The Miracle of Self-Discipline
“There are a thousand excuses for failure but never a good reason.”
Why are some people more successful than others? Why do some people make more money, live happier lives, and accomplish much more in the same number of years than the great majority? What is the real “secret of success?”
Often I begin a seminar with a little exercise. I ask the audience, “How many people here would like to double their income?”
Almost everyone smiles and raises their hands. I then ask, “How many people here would like to lose weight? Get out of debt? Achieve financial independence?”
Again, everyone smiles, some people cheer, and they all raise their hands. Then I say, “Wonderful! These are great goals that everyone has. We all want to make more money, spend more time with our families, be fit and trim, and achieve financial independence.
“Not only do we all want the same things, but we all know what we have to do to achieve them. And we all intend to do those things, sometime. But before we get started, we decide that we need to take a little vacation to a wonderful fantasy place called ‘Someday Isle.’
“We say that ‘Someday I’ll read that book. Someday I’ll start that exercise program. Someday I’ll upgrade my skills and earn more money. Someday I’ll get my finances under control and get out of debt. Someday I’ll do all those things that I know I need to do to achieve all my goals. Someday.’”
Probably 80 percent of the population lives on Someday Isle most of the time. They think and dream and fantasize about all the things they are going to do “someday.”
And who are they surrounded by on Someday Isle? Other people on Someday Isle! And what is the chief topic of conversation on Someday Isle? Excuses! They all sit around and swap excuses for being on the island.
“Why are you here?” they ask each other.
Not surprising, their excuses are largely the same: “I didn’t have a happy childhood,” “I didn’t get a good education,” “I don’t have any money,” “My boss is really critical,” “My marriage is no good,” “No one appreciates me,” or “The economy is terrible.”
appreciates me,” or “The economy is terrible.”
They have come down with the disease of “excusitis,” which is invariable fatal to success. They all have good intentions, but as everyone knows, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
The first rule of success is simple: Vote yourself off the island!
No more excuses! Do it or don’t do it—but don’t make excuses. Stop using your incredible brain to think up elaborate rationalizations and justifications for not taking action. Do something. Do anything. Get on with it! Repeat to yourself: “If it’s to be, it’s up to me!”
Losers make excuses; winners make progress. Now, how can you tell if your favorite excuse is valid or not? It’s simple. Look around and ask, “Is there anyone else who has my same excuse who is successful anyway?”
When you ask this question, if you are honest, you will have to admit that there are thousands and even millions of people who have had it far worse than you have who have gone on to do wonderful things with their lives. And what thousands and millions of others have done, you can do as well—if you try.
Your Two Worst Enemies
Just as self-discipline is the key to success, the lack of self-discipline is the major cause of failure, frustration, underachievement, and unhappiness in life. It causes us to make excuses and sell ourselves short.
Perhaps the two biggest enemies of success, happiness and personal fulfillment, are first the Path of Least Resistance and, second, the Expediency Factor.
The Path of Least Resistance is what causes people to take the easy way in almost every situation. They seek shortcuts to everything. They arrive at work at the last minute and leave at the first opportunity. They look for get-rich-quick schemes and easy money. Over time, they develop the habit of always seeking an easier, faster way to get the things they want rather than doing what is hard but necessary to achieve real success.
The Expediency Factor, which is an extension of the law of least resistance, is even worse when leading people to failure and underachievement. This principle says, “People invariably seek the fastest and easiest way to get the things they want, right now, with little or no concern for the long-term consequences of their behaviors.” In other words, most people do what is expedient, what is fun and easy rather than what is necessary for success.
Every day, and every minute of every day, there is a battle going on inside of you between doing what is right, hard, and necessary (like the angel on one shoulder) or doing what is fun, easy, and of little or no value (like the devil on your other shoulder). Every minute of every day, you must fight and win this battle with the Expediency Factor and resist the pull of the Path of Least Resistance if you truly desire to become everything you are capable of becoming.
Take Control of Yourself
Another definition of self-discipline is self-mastery. Success is possible only when you can master your own emotions, appetites, and inclinations. People who lack the ability to master their appetites become weak and dissolute, as well as unreliable in other things as well.
Self-discipline can also be defined as self-control. Your ability to control yourself and your actions, control what you say and do, and ensure that your behaviors are consistent with your long-term goals and objectives is the mark of the superior person.
Discipline has been defined as self-denial. This requires that you deny yourself the easy pleasures, the temptations that lead so many people astray, and instead discipline yourself to do only those things that you know are right for the long term and appropriate for the moment.
Self-discipline requires delayed gratification, the ability to put off satisfaction in the short term in order to enjoy greater rewards in the long term.