We call some people "self disciplined" and others we call "undisciplined." And what's fascinating is that one person can be disciplined at one thing but not at another. I know an extremely successful businesswoman who has run two different billion-dollar businesses. If you saw her in her business environment, you would say she was disciplined. However, this same woman has had an extreme weight problem for as long as I've known her, and so far she hasn't had discipline in that area of her life, even though she would identify it as an area of tremendous concern to her.
How can this happen? How can a brilliant person so strong and disciplined in one area of his or her life be so undisciplined and unsuccessful in another?
The answer is deceptively simple. Discipline always involves the act of reaching a goal, and it also reflects the level of commitment that is attached to the goal. Furthermore, our various personal commitments will be ranked in the order we consciously, or more likely unconsciously, believe fit with our life priorities.
When goals are set halfheartedly and they don't reflect our top life priorities, there should be no surprise when we display low discipline and we fail.
The vast majority of us have no grasp of what our top life priorities are. And because we aren't conscious of them, we tend to move them around very fluidly. That's why weight may seem like a high priority on Monday but be lowered to a secondary importance below taste enjoyment by Friday. Likewise, fidelity might seem like the highest priority until temptation comes in our path.
In general we allow ourselves to get in the habit of setting goals for which we are not truly committed, and then we beat ourselves up when we fail at achieving them. There is a huge difference between even a 99% commitment and a 100% commitment. Choosing to be disciplined about something means committing 100% to reaching the objective.
My great friend Wayne Dyer (author of The Secrets to Manifesting Your Destiny) is a wonderful example of what it means to be "truly disciplined." There was a time when Wayne had run eight miles every day for 21 years in a row without missing a day! That's over 7,665 days straight running eight miles a day with no exceptions! I don't know about you, but I'd be overwhelmed with the thought of attempting that. And yet to Wayne, it was a part of his day — every day — without exception. Now I think Wayne would admit he isn't disciplined at everything. But what allowed him to be so disciplined at this?
He simply made running the most, or certainly one of the most, important activities in his day, every day. The great thing about this is that you simply don't allow anything to get in the way of the most important objectives in your day. Everything else takes a lower priority. All of a sudden reaching the objective becomes easy. You become — disciplined.
In the case of Wayne, I'm sure that over the 21-year period there were literally millions of things that he could have used as an excuse not to run one of those days. But, because it was one of his top priorities, nothing got in the way of Wayne's running. He ran when he had a fever, he ran in place on long flights, and during bad weather he would run up and down the halls of his hotel. That's discipline!
Here's a fun, potentially life-changing game I'd encourage you to play. Pick out an area of your life that you've had weak discipline in in the past. Set an objective relating to this area. Now, set that objective as your life's top priority — or at least put it in the very top few. Then set a minimum time that you will stay committed to this objective. I'd recommend a minimum of a month, but for this game you could even choose a week. If you can be disciplined for one week, you can be disciplined for as long as you choose.
Now, this is going to mean reprioritizing your time from your normal weekly schedule, but you'll do it – Why? Because it's your top priority!
While doing this, you're going to experience an interesting phenomenon. In the past, when you have set halfhearted objectives, your brilliant mind would start figuring out how to get around the objective to get you back to your comfort zone. However, now you'll find when it's your top priority, your mind works only on achieving the objective and taking you where you really want to go.
During this trial period I suggest you keep a priority journal. Each time you fail to meet your objective, write down what activity or activities took a higher priority. It will prove to be interesting to see what you allow as an excuse to knock your objective from its top position.
You will realize that failing to meet your objectives, regardless of what they are, is a choice, because something else has been given higher priority. If you fail, it is because you choose to fail – It's as simple as that!