Self-discipline as a gateway to success

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By Goke Ilesanmi


Discipline is about being able to control your own behaviour so that you can do what you are expected to do without being told by anybody. It is also a way of training your mind or learning to control your behaviour and obey rules. It is also known as “self-discipline”. We need a large dose of self-discipline to solve life’s problems. Discipline means having the vision to see the long-term picture and keep things in balance.




Jim Clemmer, author of “Growing the Distance: Timeless Principles for Personal, Career, and Family Success” says one test of our size and maturity is what makes us angry and how we express our anger. Clemmer adds that a boiling temper can really cook our goose. We all need more patience which comes from self-discipline. Discipline is what keeps us going in all situations. In the words of Daniel Goleman, author of “Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ”, “The bedrock of character is self-discipline; the virtuous life, as philosophers since Aristotle have observed, is based on self-control. A related keystone of character is being able to motivate and guide oneself, whether in doing homework, finishing a job, or getting up in the morning.”


Delaying instant gratification


The difference between successful and unsuccessful people lies in the different level of their self-discipline. Successful people have formed the habits of doing those things that most people fail to do. Delaying gratification is a good example of self-discipline. It is much easier to live in the moment and let tomorrow take care of itself. It takes discipline to control the temptation of instant gratification.


As M. Scott Peck, a psychiatrist and author of “The Road Less Traveled” puts it, “Delaying gratification is a process of scheduling the pain and pleasure of life in such a way as to enhance the pleasure by meeting and experiencing the pain first and getting it over with. It is the only decent way to live.” Goleman reinforces this submission by saying, “The ability to defer gratification and to control and channel one’s urges to act is a basic emotional skill, one that in a former day was called will.” Self-discipline is self-caring.


Discipline research


Research shows that in the 1960s, Walter Mischel, a psychologist conducted “The marshmallow test” with four-year-olds in the preschool at Stanford University to assess each preschooler’s ability to delay gratification. Each four-year-old was given one marshmallow. They were told that they could eat it immediately or, if they waited until the researcher returned in twenty minutes, they could have two marshmallows. Some kids in the group just could not wait but ate immediately. Others tried as much as possible to resist the temptation to eat by covering their eyes, singing, playing games and even trying to sleep. The preschoolers who were able to wait were rewarded with two marshmallows when the researcher returned. Twelve to fourteen years later, these same kids were re-evaluated as teenagers. Those who had been able to control their impulses and delay gratification as four-year-olds were more effective socially and personally. They had higher levels of assertiveness, self-confidence, trustworthiness, dependability and ability to control stress. Their Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) scores were 210 points higher than those in the ‘instant gratification’ group.




Patience or self-discipline constitutes an essential skill for both organisational leaders and team members. The good news is that patience can be learnt. The bad news is that patience is only learnt through opportunities to practise it. According to Jack Welch, former General Electric CEO, “Emotional intelligence is more rare than book smarts, but my experience says it is actually more important in the making of a leader – you just can’t ignore it.” Patience is so central to success, especially in the corporate environment because hassles are the stuff of which daily schedules are made and the ability to remain calm and withstand pressure when plans are frustrated is a necessary tool in every individual’s reservoir of skills. A manager’s patience is especially important. If a person in a leadership role is impatient or lacks self-discipline, everyone else will be ‘infected’ and encouraged to do the same. Patience is also essential as the manager coaches and develops people. This is because growth does not occur in a smooth way.




To develop your skill of self-discipline and patience, one of the things you need to do is to become more realistic in your expectations. The tendency to remember your successes in other difficult situations constitutes another of the strategies. Another thing you need to do to develop your self-discipline and patience skill is to view setbacks as temporary. Research shows that the most resilient people are able to view problems as temporary. Rejection of bitterness constitutes yet another strategy for developing patience and self-discipline. “Bitterness is the result of anger that is not resolved. It’s a killer…psychologically, relationally, and physically! Bitter people are anything but patient. They have short fuses, overreacting when even unrelated situations remind them of the person or event they resent. Resolve conflicts promptly, and/or choose to forgive and move on!” says Smallwood, Ph.D., a psychologist and author of “This Can’t Be Happening to Me!”


Last note


How would you rate yourself in terms of self-discipline? Be sincere. If you know you score low, please do something about it. Self-discipline is the gateway to your success. Till we meet on Wednesday.



GOKE ILESANMI, Editor-in-Chief/CEO of https://www.gokeilesanmi.com.ng and Managing Consultant/CEO of Gokmar Communication Consulting, is a Certified Public Speaker/Emcee, (Business) Communication Specialist, Motivational Speaker, Career Management Coach, Renowned Book Reviewer, Corporate Leadership Expert and Editorial Consultant.


Tel: +234(0)8056030424; +234(0)8187499425

Email:  gokeiles2010@gmail.com; info@gokeilesanmi.com.ng

Website: www.gokeilesanmi.com.ng


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