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How often do you work on your self-discipline?


Today is August 21 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you work on your self-discipline?" Jocko Willink knows a thing or two about self-discipline. Willink spent 20 years in the U.S. military, retired as a U.S. Navy SEAL officer., and authored several books including the #1 New York Times bestseller Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win, Dichotomy of Leadership. Realizing the daily grind required to accomplish goals, translate dreams into reality, and make forward progress, Willink tell people “Don’t expect to be motivated every day to get out there and make things happen. You won’t be. Don’t count on motivation. Count on discipline.” Today’s reflection involves the realizations that being motivated is fine but ultimately, your self-discipline will help you navigate the chaos and practice the art of living well.


Indian film actress Deepika Padukone relied on self-discipline to make the transition from badminton player to model to actress as she faced many obstacles along her path. In an interview about her life, career, and transition from one arena to another Padukone said: “Never lose focus of what you want for yourself. People will try and pull you down. There might be things in your life, which will deter your confidence. There might be days when you want to break down; there could be days when you feel like giving up. It’s extremely important to be emotionally strong and be focused. Do it your own way. And don’t be afraid of making mistakes.” When she mentioned “there might be days when you want to break down” Padukone echoed Willink’s sentiment “you will not be able to make things happen every day.”


There are two essential elements to Padukone’s observation. First, to be emotionally strong and focused means to ignore those people who ‘will try and pull you down.’ American novelist and playwright James Baldwin acknowledge this need to emotionally strong and focused when dealing with others when he wrote “you’ve got to tell the world how to treat you [because] if the world tells you how you are going to be treated, you are in trouble.” Discipline, not motivation, will help you to remind yourself to tell the world how you want to be treated.


The second essential element in Padukone’s observation is the acceptance of making mistakes. As discussed elsewhere in the Navigate the Chaos series, it is virtually impossible to navigate the chaos of life free of ever making a mistake. As you recover from a mistake recall the words of author Richard Back who wrote in The Bridge Across Forever: A True Love Story: “There are no mistakes. The events we bring upon ourselves, no matter how unpleasant, are necessary to learn what we need to learn; whatever steps we take, they're necessary to reach the places we've chosen to go.” Discipline, not motivation, will help you learn from your mistakes.


In her August 03, 2018, blog post “Why Motivation is Crap & Discipline is Your Only Chance at Success,” entrepreneur Allison Wojtowecz stressed the role of self-discipline in helping people achieve their goals when she wrote: “These two words seem to be used interchangeably, especially in the health space. And when a coach preaches motivation, it instantly makes me believe them less. Why? Because they are COMPLETELY. DIFFERENT. THINGS. Motivation only exists as a noun. But discipline has a verb form. In other words, discipline is something you do, and choose to do; motivation is a thing that can come and go, which you cannot choose to do or control. Stop worrying about when motivation will leave you… because at some point, it will. Create discipline.”


One exercise to do alongside today’s reflection is to create a phrase for each letter in the phrase ‘self-discipline.’ This task allows you the opportunity to reflect and answer the question “how do I define self-discipline?” There is no right or wrong here as this exercise will produce different results based on each person’s background, experience, and life situation.


Stay focused on one task at a time.

Exercise your body and mind each day.

Love yourself.

Feel the emotions from the day.

Decide to grow through self-awareness.

Invite compassion for others into your heart.

Spend time alone and in silence.

Care for someone unable to do something for you.

Invest in your breath and remain calm.

Pay attention to how you respond to stimulus.

Live with intention and self-control.

Identify your mistakes and still move forward.

Notice motivation but rely on discipline.

Engage with those different than you.

  • How often do you rely on motivation compared to self-discipline?

  • Do you understand the difference between motivation and self-discipline?

  • How do you define self-discipline?

  • What have you done lately to improve your self-discipline?