobby was also known for his temper, because he would throw his clubs when he got irritated. Bobby’s uncle sat down with him and said, “Bobby, your problem is you’ve mastered the game of golf, but you haven’t mastered your emotions; and until you master your emotions, you’ll never be a champion in golf.”
I call the two actions of initiating an activity and closing, the bookends of success, because I really think they are.
I know some who can initiate, but they can never close. I know some people who can close but they can never get it cranked up. You have to kick start them every time. When you can do both, initiate and close, you have the bookends to success.
Allow me to leave you with these closing thoughts about developing discipline: you cannot give what you do not have, and self-improvement precedes team improvement.
The only way that I can keep leading is to keep growing. The day I stop growing, somebody else takes the leadership baton. That is the way it has always been.
Dr. John C. Maxwell is an internationally recognized leadership expert, speaker, coach, and author of three million-seller books: The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, Developing the Leader Within You, and The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader. His organizations, EQUIP and the John Maxwell Company, have trained more than five million leaders worldwide. Find him at JohnMaxwell.com and follow him on Twitter @JohnCMaxwell
This article is reprinted from the Legacy Special Edition of Nonprofit Performance Magazine. Subscribe today so that you won’t miss other actionable articles that will help you run your nonprofit organization with less pain and more gain!
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