by Andreas Baumgartner
“Self-discipline” – a term considered a virtue in most cultures. Yet, also a term that, somehow, has a bit of a negative connotation. A term that is often perceived as the opposite of fun. The opposite of spontaneous. The opposite of “enjoying life”. The opposite of pleasing to be with, of creative, of colorful?
Wrong. If this is your perception, think again. Self-discipline is your friend, it is an enabler, a powerful ally for achieving your dreams, your purpose, in a sustainable way!
Let me share an impressive example from the world of sports. I am enthusiastic about alpine skiing. Marcel Hirscher, an Austrian racer, won the World Cup unimaginable eight times in a row, plus multiple World Championship and Olympic titles. He was certainly very talented, with a clear vision and a plan how to make it happen. Yet, his amazing victories didn’t just happen. To put it into the words of Napoleon Hill: “The other principles can’t really be put into action without self-discipline”. Indeed, all observers agreed that it was Marcel Hirscher’s incredible level of self-discipline that made the difference. He demonstrated the self-discipline of preparing properly during the summer months. He had the self-discipline of conducting outstanding material testing. Plus, there was also the self-discipline of actually not – yes: not – competing in all races but sticking to strategic choices. The self-discipline of putting his focus and physical strength where it mattered most made the difference. And: he had the self-discipline of moving on at the peak of his career, as a true and admired (as well as unbeaten) champion – rather than a few years further down the road, after losing his competitive edge. Think of it: How many of us, whether in sports, politics, or business, actually manage to move to the next step while still at the top, rather than on the decline? Choosing that point of time yourself and actually acting on it when it arrives is a strong expression of self-discipline.
Marcel Hirscher’s example of making strategic choices is also an excellent demonstration of another point to ponder: Often, it is considered an expression of outstanding self-discipline if someone “keeps working and working”, putting in long hours and night shifts until (s)he almost collapses. But is that really self-disciplince? Let’s reflect for a moment and take a look at what Napoleon Hill has to say: Self-discipline means releasing power “in precise quantities and specific directions”. Being a workaholic is not an expression of self-discipline. It may indicate a lack of self-discipline to keep balance, and to maintain favorable mental and physical health. It may indicate that you lack the self-discipline of maintaining focused attention. It may indicate that you lack a clearly defined path to your ultimate purpose (or even that you may struggle with the self-discipline required for defining and internalizing your definite purpose). Self-discipline is not about putting on more and more burden (and thereby burning your power), it is – look above – about “releasing power in precise quantities and specific directions”. In precise quantities and specific directions, to serve your definite purpose!
Self-discipline enables you, it empowers you, it is your tool to use. If well applied, it is your best friend: “The power of a will trained by self-discipline is an irresistible force” (Napoleon Hill). Use that force!