The key to success in all aspects of life is discipline?!?

I don’t know, is it?

I took a personality test this week. There were 72 questions; this was the only one that stumped me. I had to decide to what degree I agreed with the statement — from not at all to absolutely.  I went for the middle option because I couldn’t work out what I think about discipline being the key to success.

I am one of the most disciplined people I know.

About half the time.

The other half, I’m just terrible.

You only live once! Life should be spontaneous! More important things are interrupting the promises I made myself earlier ….

Each of these discipline-breakers are familiar friends to me.

What I’ve never been able to work out is why half the time I’m SO disciplined it’s a shocker and the rest of time nothing I say to myself is any guarantee I’ll do what I said I would.

What do the unbroken committments have in common with each other? Well, for starters they usually involve promises I make to other people, rather than to myself. But not always. When I make personal promises in public I keep those too; e.g., I said I would blog every Saturday and Sunday for all 2012 and so far I have. Without fail. Despite loads of competing committments.

But there are other things that are REALLY important to me — like the knee exercises that might prevent surgery I don’t want, and these disciplines enjoy none of the follow-through of which I am capable. 

 There are some pretty interesting theories about this. For example check out this RadioLab podcast on what to do when the enemy is you! Or, this review of recent work on willpower.

Having said all this, discipline is not the only key to success in life and it is certainly not even the most important key in some aspect of life. Sometimes we succeed despite ourselves and sometimes a discplined approach is not the solution — sometimes letting go of expectations is best.

I mention this today for two reasons.

1. I’m very curious — how many of you think discipline is key?

2. It’s Saturday and I have to blog and yet I am unable to blog about my assignment this week because my assignment this week is to attend an all day seminar on money today! So while you, my lovely blog readers, sit here reading this, I’m stuck in a classroom near Covent Garden.

For what I learn and next week’s card — stay tuned for both in tomorrow’s post.


4 thoughts on “The key to success in all aspects of life is discipline?!?

  1. As Churchill said about courage. Its the most important virtue because without it, the others virtues don’t mean much. When i am disciplined, i make progress. When i’m not disciplines, I flounder. The fact that (a) I know this and (b) I don’t do anything about it must be some profound truth about human nature. So yes, discipline is on a very short list of necessary but not sufficient elements of success. But discipline wiout creativity, love, et al leads to a pretty drab life.

    1. A very drab life indeed! Must be all about when to crack on and when to let up. Will check out the article when I’m back online. THANKS!!!

    1. Thanks for the Grit article! I really like Lehrer’s topics. This one reminds me of similar points Malcolm Gladwell makes in Outliers about the difference in mathematical achievement between Chinese students and Americans… the Chinese work MUCH harder. What the Lehrer article makes me think though is that if you’re going to engage in a lot of disciplined practice it’s best to channel that into the few things in life where you’re most passionate/have a gift and a calling rather than being a slave driver with yourself across every field of things you’ve got to get done. That’s my excuse anyway;)

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