Discipline for Men

With the new year upon us, prepare to be bombarded by folks claiming to have methods that will make your New Year's Resolutions stick. The problem is, the need for resolutions is evidence of one thing: a lack of discipline. Train to become more disciplined and never need a resolution again.

This is not an article on spicing up your sex life by having your girlfriend give you a good spanking. For those of you without discipline, however — you can consider this article a spanking.

Discipline is the most essential quality of the successful man. Discipline is your key to power, effectiveness and freedom. A disciplined man can accomplish anything within the scope of his talents and abilities. An undisciplined man accomplishes nothing.

First: Grow a set.

Seriously! As with most meaningful endeavors, the first step in any self-improvement effort is to make a decision. The decision to be a disciplined person is a necessary first step if any process or method to cultivate discipline is to be effective.

Once you’ve made the decision, the process of becoming a more disciplined person is simple; simple- not easy.

“Discipline is the action of developing the habits and characteristics that will move you toward your personal vision of success and happiness. Nothing is more important to living a life of constant self-perfection. Discipline keeps you going when motivation is low, adversity is high, and frustration is seemingly your only companion.” -From Think Like a Black Belt.

Once you’ve set the goal to become more disciplined, your next move is to identify or create a goal, and then develop a set of attainable steps that will get you there. Next create a timeline or schedule to act on those steps and go for it. Repeat this process again and again…and again. Sounds like a basic goal-setting program, yes? Exactly — that's what discipline is all about. It's about setting goals and doing what it takes to get there — again and again.

It really is that simple; so why is it often so difficult? It’s difficult because the best laid plans are subject to set-backs and failures. Discouragement, frustration and pain are waiting to derail you at every turn. Add to this circumstances and conditions outside your control and you can see how important discipline, courage and perseverance are to creating success — and it’s not always easy!

Who said it was supposed to be easy? A real man doesn’t give a damn about easy — but at the same time there’s no reason to overcomplicate the process. Be a man, step up and simply do what a real man is supposed to do; that is look at what you need to do and get the job done.


Some people want their hands held and need a pat on the head every time they do something. Enjoy the personal satisfaction in each small success, don’t look for praise and don’t play for the trophy. Part of the reason this process is so often over-complicated is because people are looking for external rewards. External rewards do not cultivate discipline, those are incentives. If your only motivation is an incentive you're not a free man, you're a donkey. A donkey can be tricked into pulling a cart by dangling a carrot at the end of a stick.

Don't be a donkey. You know the carrot isn't getting any closer. Learn to enjoy the task. Focus on the moment and approach each moment with a sense of purpose. The ultimate purpose being simply to do something to the best of your capability: excellence. Excellence breeds success.

Most people are more disciplined than they realize. I often ask my audience for a show of hands of people who consider themselves disciplined. Usually only about half the room raises their hands. What the hell is wrong with the rest of them? Most of the time they simply haven't taken the time to analyze how they've gotten where they are today. You have accomplished great things and you have developed habits that generate success. Once in a while sit down and take an inventory.

“I’ve got to say I have met people that genuinely have no self-discipline. Fortunately, they’re the exception, not the rule. Sometimes it’s just because they’ve never been taught how to develop discipline. That’s what a lot of people come to the martial arts for; to learn how to develop discipline. Most of the time it’s an easy fix; it’s just a matter of giving them something difficult to do, encouraging them to do it, and then pointing out to them that they did it and how!”

If you've got kids, do this early and often. If you're a leader or manager install this process as part of your management policy. If you're working on your own, take the time to analyze each venture and identify the steps that produced desireable outcomes and repeat them.

Discipline is developed by learning to be satisfied with one's effort, to be fully engaged in the process and to enjoy this process of personal development as much as any reward. Discipline is the key to success and is a self-perpetuating reward in itself.

“Unfortunately, there are some people who genuinely don’t want to do anything to improve. They don’t want to do the work. These are the walking dead; the complacent, lazy bums and leeches that are perfectly happy being consumers without contributing a damned thing to the world. These are the vampires, the human sponges; these people are a waste of food and they make me want to puke.

“That’s pretty harsh; sorry, that’s how I feel.”

Does that mean there is no hope for success for someone who is lazy or complacent? Does that mean that if you lack discipline you're doomed to fail, end of story?

Well, yes it does, unless you're willing to take that crucial first step and simply decide you're going to do what it takes to achieve your goals and create a life of excellence, and you're willing to do this again and again…and again. If you're not willing to take that step, I'm sorry, but there is no help for you. Discipline is not a school for mediocrity, it's a mindset of excellence. If you're not willing to embrace this process, then find something to do that is not demanding and learn to be satisfied — nothing wrong with that; but if you're not satisfied you have no one to blame but you.

However…

“Even the most lazy, complacent human sponge can become a disciplined person. No matter how little discipline you have right now you can improve and eventually become a self-disciplined, successful and happy person. How?

“One punch, one kick, and one step at a time.

“Substitute a punch or a kick for any other activity you can think of. It might be learning your first chord on a guitar, your first dance step, or doing your first 5 minutes on a treadmill. It might be learning your first phrase of Spanish or taking the first section of a real estate broker’s program. It might be enrolling in one adult ed class at your community college or asking your boss to spend a few extra minutes with you to find out what you can do to position yourself for a promotion.

“Just pick something and do it. That’s it. No psychological bullshit; just do it.”

Discipline is an internal characteristic and developing discipline is an internal process. Look outside and you'll be looking forever. Certainly other people's encouragement, help and guidance are useful tools, but you must internalize the process to be successful; otherwise when those external stimuli are gone, so goes your motivation. Motivation is not in and of itself discipline; discipline is what takes over even when motivation wanes.

The choice is yours. Failure is the result of fear, doubt and complacency. Discipline is the antidote to all three components of failure.

Which will you choose?

Jim Bouchard: Speaker, coach & author of Dynamic Components of Personal POWER!. Jim’s next book: Think Like a Black Belt is scheduled for release in January, 2010. Check out his website, http://www.jimbouchard.org/.