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Discipline or no discipline?

As a free mind, I hate that someone is telling me how I should do things. I prefer to explore and decide about a set of rules that I know will work for me, to achieve my goals. Hence my interest in an agnostic Agile: I truly believe in the values and principles of the manifesto. And they are wide enough to let me define how I am going to operate within.

So this week, I wanted to explore about discipline: do we really need to be disciplined to make our goals a reality, and if so, what kind of discipline are we talking about?

What is discipline ?

In general, discipline is what makes people follow a set of rules or behave a certain way, that should make them reach a goal.

We use to see discipline as something negative because it is (or was) often associated to punishment if not respected. Nowadays, there are other ways to instill discipline, with positive reinforcement for example.

I think discipline is very important to make sure things are kept in order. When we are trying to achieve a goal, as an individual or as a group, it is an essential factor for success.

But I believe in a positive discipline, a one that supports individuals, that helps them see what’s in it for them if they follow these rules and that fosters success. And I would say each of us can also benefit from self-discipline as well.

What is self-discipline?

Self-discipline is discipline applied to ourselves, to achieve goals, as well. It is our ability to go beyond what we don’t like in certain tasks, that still are essential for our success. It’s about committing to ourselves to take action, no matter what’s on our way.

Self-discipline is a way to self-regulate and be able to see the benefit of moving forward towards our objective, even if we feel negative emotions sometimes.

Feelings like doubts or fears.

Self-discipline is key to make us succeed. It comes with intrinsic motivation. If you don’t know why you are doing what you do, if you don’t find how to articulate your goal into something fullfilling for you, it will be easy to not comply to your own rules and stop where you are.

Do you need it and why ?

Depending the context you are in, and the values you have, you might need both discipline and self-discipline to achieve your purpose.

  • If you are working in a team, you might want to have rules and a system that helps you follow these rules.
  • If you are on your own, you might like to have guiding external principles to follow.
  • If you are a free spirit, you might want to reject everything that comes from outside and focus inwards.

In any case, I doubt you can achieve anything if you are not – at least – self-disciplined. If you lack it, you will drop your actions and your commitment very soon. You will struggle in your journey, when it could be easier if you were self-disciplined.

How to improve your self-discipline?

  1. The first thing is to work on your vision, your why. This creates an intrinsic motivation that will help you keep the discipline on, when in doubt or confusion.
  2. From this vision, identify a few goals you want to achieve and make them specific, so you can measure your progress.
  3. Identify your values and your needs. Knowing about these two elements will also contribute to you being more disciplined. They will help you identify your boundaries. Associated with your vision and your goals, they will make prioritization easier for you.
  4. Define your own rules and principles in the way you organize yourself: use what you know works for you. If you do not know yet, try different things, as see what is a fit for you.
  5. Label and process your emotions you have, whenever you want to move on a task and feel stuck.
  6. Try to identify any limiting thoughts you have about this task, that prevents you from moving on as you would like. Flexing this thinking to look at the task in a way that makes you take action. Go back to your vision for example.

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