If we were to pinpoint one common denominator in the lives of the greatest across the globe, the finest who walked on our planet, the most charismatic leaders, the greatest thinkers, philosophers, inventors, it would probably boil down to discipline. They all lived a life of discipline, great self-discipline, in fact. Discipline is the art of staying course, of sticking to a plan, of taming your mind. It is a skill.

Why is discipline important in life?

Often people tell me that I want to do this or do that, I really want to lose weight, I do want to quit smoking or drinking, I want to study hard, I want to meditate, I want to look for a better job and so on. I smile, and I get somewhat amused when I see them talk like that. The only thing I hear is “want.” Of course, you want. Wanting is the nice part; it is the easy part.

There is nothing special about it. A dog wants love; most want money, all want respect, some want care, others, companionship, and, many want everything. Somewhere along the line, if you are serious about fulfilling your dreams, you have to bridge the gap between your wants and actions.

If your desires and your actions are not matching pace, your wants are simply dreams; there is very little chance of seeing them materialize one day. If you set your mind to action, even the wildest dreams can come to fruition.

Paradoxically, discipline sets you free. It gives you the freedom to do anything, to accomplish anything, to be anything you want.

To the one who is disciplined, knowledge, wisdom, success, solutions come automatically. Einstein once said, “It’s not that I am so smart. It’s just that I stay with problems longer.” Discipline is about persistence with conviction. When you carry on with what you have to do, whether or not you like it, that is discipline. If you find ways to be positive and like it, following any discipline becomes easier.

You want to lose weight, but you hate the thought of exercising, and you love desserts; well, exercising is not something you have to like or dislike; eating right is not something you have to love or hate. You just have to get on with it and do it.

What is discipline in simple words?

The conscious mind is like the spoilt child. They may act obstinately or exhibit misdemeanor in the presence of their own parents. But the same kid, when he goes for a sleepover at his friend’s place, for instance, will behave sweetly and nicely. He knows that no one is going to tolerate his whimsical behavior there. The same goes for your own mind— if you stop putting up with its misconduct, it starts behaving. Disciplining your own mind is your personal problem, and you alone can do it.

You get up in the morning, get ready, go to work and spend your entire day there, regardless of your prejudice or preference, irrespective of your level of motivation; you just do it because you know you need to do it. Your mind may not like it, but it does not complain beyond a certain degree. It knows you are giving it no choice. The same goes for everything else. When you want to get something done, you just have to get on with it. With discipline, as you start to see results, you feel more motivated, enthusiastic, and positive.

No matter how negative you are, even if you are hopeless of succeeding, if you follow the discipline, you will see success. There are no two ways about it.

I am reminded of an apt quote by Aristotle: Men are anxious to improve their circumstances but are unwilling to improve themselves.

Whenever you feel lazy, want to get rid of something, or wish to have a better future, you need to contemplate on what it is that you have to do to achieve that and then pursue it relentlessly. Your present circumstances are a product of your karma, desires, emotions, and beliefs, often misbeliefs. To transform yourself, either you can work on all of them, or the root of them all, that is, your mind, your thoughts.

Just like success, discipline is highly addictive.

Oh, and I should mention that by discipline, I only mean self-discipline. Just in case you started making plans of disciplining others. You may want to explore more – learn how to build self-discipline.

Come on! Get on with what you have to do. Let not your preferences come in the way of your actions. Stop day-dreaming or complaining. If you cannot build your own destiny, no one can do it for you.

Peace.
Swami