The word discipline is often misunderstood. Most definitions say it’s “the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior, using punishment to correct disobedience.”
Punishing disobedience. Ouch!
Other words like “control, instruction, regulation, order, authority, rule, strictness” follow suit. It’s like discipline means being taught or trained by an old, brutish superintendent.
Yet in my life I have seen where discipline, when applied in a more purposeful way, does wonders—and in practically every situation.
Think about your life. The times you disciplined yourself when you worked out three or four times a week and lost 20 pounds. Or when you worked over the weekend and late into the night to complete time-consuming tasks. How about when you practiced an hour or two every day, learning to play an instrument, a sport, the arts, or learning a new language.
The lists go on.
I guess you could call running five miles a day for months just to run a race could be considered punishing. Especially at my age! But where’s the disobedience here? Or in any of these situations, for that matter…
In a business setting, discipline wins 99.9% of the time.
Discipline in business always makes someone or something better. If people set up and follow new procedures because the old ways weren’t working—well, that’s discipline. When people work extra to learn new programs, techniques, best practices—that’s discipline.
Discipline pays dividends.
When I was in my late twenties, I worked about 70 hours a week, sometimes working throughout the evening and morning till the next day. I recall looking out the window over the city of Boulder and seeing just a handful of lights at say 3 a.m. “Who is up, working?” I wondered. I remember thinking “this experience will have to pay off some day.” And it did.
Recently we had some major changes in my business. The result was lots of confusion and misunderstanding. I saw it but didn’t take the time to address the impact it had on every person in the company. The results cost us in time, money and hurt feelings.
We had to apply authority, control, instruction, hope, etc. with the team in a clear and purposeful manner. We cleaned a little dirty laundry and aired it out in the sunshine of understanding and new changes. It was the work of discipline entering and saving the day.
The funny thing is what usually happens next. People feel better, lighter, even happier. They feel free. Free from the binds of negativity, guilt, laziness, poor judgment, blame, etc.
Discipline does that.
Who works harder only to say it didn’t pay off? Who puts in the extra effort and whines about the results? Who walks or runs the extra mile and wishes they hadn’t?
If you’re feeling an extra weight, or have a notion that something isn’t right and you need to make some changes, apply good old discipline. It’s like a wonder salve that you put on an open wound and heals up fast, without much fanfare.
And when discipline becomes a habit, forget about punishment or disobedience. You’ll be more than better off…you’ll be free.
“A hero is someone who understands the responsibility that comes with his freedom.”
– Bob Dylan